Daylesford’s latest talking point is Montacute Pavilion, a striking new building near the Wombat Hill botanical gardens designed as a luxury getaway. With its brass obelisks, dragon water spouts and curved roof it is hard to miss.
The building is part of a 1.5 acre (0.6 hectare) property, which is largely garden. David, one of the owners, has been developing the garden since 1970, while Lisa moved to join him 18 years ago. Strongly influenced by a love of English Arts-and-Crafts gardens like Hidcote, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter they have been developing the garden as a series of rooms, but also were attracted to the idea of referencing particular sites they loved in Europe. The hedge theatres of Northern Italy, around Lucca, inspired their hedge theatre, while the Renaissance gardens such as the Villa Lante at Bagnaia led to a series of parterres and a prospettiva (avenue terminating in a statue) or two.
As art historians, one of the features of many Italian and English gardens they were drawn to was the garden pavilion. These were often highly unusual or decorative small buildings, built to be visually intriguing. After toying with the garden buildings of the Villa Lante at Bagnaia, David settled on the two garden pavilions on the terrace of Montacute House in Somerset, England, built in 1600. These were originally banqueting houses that flanked an entrance gateway. David had long admired the proportions and the roof structure of these pavilions, built right at the beginning of the Baroque period, and set about re-designing them to become a stand-alone small pavilion at the end of the garden. The resulting building with its small footprint and height, feels a little like being in a tower, with sweeping views of the garden on one side, and the surrounding country on the other.
David believes in the philosophy adopted by Baroque artists and architects: that the best works of art are created by taking the best model and recreating it for a new purpose. Hence Montacute Pavilion is not a replica of its model, but a creative take on the original, in local materials, with some changes in plan and windows to make it work better on the inside. And it is rather more colourful that its model with obelisks, finial and other details in gleaming brass and copper. The elaborate battlements play with the forms of those found at Stanway House, Gloucestershire, and are made of solid Accoya timber rather than stone.
Just like the fantastical garden pavilion or tower, the idea is to create a building that takes you completely out of your every-day existence, and makes you feel as if you have entered another world. Nestled into the branches of an old established chestnut tree, the pavilion feels part tree-house, and part tower, with something of the spirit of Schloss Luisium, a small neo-classical house set in woodland at the Wörlitz Garden Realm in Anhalt-Dessau in Germany.
To maximise the great views of the garden from the top storey of the pavilion, David designed a unique grass parterre, overseen by a statue of Pan, which terminates in a brightly coloured chinoiserie fabrique. This is perfectly suited for enjoying a drink or outdoor meal while looking back at Montacute.In September, the area under the big chestnuts is a sea of daffodils, followed by bluebells into October. The garden is in full bloom through the summer, and in early February the brilliant red flowers of an ancient West Australian flowering gum competes with the chinoiserie
In September, the area under the big chestnuts is a sea of daffodils, followed by bluebells into October. The garden is in full bloom through the summer, and in early February the brilliant red flowers of an ancient West Australian flowering gum competes with the chinoiserie fabrique for attention. In autumn the chestnuts are ripe, and the cockatoos arrive, followed by the currawongs. (The magpies and ravens are there all year round, as are the rosellas and wattle birds.) As the leaves fall in autumn they carpet the ground under the chestnuts, and in winter the tracery of the tree branches shines through the mountain mist. Without the leaves the views out over the surrounding countryside and up to the botanical gardens at the end of the street open up.
The inspiration for the interiors is a little Arts-and-Crafts, a little European, a little contemporary, but above all cosy and luxurious. Having travelled a lot, David and Lisa wanted the kind of romantic destination they could rarely find on their travels. They wanted an Arts-and-Crafts aesthetic to prevail downstairs (they are fans of Wightwick Manor and Standen in England). You enter under a copper hood through the massive spotted gum doors and a screen of antique Indian columns into a delightful living room dominated by a Persian carpet and a seventeenth-century table and custom made mantelpiece in American walnut. There is a window seat for two in the bay overlooking the terrace, upholstered in William Morris fabric, and comfortable armchairs. There is also a fully equipped kitchen (including a washer-dryer), perfect for longer stays. Behind the second bedroom with en-suite looks onto gardens on both sides.
In the upstairs bedroom David and Lisa wanted a luxurious and private getaway that had its own private views. They wanted a place where you can do everything or nothing, with a luxurious bed with bespoke bedhead and lots of rugs, and lots of comfortable places to sit. So in one bay a cuddle sofa looking down into the main garden, while in the other antique chesterfield armchairs are perfect for sipping wine at dusk while watching at the lights coming on in the chinoiserie pavilion. Or where you could sit in bed watching TV or Netflix, warmed by a gas log fire. And they wanted a bathroom designed to spend time in: a glittering gold and black mosaic shower niche, a huge bath for two, a heated floor, and the mood set by fully controllable designer lighting and candles.
For David and Lisa, Montacute is the ultimate garden feature: they particularly like the view from the garden as dusk, when the garden sinks into shadow but the finial on the top of Montacute glows in the last rays of the setting sun. But they also wanted to share what they love and have created with others.
By Bianca. W | Dayget