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Inside Berdoulat: a history-filled 18th-century shop & house

In the latest episode of Design Notes, we visit the designer Patrick Williams, who restores and reinvents historic buildings through his practice, Berdoulat, and his wife Neri at their home and shop in Bath. With a deep respect for history, patina and the soul of a building, they have sensitively renovated the Grade II-listed space, which nestles between the Royal Crescent and The Circus on a street called Margaret’s Buildings. Both home and shop are full of Berdoulat’s own designs for furniture and lighting, all based on antique originals, as well as inventive collaborations with artists and makers. The three-storey shop, which opened its doors in June this year, is a triumph, stocking not just Berdoulat designs, but also spices, wine and cookbooks. ‘It used to be a wine and provisions store, so it felt right to continue the tradition,’ says Patrick. Behind an original mahogany door (cleverly converted into a fire door), their house opens up, with light pouring into an internal courtyard that accommodates a generous family kitchen and pantry. From the book-lined gallery above (named Rosie’s Room for Patrick’s mother), bedrooms open up around the space. “We love the way in which right next to the shop there’s our family home, where a lot of the furniture we sell in the shop is actually being used in real life.”

Released on 04/07/2023


[footsteps clanging]

[light upbeat music]

We moved to Bath just over 10 years ago.

We're familiar with this street

and this particular shop, and actually would

would often walk past and kind of say, wow

imagine if one day this place became available.

And then it did.

So this is home to myself, my wife, our two children

and our two doggies.

We love the relationship

between the shop and living quarters.

You know, this is the commute through this door here

but it is lovely having that connection

with what we do professionally and home life.

So the name of the practice, Berdoulat comes from the name

of the house I grew up in southwest France

and it was an 18th century farmhouse that my parents bought

in a ruined state.

We then, as a family,

we kind of worked on the restoration of the place together.

I think that's where I caught the bug

for working with ancient buildings

and really gained a passion for interior design

working with furniture, objects and decoration.

So originally in the 18th century

the shop would've had a completely different format.

There'd have been just a small shop

in the front room of the terrace building.

But in 1893, very eccentric Victorians joined forces.

One was a restaurateur, another, a high-end grosser

and the third a wine merchant.

And they formed Carter, Stoffell and Fort

which became known as the Fornos of the West.

But what they did

with the building was to completely reformat the space.

So all of the internal walls

at ground and first floor were removed, as was the

the ceiling to create this fantastic double heighted

space that we enjoy today.

When we took on the restoration project

a lot of the glazed vitrines here were actually all

in pieces up in the attic.

The shells that hold these jars we found

in a neighbor's garage.

And then wherever we have introduced mahogany to

sort of make good

and replace missing drawers and so on and so forth

we've left that mahogany without any varnish finish.

So as to tell the story of the restoration.

[jazz music]

The kitchen is the real heart of the home.

This is the area where we spend most

of our time and the space that sees the most action.

The main kitchen space can actually be furnished

with pieces of furniture in their own right.

So for example, the sink dresser here

the dining table there

they've got plenty of space to breathe.

So one of the benefits of using a rack

like this is when you've done the washing up, it drips dry

which means you don't have to put it away.

So not only do we use a lot

of the products that we sell in the shop in our home

but also some of the items that we've lived with

for years and years have informed products that we now sell

in the shop.

So, for example, this cheese strainer

which is probably 19th century salt glaze was always

by the side of the sink.

And we would just put our cutlery in it to drip dry.

And Neri one day said, well

this is a really good idea for a product.

Why don't we just create a product that can be sold

for that purpose?

[jazz music continues]

We are the heart of our kitchen, our pantry.

When we decided to put this glazing doors

we had a massive space with a old, beautiful dresser here.

We wanted to feel relaxed and out of the clutter.

We keep everything almost

on a little zone where once you open the door, you could see

on the shelves very colorful and fun bit of the kitchen too.

Immediately on from the kitchen is our living room.

I'm not gonna show you the whole space

because our puppy has gradually worked her way

through most of the furniture.

So far she's eaten two armchairs

and the best part of a sofa.

But one piece of furniture that luckily she's yet

to eat is this bath dresser

which is one of the pieces of furniture we make here.

You can see it being put to full use.

And I love family dresses that are just riddled with

you know, everyday life, whether it's cards

whether it's our daughter's willow pattern plate

that she did, kids pens and paintbrushes.

And I just love seeing pieces

of furniture like this that are full of action.

This is a space that is directly above the

the kitchen area.

When designing the extension

we wanted to reference the shop.

Hence this is almost like a kind

of echo of the format of the shop space with the

the double height area in the middle.

So you can see if you look around the space there, on

on that side, there is an external wall

with the two sash windows that's now one

of the children's bedrooms

with their beautiful fanny shorter fabric Roman blinds.

This is actually my favorite room in the house when I come

with my cup of coffee and sit and just gather my thoughts.

The light was the main thing in this room focus.

This is the room where we relax

and also come up with ideas and chat.

We commissioned Claud Loda great ceramic artists to

make this almost caricatural representation of us.

And we build this niches to head sculptures to

go in especially.

[jazz music continues]

So this bookcase is the prototype

for another one of our pieces of furniture that we make

which is a sort of modular design that can be any length

and can be any depth.

And we do one with a sort of fixed cupboard below as well

which is quite useful for hiding away all the board games.

But this particular one has the inscription along the top

which relates to this space which we decided to dedicate

to my mom who passed away

whilst we were in the process of doing the build.

You can see that every so often there is a gilded letter

which means as you walk along, it spells out her name Rosie.

So it's quite lovely for us

as we come and go through this space every day.

We are reminded of of her.

Another thing in this room

which is one of my favorite possessions are

these blocks that illustrate various joints.

And these were made by our friend Marcus

who I'm fortunate enough to have worked

with for the best part of 20 years.

And it was through Marcus that I really

gained a good understanding of joinery techniques, which

which has been a really important thing

for me as a furniture designer.

It's a room that connects all the disparate parts

of the building and of family life.

[jazz music continues]

So now we're up in the spaces

above the shop and this is our bedroom.

It's a space that we love being in

and we've tried to hang pictures

in this space on numerous occasions.

We find very difficult to find the right piece

for this room, isn't it?

It's just on pause at the moment.

At the green on the walls is bedlack green

which is a color that we worked on together with Fare & Bull

but we can't really take the credit

for the color itself because all that we did was to

color match the original Georgian Green

probably an arsenic based paint.

And we absolutely loved the color

so we really wanted to compliment

and contrast the green with something quite different.

So we bought this piece of furniture

and painted it using Edward Balmer's Red Ochre.

And instead of using an eggshell

we used the emulsion finish and then added a

a clear bees wax to it

which gives this really beautiful texture.

It's almost like the

the palm of your hand, very, very soft

which I think is really lovely when you are engaging

with a piece of furniture and touching it.

And you know

every day is one of our absolute favorite colors.

Highland pieces are very important for us.

And this is this piece

from my mom's dairy and she weaved herself

and she dye all this incredible colors

with the root vegetables and the plants.

So something we absolutely cherish is been eaten

by moths terribly.

But recently we got a friend who is a incredible

needle worker, so she is restored for us.

[jazz music continues]

So one of my favorite parts

of the shop is up on the top floor where we are here

where we've got our plaster cast gallery.

And this is a collection that we've worked

on with Alexander Griffin who's cast everything

that you see here.

And we're actually growing the collection all the time.

So for example, this piece we made last year

which is part of a fireplace that belcom court

in Bradford and Avon just down the road.

And we wanted to include bits

of local architecture from buildings in and around Bath.

[upbeat music]

So we are now down in the volts underneath the shop.

This is the original kitchen

from the 18th century servants quarters.

And it was when we came down here that Neri

and I got really excited about the building.

When we first saw the place

we didn't actually talk to one another

we just gave each other these kind of knowing looks.

But we've tried down here to restore it

with quite a light touch so as to preserve the

the ancient feel of the space.

We have created this pendant light fitting with Feld Spa

which has a ceiling rose that's inspired by

Cannelait de Bordeaux, which is one of my absolute favorite

French patisseries.

I'm not quite sure how we got

onto using that as our inspiration

but as we got talking together about the design

we realized we all deeply loved this patisserie

and thought that it should somehow inform the design.

They're very, very fine.

And when the light shines through the bone China

the whole thing has this beautiful glow to it

which we really love.

[upbeat music continues]

We love the way in which right next to the shop

there's our family home where a lot of the furniture we sell

in the shop is actually being used in real life.

So it's really lovely to have those items for sale one side

of the door and on the other side of the door.

They're being used daily in a family context.

[light upbeat music continues]

Starring: Patrick Williams, Neri Williams

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