Forty years ago, when Geoffrey Cridland and his wife, Val, first rented one of a pair of run-down nineteenth-century workers’ cottages located in an English village near Petworth in West Sussex, he didn’t dream that the garden he would make there would change the direction of his life. As far as they both were concerned, this rural setting was no more than their weekend escape from the madding crowds of London, where they both had businesses, but it turned into much more.
The setting for the 1807 house was unparalleled, with sweeping views of the Sussex Downs. The property, however, had plenty of room for improvement: the house had no heat or electricity, and the poor excuse for a garden consisted of a boxwood hedge, a grapevine growing on the walls, and one vivid red rose. Undaunted, the couple set to work to make the rundown house into a home. A decorator and antiques dealer by profession, Val threw herself into furnishing and decorating. She filled the light, airy living room with a variety of chintz fabrics, family photographs, porcelain, vases, and objets d’art that together give the living space a typically English country, comfortably cluttered, cozy feel.