Inspiration of the Week: a spacious former shop in Suffolk, where both art and history loom large
Once used for silk weaving and now exquisitely reconfigured with creativity in mind, this house sits in a landscape of legendary and inspirational beauty
Thomas Gainsborough made his name through his portraits of the 18th-century’s great and good, trussed up in taffeta and pearls. But his first and truest love was always Suffolk – its beguiling woodlands, expansive skies and rolling fields. Another, slightly younger, artist intoxicated by the painterly potential of the country was John Constable, who was born on the county’s border with Essex. “I should paint my own places best,” he once wrote. “…Those scenes made me a painter.” Look down the gently sloping garden of the Silk Weaver’s House, currently on the market, and across the water meadows that bank the River Stour, and you may find yourself searching for the nearest sketchbook.
The house is in Sudbury, the town in which Gainsborough was born in 1727 – though this building wasn’t constructed until later, in 1880. It was originally two dwellings – a fact the current owners have been sensitive to, configuring it to work as either one whole home or a pair of separate living spaces. Once upon a time, both sections were lived and worked in by 19th-century silk weavers, who would have used the arched windows that line the façade to show off and sell their wares.
While ‘Victorian shopfront’ might conjure images of cosy livings quarters behind, nothing could be further from the truth here. Period pine doors open from spacious room to spacious room, largely painted white and hung with gauzy curtains to maximise the volume. Generous windows only emphasise the sense of airiness, while french windows, thrown open on to that glorious garden, blur the boundaries between inside and out. Still haven’t picked up your paintbrush? With two studios among its outbuildings – and even a kiln shed for the clay-inclined – there’s really no excuse…
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