One of the oldest buildings on beautifully restored 19th century manor estate The Wilderness Reserve is the Suffolk Farmhouse, designed with pink hues throughout, and home to quite possibly the most beautiful bathroom we’ve ever seen. As part of The Pink House’s ongoing #pinkpilgrimage we caught up with The Farmhouse’s interiors team to find out more…
What inspired the pink theme that runs throughout The Farmhouse?
The inspiration came from a small piece of the original plaster found during the restoration process. During the 20th century, the walls had been encased in a brick skin, giving the building the appearance of a much later structure. As this was removed the old timber frame was exposed, including an area of the original rusty pink plaster. And the rest is history…
Why was pink such a popular exterior colour in Suffolk at the time, and how was the colour created?
Suffolk historically had a very limited building style, with no stone to speak of, apart from the knapped flint of its beautiful medieval churches. Most of the houses were made out of mud and timber, wattle and daub panels set into oak timber frames, that followed a simple and repeated pattern, similar to the Farmhouse. To compensate for this simple appearance, the houses were often decorated in a riot of colours; ochres and russets, and most famously, the Suffolk Pink was splashed over the lime and earth plaster that protected the timber frame.
At this time Suffolk was also the centre of the weaving industry, and many of the dyes used in the wool and silk trade found their way onto the buildings. The pink hue was thought to be made from oxblood mixed with lime, however it was more commonly formed from an ironstone found on the coast and heathland areas, ground up and mixed with lime wash to give the ruddy pink colour.
What was the thought process behind the marvellous pink bathroom, and how much of it is original/restored?
The pink bathroom is in the oldest part of the building and was originally the entrance to a very simple two-up, two-down home. We’ve tried to keep the character of what would’ve been the working entrance, using the soft Suffolk palette of oak, brick floor, and plaster walls.
Can you give us a bit more background on the Farmhouse’s history and how it used to be used?
Despite its polite south façade with French doors and sash windows, overlooking the parkland and lake, the Farmhouse is one of the older buildings on the Sibton Estate. The earliest records for the building date back to the late 18th Century, but the building itself is much older.
The core of the farmhouse is a half-timbered, oak framed building, with wattle and daub infill panels. It had a typical Tudor 2 cell design, with a two-up, two-down design planned around a central inglenook fireplace. This still forms the heart of the house today, with the dining room and sitting room downstairs, and the master suite and bathroom above.
To the rear, on the site of the current kitchen, is what would have been the Bake House or Back house – (pronounced Bacchus in the Suffolk dialect). The Back house sat at the centre of farm life, with a small dairy operation, brewery and bread oven. It was also the home of the Back house boy, the first to rise and last to bed, in charge of the fires in the house, churning the butter, feeding the dogs and sleeping in the loft above the kitchen itself.
What do you consider to be The Farmhouse's most striking feature?
The entrance hall for sure. This is entered from a simple oak door set into the new fireplace in the hall. The Tardis-like moment of walking into this double height space always takes guests by surprise. Although the hall and wing to the right are all new, we’ve used the same range of materials as in the original house, including bringing the pargeting (the decorative and waterproof plastering) details inside - and of course the pink walls!
Inside, the pargeting includes two panels of mad march hares, above the door to the south terrace and the fireplace, linked by bands of entwining foliage. Hidden amongst the foliage are birds and two tiny harvest mice, just waiting to be found…