“It’s a Pruesplosion” – inside the Bake Off star’s Technicolor home

Yes, this house is colorful. Hugely colorful. Dame Prue Leith and her husband John Playfair were never going to go monochrome when they built their dream home in Gloucestershire. The result has as many Pantone pop shades on its walls and floors as you’ll find in Leith’s famous ball necklace collections. “We call it a ‘Pruesplosion’,” explains the former Playfair fashion designer, who has been married to the author, host and chef since 2016.

This reflects the positive vision of Leith. “I think people should go through the winter wearing yellow,” she says, showing me around her lemon-colored kitchen. She wears one of more than 200 necklaces that hang like an art installation on the sea-green walls of her bedroom, and the frames of her glasses resemble a Rubik’s Cube of bright primary colors.

The library and dining room at Prue Leith’s house in Gloucestershire, which has been converted from a former barn © Jake Curtis

The courtyard garden with flower boxes and seasonal vegetables
The courtyard garden with planters of seasonal flowers and vegetables © Jake Curtis

Crossing the living room there are blinds made from Timorous Beasties’ Graffiti Stripe Velvet fabric which has an 80s feel to match everything else. It’s a place to have fun, a place to bake and drink wine. You might be tempted to rollerblade around it. “We had a great lunch here recently with our 10 grandchildren,” says Leith. “We gave them each a tree to plant in the garden. Their age ranges from 14 to two weeks, so some of them contributed more to the planting than others.

There’s a lot of land around this house, which Playfair and Leith enjoyed landscaping with everything from a fake tree that turns out to be a water feature to 160 rare or endangered fruit trees. “Let me tell you why they’re rare,” Playfair says, laughing on their bedroom’s AstroTurf terrace as we gaze out at the young orchard below. “It’s because they are deformed and taste disgusting. The only thing we can do is turn apples into some kind of alcohol.

Leith with architectural designer Charlie Luxton.  She stands on a gold leaf painting of a globe with her husband John Playfair's family motto on it

Leith with architectural designer Charlie Luxton. She stands on a gold leaf painting of a globe with her husband John Playfair’s family motto on it © Jake Curtis

The TV snug, which includes a sofa for King Charles spaniel Tattie

The TV corner, which includes a sofa for King Charles spaniel Tattie © Jake Curtis

There are countless playful elements in the house and its surroundings, including Pastry shop cartoons in the downstairs toilet and a life-size polystyrene figurine once used by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon to populate a crowd stage: Leith bought it for £5, the painted in graphite and resin and turned her into something resembling a so-called Gormley perched in a hedge in the grounds of the house. It’s a typically eccentric gesture from the woman whose style is so distinctive that in 2019 she put her name to a line of jewelry and eyewear. “I collect antique china,” Leith says, pointing to a chandelier in her turquoise-walled office that she’s personalized with floral teacups, floral necklaces and matching haberdashery.

Leith started a cooking school, wrote eight novels and 14 cookbooks, and became a national treasure long before she became a global star via The Great British Bake Off. She used to live in a house a short drive away, but now that she is 80 and her husband is 70, she decided to create something that would be their forever home as a couple, as well as a playground for a retreat that seems neither. be ready to kiss. “We invited three people to come up with ideas for us,” says Playfair. “Two of them designed Lego monasteries, and the other, an architectural designer, came up with something we fell in love with.”

The rotunda entrance of the two bedrooms

The rotunda entrance to the two bedrooms © Jake Curtis

Shelving in the Omega kitchen in Leith

Shelving in Leith’s Omega kitchen © Jake Curtis

That architectural designer is Charlie Luxton, who has been almost as ubiquitous on television as Leith, overseeing a variety of architectural shows. Luxton put an ambitious project on the table but had fun figuring out how to make it happen. “There was originally an old stone farmhouse here, which wasn’t particularly nice, and lots of sheds and farm machinery. It was always about building something new,” he says. “I created the plans around the idea of ​​a central drum shape, a core from which the rest of the house extends, and everything is also slightly raised above the landscape, like an interpretation of a Palladian villa, and the idea of ​​the noble piano.It uses the rhythm of classical architecture but we were able to incorporate many sustainable elements, with additional insulation, triple glazing and air sealing.

The white and yellow Omega kitchen, with its Senso resin floor

The white and yellow Omega kitchen, with its Senso resin floor © Jake Curtis

Leith's room
Leith’s bedroom © Jake Curtis

This central drum serves as a kind of visual red herring. It creates a neutral yet modern polished plaster atrium that, at first glance, might take the rest of the house into John Pawson territory. Instead, the floor is covered in a huge gold leaf painting of a globe, with the Scottish Playfair family motto wrapped around the equator: “Sic te non videmus olim(loosely translated as “We weren’t always like this”). The graphic was taken from the signet ring that Playfair constantly wears. Above the globe is an antique lantern that Leith commissioned from her niece Amy Douglas to personalize with gold leaf and copper cutouts of birds and monkeys. “It had been in storage for ages, gothic, dark and plain, and I wanted it to be playful,” she says.

Playfair's bedroom decor is inspired by her travels

Playfair’s bedroom decor is inspired by his travels © Jake Curtis

The Leith Jewelery Wall, designed by Playfair
The Jewel Wall of Leith, designed by Playfair © Jake Curtis

While the couple share many tastes, the house has come together through pleasant tensions. Some rooms reflect Leith’s preferences, others those of Playfair, including his “banishment” room with its ancient four-poster bed. There are also half-and-half rooms, like the main library (which includes the dining room) with its vaulted ceiling. One end has richly framed classic oils from Playfair and rows of books, the other has paintings and tapestries from Leith. The room itself is the most striking in the house – the walls are finished in a bright red and the cast floors are a green felt, covered in Playfair’s collection of antique rugs. At one end there is a large wooden dining table. “John likes to tell people who know about antiques that it’s ancient and must have hosted many historic dinner parties,” says Leith. “But he actually bought it for next to nothing from an old pub and he put several coats of varnish on it. If you can look closer you can see it’s plywood.

Leith in the hallway at home

Leith in the hallway at home © Jake Curtis

The entrance to the house, at the top of which is a terrace with a 360 degree view
The entrance to the house, at the top of which is a terrace with 360 degree views © Jake Curtis

While the table may not be authentic, many of the antique pieces of furniture are, as are the luminescent bowls lined up on this disguised plywood surface. Each half orb looks like a giant broken egg, individually lined with a different bright color that seems to glow from within. “They’re from Siobhan and Martin Miles-Moore, who are based in Cumbria,” says Leith. “I fell in love with their work and how bright and subtly Japanese it looks. I asked them to make rooms for me, and they started asking me where the house was, what was around and what the foundations were. When they saw that there was a lot of clay here, they came and extracted the raw materials to make the parts. The clay is bright blue – incredibly beautiful.

Any house built to satisfy Prue Leith will have an impressive kitchen, and this one is designed and planned to work, as well as create an upbeat vibe. As long as it’s in the sticks, there’s nothing country kitchen about it. The conversation Luxton had with Leith was simple: she wanted the exact same kitchen she had before. “The problem I often have with kitchens is that they were traditionally designed by men at a time when men didn’t use them much. So doors were never placed on cupboards, refrigerators or ovens intuitively,” she says. She asked for a large island to cook on. “I also want the things I need most often to be close at hand, so one of the improvements in this kitchen over my last one is that I have more shelf space. I don’t don’t want things hidden away in cupboards when I constantly need to access them. We had a pantry built because it’s incredibly useful for storing things near where I cook, and in the middle of the kitchen island, there’s a lazy Susan, which I commissioned about 50 years ago, in cherry wood. It’s one of the nicest things I own – I knew exactly how high I wanted my spices, knives and spoons to be, and it was made to those specs.

The collection of plates and books in the library/dining room

The collection of plates and books in the library/dining room © Jake Curtis

An internal archway with filigree railing overlooking a custom lantern designed by Leith's niece

An internal arch with a filigree balustrade overlooking a custom lantern designed by Leith’s niece © Jake Curtis

While the work surfaces in Leith’s kitchen are Silestone and the flooring is neutral gray cast resin with slight undulations of deliberate imperfection, most of the units and accents in Leith’s kitchen are yellow – this shade dazzling Sicilian lemon. Upstairs, her bathroom is a mix of green and red. These are the colors she likes to immerse herself in every morning, but when she cooks, it’s yellow, evoking sunflowers and mustard fields. “I love it,” she said. “I really enjoy a joyful explosion of color.” One could say that it is similar to a Pastry shop pitfall.

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