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A countryside sanctum of world-class art, idiosyncratic interiors and farm-to-fork fare, the 18th-century Durslade Farmhouse rubs shoulders with Hauser & Wirth gallery, while Bruton’s bougie High Street is but a stroll away.
Gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth recently made a splash with the opening of The Fife Arms in the Scottish Highlands, but this collection of 18th-century farm buildings on the outskirts of the English town of Bruton is where the seedlings of their hospitality vision were sown. Previously occupied by farmers and monks, the ramshackle and at the time derelict Durslade Farmhouse was acquired by the Wirths in 2009, at which point they set about renovating it while retaining a sense of its crumbling, multilayered charm.
Wallpaper peels back to reveal faded older siblings; an internal window is plastered with stained-glass stickers of saints; and cracked floorboards are left exposed, covered only by artfully threadbare rugs. On top of this characterful canvas, the Wirths have added vintage furniture and original pieces from their stable of artists, with two highlights being the signature cubist-style mural by Guillermo Kuitca on the dining room walls and the hanging glass and video installation by Pipilotti Rist in the living room. The effect is surprisingly cosy, making the farmhouse an ideal hub for group getaways and special-occasion escapes – the kitchen was made for communal cooking and carousing.
Soaring gothic windows stud the stone wall that faces into the inner courtyard, around which you’ll find the Hauser & Wirth gallery, Roth Bar & Grill and seasonally rotating outdoor installations, with the pretty town of Bruton a few minutes’ drive or a short walk away.
The house has six bedrooms (sleeping 12 people in total), all of which have their own en suite and their own personality, as well as unique artworks that regularly rotate to keep things fresh for repeat guests. There’s a ground-floor master bedroom with an inglenook fireplace guarded by stone dogs; an all-white attic nook with adjoining tub; a Battenberg cake-coloured slice of a dwelling named after Pipilotti Rist; and a room with wallpaper featuring chocolate Santas. The bathrooms come in retro shades of avocado, rose and disco-tastic blue and black, and while most don’t have standing showers, you’ll instead find roll-top bathtubs, cases of butterflies and organic local toiletries.
What’s for breakfast?
Upon check-in, you’re greeted with a fresh sourdough loaf, butter and jam, eggs, fruit and yoghurt, as well as a sweet treat (in our case, salted caramel and chocolate cupcakes). Should you want to cook up a feast, you’ve got a fully stocked farmhouse kitchen and two gigantic fridges at your disposal, so fire up the Aga and get chef-ing.
How about lunch and dinner?
You’ve got everything you need to whip up your own culinary creations; however, should you fancy handing over the apron strings, the Roth Bar & Grill restaurant is a minute’s walk away and is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday until 3pm and dinner on Friday and Saturday from 6pm. The menus rotate according to the seasons and make use of the produce grown in the kitchen garden and on the farm. If you’d rather not leave the cosy confines of the farmhouse, you can arrange in advance for ingredients and dishes from the restaurant to be delivered to your door.
Is there a bar?
The Roth Bar uses local producers and distillers including Somerset Cider Brandy, Black Cow vodka and wine from Hauser & Wirth’s own local vineyard, alongside house-infused spirits from the kitchen garden such as carrot vodka and raspberry gin. Seasonal cocktails are inspired by the exhibitions at the gallery. Alternatively, stock the kitchen fridge with whatever you fancy and sip a glass from the comfort of the leather sofas underneath the trippy Rist installation in the living room.
There’s a small television in the study and WiFi – however, this is really a house to enjoy with friends rather than stick to a screen in. Light the fire, pore over the art books that stack the walls, play a vintage board game or chatter around the gargantuan kitchen table.
Things I should know
During the gallery’s opening hours, it’s likely that you’ll get a few inquisitive visitors peering through the windows of the farmhouse, so make sure you keep your dressing gown tightly tied (especially if you’re in the ground-floor bedroom).
Within a short walk I can find…
You’ve got Hauser & Wirth Somerset and the Roth Bar & Grill literally on your doorstep, of course – however, should you want to go further afield you’re about 10 minutes’ walk from Bruton’s High Street, where we’d recommend brunch by At the Chapel, dinner at Osip and buying a very expensive artisanal candlestick at Caro, if that’s your thing. You might also be able to persuade the folks at Hauser & Wirth to give you a farm or vineyard tour, in order to fully appreciate its ecosystem that goes well beyond art alone.
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