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The ODD journal is the project that has never quite made it to the table, so we are thrilled to finally be launching our summer scribblings - each a celebration of outdoor living. Over the next few months, we'll be visiting friends of ODD for a glimpse of how they spend the deliciously long days of the British summer and to hear their thoughts on some of our favourite subjects.​

 

One such friend is Luke Edward Hall. In late May, we found ourselves bumping down the track to the cottage he shares with his husband, Duncan. Although familiar from Instagram, nothing can quite prepare you for quite how sweet the cottage is in aspect.​

 

Set up from the lane, it overlooks and opens onto a gentle Cotswoldian valley, just a dozen steps from the kitchen doors. To one side there is a meadow of cow parsley; to the other there are flower beds, a kitchen garden and a rosemary-lined pathway leading out of the house.​

 

Bar the cattle in the fields, there are no eyes upon them, which might feel lonely if the house wasn't so full of life. Friends drop in unannounced and farmers wave their greetings passing by on tractors. Fiddle music plays and a superb lunch is conjured effortlessly for everyone.

 

​It feels almost a crime not to dwell on the delights of the interiors, but that would be rather missing the point. Gardens are so often sidelined or celebrated as exhibits more than living spaces. Our journal is here to honour the outdoor spaces that bring us such joy in the summer months, and where better to start than this utopian garden created from nothing, so much a product of Luke & Duncan's love of outdoor living.​​

Your garden is so charming. Quintessentially English - very romantic but also functional and well planned, it seemed to me. How would you describe it?

 

That’s kind. It’s definitely very cottagey, which is what we really wanted. In the summer we have a mix of foxgloves, roses, lupins, peonies... Romantic is a lovely word to describe it. I love gardens that feel wild or at least semi-wild. I don’t like things to be particularly tidy, and I like plants spilling everywhere. I want things shooting up out of cracks in the paving, and I want the courgettes and climbing beans to basically take over a whole corner of the garden. I want it to feel like a place to get lost in, like it’s taking over the senses. But yes, it’s functional, too, thinking about our vegetable beds, and the cutting beds which provide us with an abundance of tulips and dahlias.

 

Duncan told me there was no garden before. What was your approach to creating it? Where did you start?

 

We took advice from friends on the initial layout – where to put the raised beds, hazel fencing and so on, and we got a local garden company in to help with the heavy lifting. Then we basically just experimented. We started growing the things we knew we really wanted – tulips, dahlias, roses... Everything is an experiment, but after a few years it’s nice to know that certain things will now always return. The cycle of the year is a joy.

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Are there any gardens that particularly inspire you?

 

I have a few favourites – Rousham for it’s wonderful sense of Arcadian tranquility; Great Dixter for the blowsiness and colour; Painswick Rococo Garden for its follies... Oh, and the garden at Asthall, which is completely magical.

 

What is the appeal of a garden or gardening to you? Is the process or the output more important?

 

Both I think. I’m a total novice, but I really enjoy the process of getting stuck in. You lose yourself. It’s a bit like when I’m drawing or writing. It’s good for the head. When we bring flowers we’ve grown into the house, we still get that feeling of disbelief – disbelief that it’s possible to grow such beauty in one’s own garden...

What brings you most pleasure from your garden?

 

A summer’s evening is the thing I keep in mind when it’s cold and wet and grey out there. That ideal evening – friends are over – someone’s podding broad beans; someone else is mixing drinks; Duncan is on barbecue duty; the dogs are causing havoc; the cows are lounging in the field next to the house; the sun is setting... That for me is just... it.

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What is your latest (horticultural) obsession?

 

Right now: pelargoniums. Although I get obsessed with them about this time every year. I love them, but I’ve not had enormous luck with keeping them alive. So every year I try again. Oh, and tomatoes! I’m growing a bunch of different varieties at the moment, in pots. And... water! I’d really like to bring some water into the garden somehow. Maybe with a stone trough...

What have you learnt?

 

We’re always learning... We’ve tried to grow some things that just don’t work at all. But mostly, if you stick something in the ground, it’ll find a way...

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What is the most memorable scene your garden has been the backdrop to (under your tenure)? Can you paint a brief picture for us?


Our wedding! We had a tent in the wild meadow-ish patch of land to the back of the cottage. We had 150 people. Our friend cooked. Another friend had helped us a few months earlier to plant the meadow and make it even more wild. The ceremony took place at our landlord’s house down the road, and we all traipsed back through the fields to our cottage, stopping off by a river to grab a drink from a makeshift bar. There was lots of music and dancing; we had a reel at one point. (Duncan is Scottish!) It was a blissful day, and I’m so glad we were able to do this in our own back garden.

Is this the first swing seat in your life?

 

It is!

 

What is the draw of the rocker for you?

 

It’s that idea of lounging in the garden in total comfort. I’m used to scratchy blankets on uneven lawns. Blankets on lawns have their place, but the rocker really ups the game. I think it will make me spend more time in the garden doing not very much, which I like the idea of.

Tell us about your rocker design and your Rubelli fabric…

 

It’s fun to bring colourful and patterned fabrics into the garden. I very much liked the idea of a bold combination, so went for hot pink and bright orange. A good contrast with all the garden green. The interior of the rocker is decked out in my peach Ribbon Bouquet fabric for Rubelli. The design I discovered in Rubelli’s archives – we scanned the woven fabric, made a print, and I altered the colours. I’ve got a real thing for peach. An underrated hue!

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What will you be reading (or writing) as you spend your summer days on it?

 

I’ve always got a mix of books on the go, so I can see me taking a bunch of wildly different tomes out and getting stuck in. Probably at least one or two things about the Green Man – I can’t get enough of him. It will be a great place to write my column, too...

 

If it could be transported to any time and place, what garden scene would you most like to enter on it?

 

I wouldn’t mind going back to the 1930s, and Cecil Beaton’s garden at his home Ashcombe in Wiltshire. I’d like to zoom back for one of his famous parties – in particular his famous fête champêtre of 1937! Everyone came dressed as country rustics. Shepherds and such. I think our rocker, with all those ribbons and bouquets, would fit right in.

 

Are there any characters (past or present) that you’d particularly like to take a swing with?

 

Present: Duncan and the dogs, of course. From the past? Vita Sackville-West; Duncan Grant; Derek Jarman; Stephen Tennant...

What drew you to the Cotswolds? What would you recommend to do in the area?  And where would you recommend to eat?

 

When we were on the hunt for a cottage to rent back in 2019 we were actually looking all over the south of England. We looked at several houses, but this one, when we came to see it, won us over because of its total isolation and views across the valley. There is a lot going on here – so many beautiful gardens and houses to visit; an abundance of villages each with their own unique architecture and atmosphere; great food... If you were coming for a weekend, I’d tell you to visit Chastleton House and Kiftsgate (amazing roses)... I’d suggest a trip a little further west to Stroud, too. The market on Saturday mornings is brilliant, and The Woolpack, in the village of Slad, is nearby. Our favourite pub! I love The Fox in Broadwell too – this is close to us. And The Straw Kitchen at Whichford Pottery for breakfast.

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Interiors, design collaborations, art, writing… you always have a great deal on. We hope your rocker can encourage some occasional idleness. Is ‘busy’ a natural state for you? What do you do to relax?

 

I like to have a mix of projects on the go at once – this is how I have always worked since I set my studio up in 2015. But! I need to rest, too. We try our best to get the balance right. It’s good to guard quiet time. A weekend of not doing much at all is very precious. A relaxed Sunday, for example, will be spent cooking, reading, snoozing... I do think that travel can be relaxing also – I’m not amazing at sitting still, and seeing beautiful things refreshes my eyes and tops up inspiration levels.

What are you looking forward to at the moment? Is there anything exciting on the horizon?

 

Most of all? Our new tiny house, right at the end of Cornwall. We rent our cottage here in Gloucestershire, and we love it, but this is the first house I have bought. It has no garden! But it’s close to the sea and the wild cliffs... It’s an early 19th century church hall and it needs slowly bringing back to life... I can’t wait...

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Luke's rocker is an Old Rocker in Faded Red with the sofa in Fox and a custom fringe. His inside walls and scatter cushions are made from his own fabric design with Rubelli

Photography by Maximilian Kindersley.

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