Updown Farmhouse: A Colorful Country Retreat in Kent
Less than six months ago, Updown Farmhouse opened just outside Deal in Kent. It began with a few quiet supper clubs hosted by some of the UK’s best chefs: Anna Tobias, Will Bowlby, Rowley Leigh, and Alex Jackson were each invited to cook one-off long-table suppers for a handful of lucky guests.
At the same time, young owners Oli Brown and Ruth Leigh were busy restoring the property, a 17th-century farmhouse with two converted cottages in the grounds. Some months later, they were able to open their kitchen on a more regular basis (though the restaurant is still, for now, under a temporary structure under a picturesque pergola). Soon after, they opened the main house to overnight guests. We couldn’t wait to take a look around:
“Updown is really two different houses stuck together,” explains Ruth (who is the daughter of chef Rowley Leigh). The oldest part of the house was built in the 1690s and extended in the mid-Victorian era. It was a working farm until the 1980s. “We really fell in love the second we walked in,” she says. “It felt like we weren’t trying to impose a concept on to the site. Everything just naturally fit.”
Inside, the interiors are an amalgam of architectural styles. Because of the way in which in the building has evolved over time, many of the rooms are generously proportioned and bright, which has encouraged Ruth and Oli to make brilliant, bold color choices.
The food, which is presided over by Oli, is Italian leaning and hyper-seasonal. “That could mean Kentish strawberries at the beginning of summer, followed by Sicilian tomatoes,” explains Ruth. “I think that pick-and-mix approach extends to the interiors, too. We’ve combined new pieces with antiques from local auction houses and vintage shops such as Mileage and Will & Yates in Deal. On the walls is a combination of prints, paintings, and photography, some more traditional colors and some more modern. It’s a real mix of what works where.”
In the orange room hangs a series of Liz’s paintings. “These were made years ago and re-discovered recently when moving house,” explains Ruth.
For more color-filled UK interiors, see: