Trading her Brooklyn family home for the Cotswolds, landscape designer and US Vogue contributing editor Miranda Brooks takes us through her farmhouse and gardens.

Just before 2020, you decided to “change your lives” after “years of dreaming, planning, and lots of work”. This decision meant moving from Brooklyn to the 17th- century Catswood Farm in the Cotswolds with your husband Bastien Halard, a designer, and daughters Poppy and Violette Grey. What led you to this decision, and why was Catswood Farm the right choice?

Miranda Brooks: We spent many years looking at houses and farms, from the Catskills to Maryland and all over England. The children, having ponies that lived at my ex-husband’s farm, cemented the idea of England, plus my increasing-with-the-years homesickness for the seasons I grew up with.

A friend told me the farmer who lived at Catswood Farm had passed away, so I wrote a letter to the family but never got an answer. Two years later, I was back in England, saying we were giving up on the idea when a friend encouraged us to drive past. We drove up to the house and knocked on the door. The next day, we were standing in a field – we never went in – and they said, ‘Do you want it?’ Then we saw inside; there was so much work to do.

But it was hard initially. We thought, ‘Maybe we’ve made a mistake?’ ‘This is just going to be too hard a change’. I thought I was just sort of sailing off into what had been my dream. It was also to do with the fact that we were on a building site in the wettest winter in England!

When you happened upon the farmhouse and its outbuildings, it was derelict. What was your first impression – did you both immediately see the potential?

Miranda Brooks: We were both in love with the farm’s courtyards and their potential. There was so much to do to simplify all the buildings, and it had no garden. It allowed for dreaming, though we were pretty shocked when we saw the inside. The walls were green. It was so damp due to the underground springs surrounding the home. There also weren’t the practical things, like a bathroom upstairs.

It wasn’t our dream house. Given what Bastein and I do, it probably chose us. Everything we’ve dreamt about, we’re doing. There are also lists and projects we want to do.

How has it felt returning to New York City, where your studio is also based, since moving to Catswood Farm?

Miranda Brooks: New York does feel different. There are so many people – and it feels quite odd to be with so many people and not talk to them all because, you know, when you have a life in the country, you talk to everybody.

I spent almost 25 years in New York, but a strong thread of being homesick really influenced my garden designs. So I’ve always tried to recreate something – a feeling – you don’t usually find in America.

I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than Catswood in the middle of June. It’s too nice to leave. First of all, there’s so much watering that we have to do [laughs] that you can’t really be away. The roses are out, and the strawberries are ripe; all of the things you wait all year for.

Your husband Bastien led the transformation of the farmhouse, and there was no shortage of challenges. With these challenges in mind, how did you balance the agricultural history and spirit of the home with your vision for how you’d like to live here as a family?

Miranda Brooks: Bastien tried many different schemes, and his hands were fairly tied by the planners. He built a wonderful vaulted kitchen, a new staircase and bathrooms. The house has a good meandering flow to its spaces.

Bastien feels Catswood helped him to figure out what his design language is and how he wants to say it. In turn, he has helped Catswood find its sense of self. It felt very utilitarian for a long time, and now it’s much softer and prettier. Even though it’s very simple, the details are beautiful.

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The kitchen lies within a newly created structure clad in shuttered concrete. It features high, lime-washed ceilings with antique Jacobean chandeliers and a sofa designed by Bastein, upholstered in the couple’s soon-to-be-launched fabric collection. A photograph by Francois Halard lies in the corner (who also photographed Miranda and Bastien’s home).

You have described the interiors as having a “strong but soft character”, featuring many beautiful custom elements such as the freehand fresco in the library and pieces from the 17th century to the mid-20th century. What particular design details tell the story of your home best?

Miranda Brooks: The fresco was one of the first things we did. The children helped. It was inspired by an amazing chapel in Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire, with beautiful, slightly naive drawings of plants on the walls.

I love the doors Bastien designed. He said that the house had so little architectural merit, giving attention to the details, the things you touch, would bring out its character. All the doors have a lovely chalky paint and delicate, chiselled detail.

Bastien also designed all of the sofas. The one in the kitchen is huge – he’s the one that uses it most. Sometimes I walk into the kitchen, and he’s having a nap, and there are two dogs and two cats on top of him, all in a row, and they’re all asleep. It’s adorable.

Beyond reimagining the farmhouse, you’ve repurposed outbuildings, such as the shared studio for yourself and Bastien. What has it been like to work from this new space?

Miranda Brooks: We have yet to get very far with the outbuildings. Many will stay agricultural, like the barn and the duck house. A steam room and bathhouse to cheer up English winters are still to come!

But we have finished our studio and print room, where Bastien and I have collaborated on an outdoor fabric collection. I’ve had ideas for a long time about things – things I make for clients because I can’t find them. Being at Catswood, maybe because we’re lonely [laughs], there’s more time for ideas – more creative energy.

I’ve always felt that while New York is an extraordinary, energising city – it’s where you get things done. Ideas come from stiller places, and I live in a much stiller place.

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Miranda’s bathroom/library is her favourite space in her home, where she spends most nights reading. It features Georgian panelling, both a vintage Berber rug and an antique rug from Joshua Lumley.

You have said your bathroom/library is one of your favourite places to be. What does this space say about how you live in your home?

Miranda Brooks: Growing up on a farm, I was a big reader. When I was a child, I loved the escapism of reading and always used to find somewhere totally hidden outside to read – so no one would find me to give me a job to do [laughs].

I like to read at night in the bath, so my bathroom is always more like a library/sitting room. I’m happy if someone wants to come and chat to me there. It’s also the only time I get to myself unless I’m on an aeroplane.

Your move coincided with covid lockdown – how did this influence the design of your gardens – particularly your vegetable and cutting garden?

Miranda Brooks: That year, England had the most incredible spring. Always travelling to different projects, I got what I wanted – the season changes, mists, frosts and things you don’t get so much in America.

I don’t want to say the pandemic was a good thing. Still, it allowed us to work on the gardens and meant the vegetable garden went in a few years before I thought I would get to do it; some deep-seated ‘Grow for Britain’ urge overtook me, and I had potatoes and broad beans growing everywhere.

You decided to segment your home’s gardens around colour. Why did you choose to approach your own landscaping in this way?

Miranda Brooks: Towards the hill, the gardens follow the chakras. I meditate, and while the work on the house was going on, and we were still in NY, following the chakras just crept into my garden planning. It has given me many good challenges, as I only occasionally plant blue things.

Catswood has given me a chance to experiment. Considering it’s just a farmhouse, I’ve got a ridiculous amount of cutting, and I’m growing so much. I’m doing what works best but trying different things every year. There’s a freedom to change things, and parts are still a work in progress.

“Stella’s garden” is a beautiful tribute to a special friend. Why is it important to create these meaningful moments in our landscaped spaces?

Miranda Brooks: I have never made a memorial garden and didn’t know what a healing thing it would be. I started the digging very soon after Stella died; the garden was slowly developed, and having it means we say her name most days – and remember and love her.

In your own words, you thanked your daughters for “giving up NY for a cow farm and the joys of a lot of mucking about”. Reflecting on this, what do you love most about your new life at Catswood farm?

Miranda Brooks: Seeing every season, type of weather, time of day, the beauty of God’s universe, and the love for it.

This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 49: Force of Nature.

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