Flowers, festive greenery and good food combine to make Christmas extra special at this gorgeous Yorkshire home. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Sarah Mason.
Sarah Statham used flowers as therapy after a stressful week working in the civil service. Every Friday, she’d stop off at the Willow Garden florists in Hebden Bridge, treat herself to whatever was in bloom and spend a happy few hours arranging them.
“In summer, I’d come home with a headache and go out and dead-head a few roses and feel fine again. I also did flowers for friends’ weddings and events. Flowers were my way of relaxing,” she says.
They still are although they are now her full-time job after a midlife career change that saw her leave her high-powered position to become a self-employed floral design expert.
“I had the idea for offering group and one-to-one workshops and took a year off to see if I could make a go of it. I never went to my old job,” says Sarah.
Her house, near Hebden Bridge, is now one half of the HQ for Simply by Arrangement. The other half is in East Lancashire at the home of Sarah’s business partner, gifted cook Chrissie Buchanan, aka Mrs B.
“The idea is that we have floral workshops with amazing lunches so you learn some new skills and eat lovely food. It’s like a mini retreat, an escape away from busy lives,” says Sarah, who still gets immense pleasure from flower arranging and gardening in her spare time.
The tables, windowsills and fireplaces in her home are always dressed with beautiful arrangements that look natural and informal. As it is now “the most wonderful time of the year”, everything has added festive touches and lots of foliage.
Berried ivy, eucalyptus, larch, lichen-covered twigs and tiny pine cones are favourites, although there is very little holly, which she says is “too spiky”.
In the kitchen, there are pots of tiny paperwhite narcissi. The bulbs were planted in October ready for Christmas flowering. The old meat hooks on the ceiling have been hung with wooden hearts and stars made by a local joiner.
“I like simple arrangements at this time of year, like a nice bowl planted with cyclamen covered with sphagnum moss and topped with a few twigs to make it look pretty,” says Sarah.
The formal dining room table is a picture with ruched, hand-dyed runners, glass candlesticks and pots filled with roses, cypress, mimosa, ilex berries, hellebores and ranunculus.
“I like the flowers to look like they’re still growing and I love terracotta pots, although they are quite porous so I pop an old plastic soup carton inside to hold the water. There’s also a ball of chicken wire in there to hold the stems,” she says.
Rather than a traditional garland wrapped round the bannister on the staircase, she has boxes of fresh greenery placed on every step. They blend together to create a waterfall effect.
The potted Christmas tree is a focal point in the main bedroom. It sits in a copper bucket in the fireplace and is lit with warm white fairy lights. The windowsill features a trug filled with mercury glass baubles from Toast and part of her collection of handmade ceramics, including those by Jill Shaddock, who makes pots for the workshops.
Sarah has a vast array of vintage and antique vessels, many from the Parker Gallery antique shop in Hebden Bridge.
“As long as it holds water we can use it and we’re always looking for something different,” she says.
At this time of year she buys in extra flowers and plants, British if at all possible, and also grows her own. It was her husband, James, a keen gardener, who suggested they replace their formal lawns with a cutting garden. Dahlias have been a great success and the couple are able to grow more unusual flowers that are not available commercially.
Although this part of West Yorkshire is known for its wet and wild weather, the house is in a sheltered spot that catches the sun. The micro-climate is one of the reasons they bought it eight years ago.
The mid-17th century cottage was extended in the Victorian era to accommodate the local mill owner, so most of the rooms are spacious with large windows.
“I loved the character of the oldest bit of the house, which is the kitchen, and the fact it has a separate pantry. James was happy with the light and clean lines in the Victorian part,” says Sarah.
The Stathams replaced and insulated the roof and commissioned bespoke furniture from Dalesbred and Drew Forsyth. They redecorated with Farrow and Ball’s muted greys and the neutral backdrop is perfect for displaying their collection of paintings, including those by Phil Withersby of the Calder Gallery.
Outside provided plenty of space to build a dedicated floral workshop with sinks and zinc-topped shelves and adjustable tables. It was built by Cragg Builders with the bespoke fittings by George Kidd’s Dovetail Joiners. It will be little used over Christmas when Sarah takes a break.
Christmas Eve is her favourite day. “We go to Hebden Bridge and watch It’s a Wonderful Life at the Picture House. Then we have lunch and look for last-minute presents. We do it every year and there’s something very comforting and cosy about that.”
Simply by Arrangement, workshops, simplybyarrangement.couk
Sarah Mason photography, sarahmasonphotography.co.uk
Willow Garden florists, thewillowgarden.com
Cragg Builders, craggbuilders.co.uk
Drew Forsyth kitchens and cabinetry, drewforsyth.co.uk
George Kidd / Dovetail Joinery, Hebden Bridge, dovetailjoiners.co.uk
The Parker Gallery antiques, Hebden Bridge, theparkergallery.co.uk
Dalesbred bespoke cabinetry, Settle, dalesbred.co.uk
Calder Gallery, Hebden Bridge, caldergallery.co.uk