Thank you so much to Daisy Bridgewater, Simon Brown and the Saturday Telegraph Magazine for the brilliant article this weekend! We absolutely love it and Trevor the triceratops is basking in his new-found fame.
Interiors: A Cotswolds cottage that could be part of Jurassic Park
A Cotswolds cottage feels like a film set to its occupants, an artist and his family – complete with extras from his Jurassic period. Photographs by Simon Brown. Words by Daisy Bridgewater
There was much debate, when I visited the home of the artist Jay Jay Burridge and his wife, Mel Moss, about where to put Trevor the triceratops. This surreal 7ft-tall foam dinosaur covered in sticky-backed plastic had just been taken out of storage for the summer and positioned on the lawn in front of their pretty 18th-century Cotswolds cottage. Moss was concerned Trevor would be a distraction and cause an accident in the procession of Audis that whistle past their drystone wall on the way to Waitrose. Burridge disagreed, delighting in the juxtaposition of prehistoric pop art with old-world charm.
Dinosaurs are a recurrent theme in Burridge’s work, his most recent creations decorating the walls and ceilings of Jamie Oliver’s Diner, his close friend’s latest venture in Piccadilly, London. There, a full-size allosaurus stretches over the central stairwell, while dinosaur-themed rodeo posters hang from every wall. In 2010 Burridge made 11 lifesize dinosaurs for a show, When Superstars Ruled the World, at the Lazarides Gallery in Beverly Hills, depicting them drinking tea, playing music and generally hanging out. ‘Dinosaurs have been used so well in popular culture, but what interests me is dulling them down and making them mundane,’ he told me as we eventually repositioned the disturbingly lightweight Trevor out of harm’s way on the other side of the house.
Burridge and Moss moved here from London in 2009 with their first son, Cash, now six, in tow, and Moss pregnant with their second, Carter, four. ‘London life for me was very much about working full-time,’ said Moss, a former fashion stylist, who now combines running Lucky Seven, the couple’s bespoke cap making business, with a job in fashion PR. ‘After I had Cash I tried to live the country life in London – going to farmers’ markets in Queen’s Park and buying expensive sourdough – but moving felt like the most natural thing to do.’
Knowing the Cotswolds through family connections, they were aware that buying would be difficult as much of the land where they wanted to live is divided into large private estates. ‘To get the view and the location we knew we would have to rent,’ Moss said. ‘We were incredibly lucky to find this house – it was the first one we found, and we were in nine weeks after we decided to leave London. It still feels like a film set when I look at the view.’
The couple originally rented the three-storey side of the house (the part with the tiled roof) as a semi-detached three-bedroom cottage. But when the neighbours decided to move on at the end of 2012 Burridge and Moss suggested to their landlord (the cottage is part of the Cornbury Park estate near Charlbury) that they take on the lease and knock the two dwellings into one. The landlord agreed, and in January 2013 a hole was drilled through the wall of the former cloakroom to link one house to the next.
‘The whole process only took a couple of months,’ Moss said. ‘We took out next door’s kitchen and turned it into the dining room, and built a step through the old cloakroom into the original kitchen, as the two houses are on slightly different levels.’ During the knock-through the builders found an ancient lintel in exactly the same place as the new opening, confirming Burridge’s suspicions that the property had originally been a single dwelling.
Now functioning again as a single house, it gives the family the benefit of double the amount of living space on the ground floor, while maintaining a crucial degree of privacy on the second. ‘We still have two staircases,’ Moss said, ‘and you can’t get from one side of the house to the other upstairs; handy for when friends come to stay with young children as we can calm things down at bedtime and keep everyone separate.’ Upstairs in the second cottage are two guest bedrooms and a bathroom. ‘It’s the perfect arrangement,’ she added.
Linking both spaces visually came as second nature to the couple, both avid collectors whose addictions to car boot sales and French brocantes meant that furniture and objects were not in short supply. ‘I have a little fascination with enamelware,’ Burridge said. ‘And Bakelite telephones. And pressed glass and big enamelled tin signs. Really, it is all about colour, and buying the stuff that other people are ignoring.’ Recent finds include an old church pew and a gym bench (both now in the dining room), and a collection of vintage fire buckets that hang from the ceiling filled with flowers. ‘As an artist I like repetition, so I quickly start collecting – if I find one thing I like, I will want to find another, and another.’ I caught Moss rolling her eyes. ‘Jay Jay would put a telephone in every room if he could, but we have hit a compromise. His Star Wars figures stay in his office, and the dinosaurs stay mostly in the garden.’
Kitchen dresser : Much of the china, tin, pressed glass and enamelware on the kitchen dresser (bought at the Old Pill Factory in Witney;theoldpillfactory.com) has been found in brocantes in France, where the family spend a month every year. ‘Usually by the time we get home there is no space for anyone to get into the car,’ Moss says, ‘and the boys have to put up with things piled on their laps.’ The functioning black Bakelite telephone is a classic British model from the General Post Office. The large enamel vessels at the base of the dresser are used to store tea towels, pasta and rice.
Dining Room : Before knocking through from one house to the other, kitchen units used to run the length of the wall below the window, a space now used as a dining room. The opening through to the kitchen passes through a former cloakroom, where a small step down needed to be created to compensate for the differing levels between the two dwellings. ‘I had hoped that it would all be on the same level – it would have been fun for the boys to rollerskate through – but it was impossible to tell until we knocked through,’ Burridge says. The boiler has been artfully hidden behind fabric by Cabbages & Roses. Fire buckets, hung from the ceiling, are filled with flowers. The room is painted with Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon.
Office : More Trainersaurus Rex sculptures from Burridge’s When Superstars Ruled the World show are arranged on the window ledge. An Eames lounge chair and foot rest sit in front of a neon sign depicting a dinosaur as a pole dancer, also part of the show. The Star Wars picture is an enlarged version of something that Burridge drew as a seven-year-old.
Living room : Following the knock-through the grown-ups have the pleasure of their own sitting room in the second cottage, while the children have taken over the family living room in the original house. The floral rug is from Anthropologie (anthropologie.eu). On a packing-crate coffee table sits a stainless-steel Trainersaurus Rex, one of the sculptures from Burridge’s 2010 show When Superstars Ruled the World. Modelled on Adidas trainers (the brand was one of the show’s sponsors), the shoes become dinosaur skulls with the addition of a moving set of heavily toothed jaws.
Master bedroom : A series of American railway logos printed on tin by the artist Ian Logan, Moss’s stepfather, hang above the bed.
Cash’s bedroom : The bunk bed, made by the boys’ grandfather the artist Roger Burridge, has been painted a brilliant shade of bright yellow (Dulux Sunflower Symphony 4) by Moss. Coloured paper lanterns, bought on eBay for a party, hang from the beams.
A few favourite out-takes!