A Night Away: beautiful Georgian bones and countryside conviviality at Kin House in Wiltshire
Nestled in the Cotswolds-adjacent village of Kington Langley, this Georgian gem was rather down on its luck. Now it’s a plush private house for hire – with all the trimmings
- Cat Olley
- Owen Gale
There is a presiding assumption that Britain’s stately homes are all present and accounted for, dutifully maintained by heritage organisations or hidden away as handsome private residences. It’s something of a joy, then, to be regaled with the tale of Kin House’s unearthing. The story starts with a curious auction listing. It ends with owners Matt and Gaby Harvey and interior-design studio Barlow & Barlow coaxing a fading Georgian pile into the ultimate country house for hire – a hotel but not, a place where you take all the rooms, not just one. Imagine the parties.
It’s the studded solid-oak doors, crowned with a clamshell pediment, that they want to discuss first when we visit. “They give the house an immediate sense of gravitas. You just can’t replicate features like that,” says Lucy Barlow-Sear, who runs Barlow & Barlow with husband Joshua Sear. Lucy was enthralled by the results of the requisite jet-washing, she says, which restored the building’s murky Cotswold stone to honey-hued glory. “The difference was just unbelievable. Suddenly you could see all this beautiful architectural detail.” The wisteria that was prised from the façade in order to get the job done will, we’re promised, make a comeback in time.
Built in 1680 for the native gentry, the Grade II-listed building was known for centuries – and still is, by locals – as Great House. As well as digs for the aforementioned aristocrats, it’s since been a silk-weaving factory and eventually a care home, where a dwindling number of residents ultimately spurred its sale. With changing hands came all manner of additions and alterations, so before Lucy and Joshua could set about embedding their layered, home-from-home aesthetic, there was rather a lot of removal – a carved oak staircase had to be rescued from its plasterboard cage, while stud walling was dismantled to reveal original panelling. “It had been varnished in such a dark stain that it looked almost Tudor,” explains Lucy. “The sandblasting lifted it by about 15 shades.”
This is a hide-and-seek house, where you’ll have to resist the urge to rush up the stairs and bagsy your favourite of its 12 rooms (surely it’s a toss-up between the two with four-poster beds). It’s upstairs, peeking into each in turn, that we’re struck by the absence of what Lucy calls “the hotel formula of having nothing that feels unexpected or surprising”. Joshua credits their unfussy approach to antiques, which sees 1970s sideboards coexist quite happily with Jacobean console tables, as key to capturing the sense of authenticity that boutique hotels agonise over.
Barlow & Barlow’s brand of country-house cool makes wonderful use of Kin’s winding corridors and stately bay windows. There are tassels, fringing and velvet galore; cheerful, scaled-up ginghams, chequerboard rugs by emerging homeware brand Pelican House, and roll-top baths cleverly wrapped with Fermoie’s ‘Shell Grotto’ fabric. Winningly, there’s a real grotto too, pieced together by decorative artist Mel Campion – “such a fun thing to do,” says Lucy.
Weekends at Kin House will soon be buzzing with weddings and round-number birthdays. Lest we forget, the fully kitted-out dressing room, replete with swivel chairs and abundant plug sockets, is the first reminder. There’s also a barber’s, squarely aimed at grooms, who in other, less lavish boltholes, might be sequestered in a side room while the bridesmaids have the run of the place.
Up to 200 people can fit into Kilvert Hall, Kin’s events wing, who on warm summer evenings can spill out on to the smart striped lawn, though serious feasting can also take place in the triple-height Hearth Room – best described as a baronial hall swathed in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Setting Plaster’. Here the chef can whip up blackened west-country brisket, whole roasted cauliflower or brown-sugar meringues for a barefoot-style woodland dining experience.
Outside, a nearby gate leads into the old walled garden, now empty but for an old stable block and Victorian bath house. It’s an ace, hitherto hidden up Matt and Gaby Harvey’s sleeve. Bought separately, this area will soon house a coffee shop and general store for the local community, as well as extra accommodation for the most riotous gatherings. As is the case in Kin’s other rejuvenated, rejuvenating spaces, one is left with the sense of something being put back together.
Kin House on Instagram
Barlow & Barlow on Instagram
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