The perfect match

Interior decorator Sarah Doe harmoniously complements her husband's furniture.
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The Independent Online
Tim and Sarah Doe have the ultimate show home. A furniture-maker and interior decorator, respectively, they are a symbotic husband-and- wife team, sharing clients and design interests, and for three years they have been working hard on their Somerset farmhouse. Their warm, Aga-heated kitchen is a testament to their talents.

Sarah has painted the walls in a honey coloured wash and decorated Tim's kitchen units in a distressed moss green that can withstand both mucky children, the black labrador and all the usual stresses of a country kitchen. The floor is American country oak, supplied and laid by Tim; it is a perfect setting for the large oxbow table also made by him. It is the sort of kitchen most people dream about.

As Sarah explains "Our house is effectively our show piece. People come to see my painted furniture or paint effects and end up ordering one of Tim's tables." A wander around downstairs reveals more. There is a lovely drawing room with rustic, terracotta washed walls, a very convincing stone blocked hallway in mellow ochre akin to the local stone, painted furniture, wooden floors and tables to die for. It is all very simple; nothing pretentious, smart or unnecessary, just a home with a soul.

Sarah has specialised in paint effects since her early apprenticeship with an Knightbridge interior designer in the Eighties. Things have come a long way since she sold stencilled duvet covers in Camden Lock every weekend. Her skills now include mural painting, painted furniture and standard paint effects on walls.

While much of her painted furniture is distressed or aged, some include small motifs like ageing roses or a sprinkle of faded daisies. Her artistic talent is most apparent in the spectacular scenes painted on walls and especially on furniture.

Sarah will transform any piece of furniture but insists that it must be a well made in the first place. The shape is very important. Much of her work is done on modern pine furniture which has just enough detail in it to make it interesting. She will age it using a combination of colours, all mixed by her, and then distress them until they give the desired effect - making the furniture look as if it has been handed down through generations, nicely faded and well worn. This seems a lot easier than staggering around the auction houses in search of the perfect wardrobe.

Tim's passion is wood. He trained as a boat builder, but one of his first projects was to make a wooden roof for his Morris Minor. Since then he has turned his attention to interiors; stunning wooden flooring, kitchens and traditional English furniture, primarily tables, in old pine, old oak and elm. His sturdy oxbow tables are magnificent, solid traditional pieces with enough marks, grooves and rough edges to make you wonder if they aren't as old as the house.

Most of the wood comes from reclamation yards or scrapped barns and boats. Tim loves the different characteristics of wood: "the strength and swirl of the grain, the tone, the strength ". All the wood is treated with a caustic solution which chills whatever worm there may be and evens the tones of the wood.

He does not profess to be a designer but a maker of good strong English furniture - magnificent in its simplicity. It comes as no surprise to find his other love is Shaker-style furniture. Unfortunately, Shaker furniture demands more specialised woods, such as cherry, so the price rises accordingly.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the Doe businesses is that both Sarah and Tim work to specification making almost anything possible. "Ten years ago," says Sarah, "everyone wanted me to do ragging or sponging, at the moment everyone seems to be looking for that old faded look or the stone blocking emulating the blocks of stone that are hidden beneath the plaster."

Tim and Sarah Doe, Maesdown Farmhouse, Evercreech, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 6EG (01749 831225). Tables are made to order, prices start around pounds 425. Quotes given for both painted furniture and interior decoration.

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