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Traditional interior design

© Nick Smith Photography


It was a dark evening last November when I asked Dom Moorhouse, one of the principles in the Packhorse at Southstoke community pub project if they had an interior designer. Nope. Would you like one? Yes please.

It’s always a joy to contribute something back into the community and I had fond memories of sitting in the Tap bar with a pint and doorstep sandwich, so volunteering and being part of bringing this amazing property back to life held particular appeal.

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The Packhorse at Southstoke, Somerset had been closed for 6 years during which time it had faced the prospect of being converted into residential units with offices below.


The villagers said no and more than that, put together a plan of action to buy the pub for the community. It was an extraordinary effort. They finally secured it and set about resurrecting the hub for this very special village.

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My view of the interior was that it should look as though it had never been touched- just given a really good clean. Fortunately, the Conservation Officer has insisted that everything be done to the best possible standard. Stripped walls are being re-plastered with lime plaster and the team have done a fabulous job with creating soft, organic edges, sympathetic to this historic interior. Stone mullion windows, thick with centuries of paint are being stripped back to the beautiful honey-coloured Bath stone.

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Thankfully there are some lovely original features. The main doors are a joy, with odd catches and locks added over the years, still in place. We’re keeping the existing bar which faces onto the Cross Passage (where coffins were carried through on the way to their church services). This is just being cleaned and left in its dark brown paint. The Tap Bar is probably the most contentious of all the rooms. I remember eating fabulous chip butties by the fire many years ago. Here we’re keeping the same colourway and giving the original red tiles floor a good scrub.



The main problem with dealing with a historic interior like this one is that I’ve been really conscious of not making it look too “Cotswolds.”


There are many lovely soft sludgy hues available these days but most of them have been done to death in Gastro Pubs from here to Chipping Norton. We’ve carefully selected colours that suit the building and keep away from the ubiquitous “French Grey.”

Inside The Packhorse, South Stoke, Bath -

© Nick Smith Photography

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© Nick Smith Photography


First fix for the lighting design was the first issue. We wanted to keep away from ceiling lights to help keep some of the 17th-century ambience. My view was that it was better to have more and have softer light emanating, than a few really bright lights. The wall lights throughout would have natural toned linen shades except for the Red Dining Room and Tap Bar. For the Tap Bar, I wanted to see bare filament bulbs- they are slightly quirky and give a lovely warm glow. I also felt they suited the pared-back look of this interior.

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Flooring was another important issue. The Red Dining Room had half original elm flooring, the rest was pretty manky pine. Nick sourced a brilliant match for the elm boards. For the other room we needed a sympathetic flooring that would be entirely functional. Unnatural Flooring was the perfect solution. It looks like sisal matting but will take wine spillage, food etc. Great for a restaurant room. The new loos were the other issue. We didn’t want to lose the magic of the elm boards in the hallway but again had to be fully practical. Kardean was a perfect choice here- looks like patinated floor boards but again, really easy to clean.

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As a 17th century ale house I wanted to keep soft furnishings to a minimum. I’ve used pre-worn looking fabric to soften the wooden window seats and popped in a couple of cushions. For the curtains upstairs, I wanted them to be as innocuous as possible. I wanted people to notice the fabulous stone mullioned windows and not the curtains. For the whole interior design of the scheme its been about the light touch. I wanted it to look as though it hadn’t been “done up” just given a really good clean. 

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I had been given access to a collection of photographs of the village including the vicars photo album along with several boxes of used picture frames. I scanned selected photos, cleaned and painted frames, reassembled and they now hang in the Tap and South Bar. Its fabulous to be able use photos of the building and the village over the past hundred or so years. They really tie the interior to the village and give it a sense of place.

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© Nick Smith Photography

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