A magnificently designed, meticulously renovated English farmhouse of one’s own is a lifetime lust that seems perfectly rational … until one discovers the endless headaches involved with taking on such a project.
So why buy when you can rent? Rita Konig, the English interior designer and House & Garden columnist, has done all the dirty work at her husband’s farmhouse, in County Durham so you don’t have to. Reconfiguring an enclosed staircase to open up into an expansive entryway? Done. Splurging on a Robert Kime rug for the living room? Not your problem. Tracking down the perfect shade of green to envelop the living room? Handled. (And it’s Invisible Green, by Edward Bulmer Natural Paint, by the way.)
The seven-bedroom farmhouse, which is available to rent by the week, is located in Teesdale, a 15-minute drive from the Darlington train station. It’s a well-situated home base for exploring the countryside of Durham and Yorkshire Dales as well as the historic cities of Durham and York, both of which feature an exquisite Norman cathedral.
There are ample castles to traipse through as well, starting with Raby Castle, a medieval treasure, and the newly restored Auckland Castle, a former hunting lodge of local royals that houses 12 important works by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán. The spectacular Barnard Castle, situated high up on a rock above the River Tees, is home to the Bowes Museum, which counts the odd but lovely Silver Swan (an 18th-century robotic sculpture) among its attractions.
But if guests are tempted to stay home, there’s no judgment. The house itself is a wonder worthy of exploration, beginning with the three cozy, antique-filled sitting rooms on the ground floor alone. In addition to the smartly designed bedrooms, there’s a custom Plain English kitchen, including a pantry and larder, that will keep culinary types occupied while the children entertain themselves in the playroom.
And those who’d prefer to dine out will fare well at Raby Hunt, the region’s only restaurant to earn two Michelin stars. It’s only a five-minute drive from home, which means that after even a long and indulgent meal, there’s still time to make use of the table-tennis and pool tables in the barn. And with all those bedrooms, there’s plenty of reason to invite a few friends.
Ashley Baker is the Style Editor for Air Mail