105. Transparent boundaries

Balustrades and fences appear

3rd May 2016

Four years ago, when I was filled with enthusiasm for the Arts and Crafts movement but had no skills to show for it, I booked my first practical making course. I didn’t start with anything sensible like plastering or joinery but instead spent a couple of days at West Dean College in Sussex eating heartily, wandering around the walled gardens, and learning the basics of woodcarving.

Over the course of two days I made a maquette for the top of a staircase newel post: an abstract shape that expresses the movement of turning round and up a staircase. The process began, as always, with a drawing, which I then turned into a clay model to guide my every move in shaping the wood. The front and side outlines of the model were copied onto a block of wood, which was then put through a bandsaw, creating the basic shape and volume of the piece. Then it was just a matter of chiseling away, with the model sat alongside the wood. 

The course was fun and enlightening but I have never repeated the experience, for soon enough I was distracted by the business of actually building the house. The maquette languished in the back of a cupboard.

Then, last week, I built the balustrade for the gallery of our two-storey library using lots of pieces of 2”x1” oak. It’s a simple, perpendicular balustrade designed not to compete with the organic forms of our staircase balustrade. However the sheer squareness of the result was too much for me and I realised that the maquette’s moment had come, not as a model but as the real thing: a tangible turning point at the end of the balustrade and the top of the library ladder. So the very first component made for the house has happily found its place.

Elsewhere, in the front garden, we’ve taken the hoardings down that have separated us from our neighbours in Tree House for the past three years, revealing a fence that went up behind them. Made by Jonnie Rowlandson, designer-maker of our fabulous staircase, it is naturally a thing of beauty, though the timber and metal uprights are unfortunately just too close together to allow super-friendly but slightly tubby Stanley through.



  1. Your Finial looks wonderful where you've place it & the sweep of the new staircase is enhanced by the Glorious Stained Glass window . The house , Orchard & garden are a fantastic feat & Brilliant & a joy to visit x

    1. Thank you Jonathan - we always appreciate appreciative visitors! And thank you for the rose which will be a perfect foil for all our little apple and pear trees. Best wishes xx

  2. I love that little thing, super cute

  3. House extension is an art under the interior plans, where one is able to extend one area of a combination of house space so that they get functionally operational and connected. With this you not only have a well connected house but your space also gets maximised under high quality craftsmanship. You are doing it in right way.