Catherine and John Pawson share their designs for life with Vanity Fair

Sofas and electrical sockets may have sparked a few disagreements, but the couple bonded over the food they create at Home Farm
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Catherine and John Pawson. All photographs by Gilbert McCarragher
Catherine and John Pawson. All photographs by Gilbert McCarragher

John Pawson doesn’t really come across as a hair salon sort of guy. The architect and Phaidon author is a self-confessed minimalist, and seems to regard almost any ornamentation, be it architectural or tonsorial, as something of a crime. However, as his wife, the designer Catherine Pawson, reveals in a Vanity Fair interview with the couple, "we met at the hairdresser."

"I was in a chair with tinfoil in my hair, and John walked in with a girlfriend,” Catherine tells Vanity Fair. "The hairdresser said to me, ‘Oh, that’s John Pawson. His picture is in the magazine you’re reading.’ Three weeks later I sat next to him at a dinner party."

They have been married for 32 years, and over the intervening decades the couple have managed to find some compromise, with John softening his exacting design standards to meet Catherine’s more practical outlook.

 

Home Farm, Oxfordshire, England
Home Farm, Oxfordshire, England

 

Take food, for instance. 'When we met, John had one idea about food, that it should only be one color—white," Catherine tells the magazine. "He likes whitefish and white asparagus and panna cotta. And he likes the plate to be very clean. He doesn’t like a big mess on the plate."

She has managed to introduce a little more variety, as any reader of the couple’s new book, Home Farm Cooking, will learn. The book reproduces 100 of their favorite dishes, all fundamental to their home-cooking — and entertaining — repertoire, as practiced at Home Farm, the Pawson’s place in the Cotswolds.

 

Winter. From a Menu for a festive lunch: Roast rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce
Winter. From a Menu for a festive lunch: Roast rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce

 

"John doesn’t cook. He’s more of a director," Catherine explains. "He gives ideas of what to cook and creates the spaces in which we cook and eat. He also designs the majority of the cookware and tableware. It’s all part of the ceremony of eating. He controls every element of it, but it’s not about him actually doing the cooking."

That space, however, is crucial. Just as the book marries tradition (it includes John’s mother’s Yorkshire pudding recipe) with contemporary trends (such as foraging), so Home Farm also brings together the old and the new.

"It has a 17th-century farmhouse, 18th-century barns and other buildings, a medieval pond with carp in it, an orchard for cider," John explains. "It is a listed Grade II building, so there were lots of restrictions. We kept all the beautiful bits—what was left. It’s much more complicated renovating existing buildings. It took us four years. So many decisions."

 

Spring. From a menu for a spring brunch: Ham, cheese and leek scones and Broad bean crostini
Spring. From a menu for a spring brunch: Ham, cheese and leek scones and Broad bean crostini

 

Some of these concern electrical points. "Our biggest arguments were about sockets—electrical outlets," says Catherine. "John doesn’t like to see them, so we don’t have very many and they are all very well concealed." 

Pawson also conceded on soft furnishings, allowing the place to have "curtains and sofas…things I wouldn’t normally do…it was a price worth paying," he admits, explaining that these and the additional space made lockdown quite bearable for the wider Pawson family bubble.

 

Home Farm Cooking

 

To get a better look at the home, and the seasonal food the Pawsons make together in it, order a copy of Home Farm Cooking here.


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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