My Favourite Decor Books

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Hi everyone!
I hope you're going to enjoy this post.

You know I love visiting National Trust properties, and I  recently I visited a very different kind of home.  Very small by National Trust standards, but so quaint and very pretty!

The cottage lived in by Virginia and Leonard Woolf.  

Virginia Woolf is known the world over as an English writer who is regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the 20th century.  Virginia was also a member of the well known Bloomsbury group.  Her books have been read all over the world and there are several societies dedicated to her works.

Although Saturday started off wet with impending rain, we took the chance and headed off east.  Monk House lies in the tiny village of Rodmell, just outside of Lewes in East Sussex.  We turned right following the sign for Monk House and found ourselves driving down a narrow lane edged with beautiful cottages with stone walls sprouting flowers and apples growing out of hedges...
picture perfect!

A collage of some of the quaint cottages along the lane towards Monk House

Apples growing out of hedges

The village itself dates back to early Saxon times, with it's picturesque cottages and local church which is the oldest building in the village, dating back to the 12th century and worth a visit regardless of whether you visit Monk House!

We were early of course, and the house was not yet open for public viewing, but that didn't stop me from taking photographs of the outside of the house, all green and wet with dew.  After exploring the local church which borders on the back garden of Monk House, and the village, we took ourselves back to the house.

Monk House is unlike any other house I have ever visited.  I first spotted Monk House in Ros Byam Shaw's interior book, Perfect English Cottage, a glimpse of the garden all wild and green was enough to spur me on to visit.

   The space is simply decorated with paintings by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.    It's a very personal house.  All the items in the house seem to have been made or crafted by Virginia and Leonard's family or their close circle of friends.  It's a home to live in and be creative in.  

 Well worn steps up to Monk House.  Incidentally, Virginia and Leonard never used the front door and neither did their friends.  They all used the back door, straight ahead and left....

Part of the garden on the right as you walk along the brick path

One enters the house from the back door, just like Virginia did 71 years ago, bending low to avoid decapitation and passing on the left, the tiny greenhouse, home to flourishing plants and succulents.

The sitting room has low dark beams with greeny blue walls and small windows.  The words cosy and intimate come to mind.

The wood framed chair on the left Virginia bought from Heals.  In fact she bought two, but one of them resides in the Charleston residence.  The armchair on the right is Virginia's chair.  This is where she always sat and many photographs of Virginia were taken of her sitting in this very same chair.  The fabric on the chair was designed by Duncan Grant.  

A bust of Virginia

The table and chairs were painted by Vanessa as a gift to Virginia.   Vanessa also painted the back of the chairs (part of which I captured in a photo below) which have the initials VW,  a sign of the love and friendship the sisters shared.  

A corner of the sitting room displaying a tablescape and a painting by Duncan.  The lamp shade was made by Angelica, Vanessa's daughter by her lover, Duncan Grant.

Another table with hand painted tiles - and you can just glimpse the back of the chair with the initials VW painted by Vanessa.

A close up of the painting by Duncan.

A simple writing desk filled to the brim with papers and inks

Trekkie Ritchie did this painting of Leonard, notice how the walls in the painting echo those in the sitting room.

The dining room, a small but beautiful space filled with paintings with lots of the light from the large window.  The chair backs were embroidered by Leonard's mother.

A portrait of Leonard by Trekkie.

Personally I think this is one of the most flattering paintings of Virginia - painted by her sister, Vanessa Bell.  It hangs in the dining room.

There is so much to see and absorb, it's a well lived in and loved home.  

The fireplace with a painting above - one of three - that the previous owners had left in the house, and the to the right of the photo, the unused front door...

An embroidered mirror frame

The kitchen, with it's original dresser and filled with well worn and used china.  (The screen just to the right hides part of the kitchen which is still used to today by the people who live here)

A painted cupboard in the corner of the kitchen

Virginia's bedroom is not in the main house.  One has to leave through the back door and go up the steps and turn left...

Virginia's bedroom, very simply furnished with books (not original) and mantlepiece displaying works of art by Vanessa.  Vanessa also hand painted the fire place tiles.

Opposite the fireplace, a serpentine chest which might be the envy of anyone who enjoys the shabby chic look...

These are the only books that are original and belonged to Virginia.  She covered them herself.

A tranquil spot in the garden - just to the right you can see the bust of Virginia, peeping out from the fig tree

A bust of Leonard and further along a bust of Virginia 

The garden is a huge and rambling,  overlooking the beautiful green Sussex downs.

Apple trees heavy with ripe fruit weigh down on the branches, and the grass dotted with fallen ripe apples.

Virginia and Leonard's summer house at the back of the garden.  They entertained friends here in good weather

To the left of the summer house

Virginia's writing desk and a fresh bunch of flowers

The view from Virginia's desk

A last glimpse in the window as we depart

The front door

I hope you enjoyed the visit!

Until next time!



  1. Oh! I am insanely jealous! I have always wanted to visit this home. I've even got a few clippings from it to continue to inspire me to get there. Your photos though are the best yet! I love the colours, the way sculptures and art and so beautifully, yet casually displayed. And that studio ..... xxx

  2. Like the comment above I also have magazine cuttings of this home and always wanted to visit! It is simple but oh so charming and homely! Virgina obviously loved her home and making it pretty as much as we do!!! Your photos really capture the place so beautifully - thanks - I really feel like I've been there. You wouldn't pop over to Jane Austen's for me would you :)


  3. Oh my! What a delicious day that must have been for you! Such beauty! Thank you for allowing us to see it, I have enjoyed this tremendously.
    Hugs, Cindy

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