Bye Bye Barocco. A summer in a Georgian mansion

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It’s been harder than ever to come back to this blog and write something that didn’t feel forced, trite or defensive. I never wanted my blog to feel like a chore, hence why it’s taken 8 months to return here – but this post is long overdue. The less you flex your writing muscles, the weaker they’ll be, new life stuff is pushing out the old fast, and the end-of-year review post is only round the corner! So here goes my effort.

This post finds me sitting in a light and bright and modern kitchen in Worthing, Sussex. Three hundred miles from Devon. Barocco House, of which I so lovingly wrote back in March, has (happily) been and gone – the ‘dream’ was a brief adventure. If a newspaper were to run a story on why we left, I’m not sure what the headline would be. Many reasons tangled into a hairball that became a firm decision to return east within a saner distance from airports, London and Brighton.

The reasons, some small, some big, mounted like bubbles in a boiling pot. Doubts began with the house itself, in a state we always knew was questionable. Neglected by its owner, the roof began to leak, the shuddering mistrust instantly killing off the desire of redecorating or doing much beyond using the house as a studio. Although the large house never felt spooky, it felt like its happy days were gone, of others’ time there, before it became acquired by a greedy landlord who alienated the neighbours. Also, I couldn’t shake off the fear (was it a maternal sixth sense – or just an imposing paranoia?) that the house was a fire hazard. I wondered how we would escape if fire broke out, whether I would land on the awful defunct pond without breaking a leg.

The less than desirable position of the house, down a concealed entrance on a busy racetrack road, never stopped bothering us and I was honest to admit to myself from day one that I detested the area, its tangible decay and industrial soullessness that seemed to stretch from the neglected grounds of our Georgian mansion across the surrounding manky marshland that was being excavated in earshot to expand the industrial estate. We were living just round the corner from Europe’s biggest estate of car showrooms – not exactly on my life bucketlist, with the lovely village of Topsham just a few minutes away, yet those few minutes were enough to estrange us from its quaintness and make us wish, yet again, that we could pick up the house and plonk it somewhere else.

We accepted the house was not quite an ideal home – that was the point. But there was also a nagging dissatisfaction with just how easy – or not – it was to fulfil our artistic purpose of being there. The house swallowed up furniture and antiques like a dog eating M&Ms. Commercial work was suddenly busying our time more (typical), compromising our time and investment to possibly get the house even close to the standard we aspire to – and our standards are stupidly high by all the places we’ve seen. Trips in April and May this year to Eastnor Castle and The Pines in NY, showed us impossible to achieve location ideals that left us deflated when we got back to our shell of a house, which even if we managed to fill to the brim, would not even belong to us.

Living in that ‘shell of a house’ had it perks too. The sheer novelty of living in a Georgian mansion with ginormous sash windows, spreading out our evenings over our three king and Eastern kingsize beds situated like islands in geometrically-generous rooms that had space to swing a lion. The park-sized garden I would take walks in, and overall the feeling of taking the plunge to live somewhere utterly odd, majestic and crazy spiked us with an energy of creativity, an approval tick from the universe. We would keep buying stuff from flea markets long after we knew we were moving, Matt with his mirrors and golden floor lamps, and I, ridiculously huge taxidermy that I knew with a smirk would “cock up the move”, because, we had been long contaminated with a lovely madness.

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Barocco House was a dream that we may chase again one day. For now, it’s mostly over, except for the 4 Luton vans’ worth of consoles, rugs, ornate couches and tables cosily injected into the next abode… our current new place, more modest, is still bigger than we ever had prior to Devon, as Barocco House gave us an appetite for a little spacious glamour whilst also, paradoxically, showing how nicer it was to live with less ‘stuff’ (as in, our own clothes and books, a lot of which has stayed in boxes all year). There is pleasure in both upsizing and downsizing as one’s priorities and interests in life evolve. There is a continual conflict in me, a wrestle between a dissatisfied idiot princess who wants a palace kept clean by an army of servants and a pauper who’s quite happy in a cave with nothing but rags. I’m sure my disposition is not an uncommon ‘first world problem’…

And now I will end this post with the shoot we staged in Barocco House – spotlighting that staircase, the main attraction that drew me to live here, for this one photo ‘Glacial Gate’ that made it all worth it. I love that when you choose a vocation in life you’re passionate about, it becomes the currency to make anything ‘worth it’… money, time, faff, and what you might otherwise call a waste of anything, is upon your command, ‘worth it,’ if you say so. This image I will talk about in greater detail in the future, as it is a large-scale piece with fine detail, showcasing the staircase that made 5 months in Devon worth the trip.

I wanted the Photoshop surrealism of the lagoon to not overtake the beauty of the scene that was set up for real: haze, height, fabric, and taxidermy antelope. I then fused the interior with an Icelandic landscape to become a ‘Surreal Fashion’ new world.

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GLACIAL GATE.

We also shot ‘Awoken’ – a fitting image for the world in the year of 2016.

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AWOKEN. This features a circa-19th-cent Italian handcarved antique bed, which became our centre piece of Barocco House – although its splendour is yet to be thoroughly showcased than here.

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CREDITS FOR BOTH IMAGES: Photography & production: Miss Aniela. Model: Annabelle Loveluck. HMUA: Grace Gray. Corset in ‘Glacial Gate’ is by Fairytas. Dress in ‘Awoken’ is by Wendy Benstead.

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