It's pretty tough to beat the English countryside in high summer. And even though I'll readily confess to mild Anglophilia tendencies (i.e. Kate Moss/Jane Austen/Rita Konig/Rose Uniacke), I think most people would agree with me on this: the Cotswolds region, about a two-hour drive away from London, is one of the chicest and most idyllic places on earth. This week, I'm dreaming of the Barnsley House, a 17th-century manor turned 18-room country hotel.
First, the main selling point: 11 acres of grounds, including four acres of formal gardens developed in the 1950's by legendary landscape designer Rosemary Verey, who lived here at the time with her architectural-historian husband. From meadows to terraces, topiaries to espaliered fruit trees, each space feels like a destination unto itself—one of the hardest things in a garden to get right. Just look at the neoclassical temple in the image above, now the perfect setting for a long and cozy traditional English Sunday roast overlooking a little pond.
The interiors don't disappoint, either—they temper the country-house setting with just the right dose of contemporary cool. I'm loving how our view of the sitting room above is framed by heavy drapery, wooden beams, and floorboards, yet it still feels streamlined and airy, even with the requisite nod to taxidermy above the fireplace.
None of the rooms are alike. Each of them combines contemporary furnishings and design details (such as the showstopper of a light fixture seen above) with other elements that reference the property's heritage or the patina of age (as in the array of garden tools on the wall that doubles as art).
The restaurant, aptly named Potager, overlooks the gardens and references the outdoors in ways large and small: from dishes that draw upon the property's produce (heirloom tomato salad; carpaccio of beetroot) to the simple sprig of rosemary that marks each place setting.
(Photos courtesy of Barnsley House)And here it is, the famous laburnum walk by Rosemary Vesey that ranks as one of the most iconic elements from any English garden in existence. (I love it so much I couldn't resist showing it twice.) Even someone who can't tell an annual from a perennial can surely recognize this for the masterpiece of design that it is. Combining a painterly sensibility with the structure of a true outdoor room, this piece of Barnsley House is what I will be picturing on my standing-room-only subway commute all week long.