William Watson-West’s home in the Yorkshire countryside is a hidden gem and it has inspired some of his best paintings and fabric designs. Sharon Dale reports.
It was clear from an early age that William Watson-West had an exceptional talent for art. While other children were drawing stick men and colouring in, he was creating mini masterpieces.
His ability was given every encouragement along with an environment that has enabled much of his work.
His paintings and fabrics feature first-hand observations of the landscape, flora and fauna around his home in the Yorkshire countryside.
The house is a rural idyll, hidden away in the Washburn Valley between Harrogate and Otley, where wildlife is rarely bothered by the hubbub.
“I often go out and draw from life,” says William, whose parents, Adrian and Sally, bought the property in 1986 after falling in love with the location.
Sally, a former valuer and auctioneer, says: “We lived in Ilkley and we weren’t planning to move but I became aware of this area when I came to do a valuation at a house nearby. I thought then what a beautiful part of the world it was and when there was a chance to buy something we took it. We loved this cottage because it is so rustic and simple and we have kept it like that.”
Although they moved to Scotland for a time, so that Adrian could take a job as an art lecturer, they couldn’t bear to part with their Yorkshire home and so they kept it on.
Over the years they have renovated it, redecorated it and made it into a wonderfully quirky and cosy home, which bears all the hallmarks of a creative family.
Adrian, now an interior designer and project manager, used his DIY skills to create everything from decorative pelmets to a new kitchen.
“It was a galley kitchen and corridor and we wanted something bigger. I came home one day and found Adrian had knocked the corridor wall down and the place was full of dust. He is impulsive like that,” says Sally, whose love of collectables and antiques is also evident. There are old children’s chairs, furniture, china, glass, nick nacks, kitchenalia and an impressive collection of gavels.
“We have so much clutter from my time working in sales rooms. A lot of the furniture is from auctions and I once bought a grand piano for our two-up two-down. We had to move house to accommodate it,” she says. “I like clutter. I love to have my bits and pieces around me and I think they help make a house homely.”
Almost everything tells a story. The most obvious narrative is the downstairs loo, which is devoted to their memories of Scotland. It’s called the Crail room, after the fishing village where they lived, and has everything from beach combing finds to pictures.
Their love of art and design is also apparent. Every wall in the house is filled with paintings. There are colourful abstract landscapes by William, whose work features in the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate, plus pictures by his father, his brother Fergus and sister Felicity. Other artists who feature include Mardi Barrie and Richard Snowden.
York-based Mark Hearld is another favourite. His cat sculpture has pride of place on the sitting room window sill and Adrian has made it a “mate” as a gift for Sally’s birthday. He is also responsible for the fake taxidermy, including a stag’s head made from paper and the felt boar’s head.
Meanwhile, William’s fabric has been made into curtains and cushions that herald an exciting future. He studied printed textiles at Edinburgh College of Art and after a huge amount of interest in his work at the New Designers exhibition in Islington, he decided to set up an online shop.
“I’ve always loved art but the art foundation course I did at Leeds helped me discover textile design. I enjoy it because it allows me to combine various aspects of art from illustration to more painterly styles,” says William, whose studio is in the dining room. The enormous table has a dual purpose and at meal times, the family can push the paints and paper to one side and still have plenty of room to eat.
“We’re used to him drawing and painting all the time. At the age of three he was doing proper detailed drawings and so I just provided him with the paper, paint and crayons and left him to it,” says Sally.
Although Adrian is a trained art lecturer, he has only ever offered one piece of advice.
“I gave him a hand with perspective because when you understand that, you can draw anything. You don’t interfere with natural talent.”
Nature has taken its course and William is now contemplating a move to London.
“I hope to branch out into ceramics, wallpapers and other products to create a brand and eventually have my own shops,” he says. “I’d also like to experience living in London but my heart will always be in Yorkshire. ”
William Watson-West fabrics are available from Fabric and Co, Cold Bath Place, Harrogate, www.fabricandco.com or visit www.watsonwest.com; Adrian’s interiors and project management company is Rocquest, tel: 01943 466000.