Living the vintage dream in the New Forest
- Credit: Julie Kaye Photography
Emma Barcia is living and working the vintage dream, Emma Caulton visits her at home in the New Forest
Emma Barcia was driving to Shaftesbury to pick up a piece of old furniture when she had what she describes as a eureka moment. “I suddenly realised that vintage is what makes me tick - I would rather drive for an hour to buy an individual item than go to West Quay. The big thing for me is that furniture has a story.”
The result was that Emma gave up a professional career, working for 20 years as a social worker, and opened Shave Green Interiors in Lyndhurst, three years ago, with Caryl Moore, whom she’d met through a mutual friend, plus support from her “long-suffering” husband, Michael. “This really has been a life-long dream – it has just taken me a long time to work out what I want to do.”
Emma and Caryl shared a similar approach and together, through careful research, quickly established that their shop needed a mix of old and new. Shave Green Interiors evolved as an eminently browse-able shop crammed full of ever-changing vintage and artisan finds spilling out enticingly through the entrance and onto the pavement. The mix includes pieces from reclamation yards and auction houses alongside new textiles, such as Carola van Dyke’s original designs which have become a signature of the shop, antler table lamps and Grand Illusions paints (replicating the buttermilk paints of the 18th and 19th centuries).
This ‘shabby chic’ style is a distinctive 21st century interiors trend that reflects a growing interest in the reclaimed and retro. Done well it is an eclectic hotch potch of recycled and upcycled with industrial, rustic and urban elements. THE PIG at nearby Brockenhurst exemplifies the look. It appears effortless and is anything but. Emma is a doyenne of this artful artlessness. She is aware that many staying at THE PIG call by the shop, tempted by its similar mis-matched vintage and coloured glasses, but then get waylaid by quirky cushions, old chests and edgy lighting.
Last year Caryl decided to move on, but Emma continues with her dream. She has even expanded the business, opening another shop, Goose Green Trading, further up the High Street, with a focus on gifts such as Emma Bridgewater pottery, reels of coloured garden twine and old-fashioned wooden toy sets that fit into matchboxes.
Emma lives as she works. Home is a 17th century cottage in the New Forest which she shares with two dogs, Max and Billie, two cats, Fleur and Roger, two bantams, a pony called Magic, three children, Samuel, 18, Evie, 16 and Arthur, 15, and husband, Mike. “This house is chaos! It’s just a busy house with teenagers: Arthur is ‘Mister Bear Grylls’ building camps in the trees, Evie looks after the pony and Samuel plays hockey for Romsey.”
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It is also one of about a hundred cottages in the New Forest which has a commoning right to firewood from the Forest – hence the piles of wood in the front garden, the baskets full of logs in the snug, an open fire in the sitting room and Rayburn woodburning stove in the kitchen.
Nine years ago, after deciding to move from nearby Nomansland, they looked at lots of properties and had driven past this cottage loads of times, “But I thought it was tiny, until we came to see it.” And when they did come to view the cottage, the person who opened the door was someone they knew – owner Keith had taught their boys to play cricket in Wellow.
Emma immediately fell in love with the house: “It just felt lovely. A little grey rabbit cottage!”
They almost lost it when their own sale fell through. Emma laughs as she recalls crying in what is now their sitting room. Fortunately they quickly found another buyer and on the day they moved Emma remembers Keith showing them how to ‘puddle in’ leeks in the vegetable patch while his wife gave them champagne in trifle bowls. That was a lovely introduction to a house that has become a comfortable, cosy and stylish home.
They have created a new kitchen/dining/family room with doors onto the garden which has become the home’s hub.
Emma’s idiosyncratic approach is evident. The kitchen units are from a company in the Cotswolds, but the leather strap handles were her idea. The gas hob is backed by whimsical acorn patterned wallpaper that Emma varnished (and varnished) for durability before adding a glass splashback.
She has mixed new buys with old pieces: the kitchen table from Neptune is a practical new purchase as leaves can be added to expand it as required, but it’s surrounded by an assortment of old kitchen chairs.
Other rooms have been repurposed and rearranged. The reception hall is now a snug. Armchairs are heaped with cushions, including Carola van Dyke’s quirky designs, and windows hung with curtains made from Moon & Sons tweed check.
Everything was moved around in the sitting room. This room is decorated (appropriately) in Farrow & Ball’s Cat’s Paw and Sanderson’s fabrics are used to upholster chairs and stools in an exuberance of stripes, checks, florals and plains, creating a warm, welcoming room.
The walls are filled with pictures of still lifes, horse riders and landscapes. Emma admits to a passion for oil paintings – even using them in the country style bathroom with its Aston Matthews freestanding tub and tongue and groove panelling painted in Farrow & Ball Buff’s topped with yacht varnish.
The master bedroom is a retreat. Its sleigh bed is opulent with vintage style handmade bed linen. Bedside tables from Shave Green Interiors are painted in Grand Illusions paint and bespoke wardrobes (built to fit the sloping eaves) were inspired by those in a hotel in Scotland. A wall features Mulberry Flying Ducks wallpaper – a lovely backdrop to a grouping of lights and print blocks.
Emma describes her style as traditional with a twist jumbled up with vintage furniture and interesting pieces. And perhaps due to Emma’s buying habits, “I’m a compulsive purchaser, especially with vintage, I always advise, if you see something buy it otherwise it’ll be gone”, this a home (and a business) that will continue to evolve gradually.
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