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The art of finding your own perfect space; Alison Jones talks to the owner of a Grade II listed cottage in Offenham - an artist who has created his very own Utopia for creative flair.

Artist Robert Davies has created his own little slice of paradise at the bottom of his garden at Manor Cottage in Offenham.

In the ?ve years he has lived there, he has not only redecorated and modernised the interior, but also had a studio built, with large windows looking out onto the grounds of the house.

"Sometimes when I am working there I look up and see a woodpecker, pheasant or a partridge walking through the garden," he says.

"It is one of those places that feels quite magical. Though I have lovely next door neighbours you almost feel that you are in the middle of nowhere. At the bottom of the garden I have a little bench by a brook and all you can see is ?elds.

"The cottage is at the end of a street which has thatches and the whole end of the village is a conservation area. The road it's on leads to a farm next to the Avon and is a no through road. So it has this fabulous quietness."

Robert was able to appreciate the sanctuary that his studio offered even more when he compared it to his previous working space.

"I am from Birmingham but I went to college in London and did an MA there. I used to have a studio in Peckham and it was really rough, cold and horrible, quite dangerous, and now I have this.

"It is a studio but would suit anybody who wanted to work from home - a designer, engineer.

You have got three big windows looking down the garden and it has kitchen and a toilet."

When Robert purchased the cottage, three breeze block garages stood where the studio does now and he sought permission, as the property is Grade II listed, to knock them down and replace them with his purpose- built work room.

The cottage itself has also undergone a number of changes since it was built back in the 17th or 18th century.

"Originally it was a barn for animals when it was ?rst built. Since then I have been told that, among other things it has been some cottages and the one end, which has a slightly bowed windows, was a butcher's shop.

"The front is quite humble. People think it is two small cottages attached together. Then you come through to the back and it is just like a wonderland, "The lady who works in the post of?ce grew up in my house. It is really nice because if you meet enough people in the village you get to know the history."

An extension was added in 1975 and dormer windows were put in the roof but little had been done to alter it since then.

Although the structure of the property was sound, Robert has refurbished and updated the interior.

He is a contemporary artist and spends lot of time making time lapse photos of star constellations in the deserts of Iran or Arizonia. More recently he has had been drawing farm animals at a nearby sanctuary, the results of which have been featured in an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. There is also a short ?lm of him in YouTube at work in his studio on a giant drawing of the champion racehorse and sire, Sadler's Wells.

He is selling his dream house, however, because he is getting married in the summer and they needed to be close to his ?ance's work.

"I never thought I would leave here but she was offered a decent job and as I am an artist I can work anywhere.

"We have bought a plot of land in West Wales and we are going to build a passive house on it - a low energy house, that either uses no energy or generates its own.

"I am sure it will be awfully stressful for the ?rst year or two, while we build it, but hopefully we'll end up with a house that is by the sea and the mountains. I will also have a studio attached to it.

"For me building a low energy house is the biggest art project I have ever done, I see that as kind of a life project.

"It is the biggest decision of my life to leave the cottage because coming here I was incredibly con?dent I would love it and it is an amazing place.

"I am taking pictures every morning and evening of the garden because I think it might be the last time I will see it in the sunshine.

"The village has a real community and that as much as anything has made me feel welcome.

I will be sad to leave."

For more details of Robert's work, look up * Manor Cottage is believed to have been built in the 17th/18th century and is Grade II listed. It is in the older part of the village of Offenham, three miles to the east of Evesham. Amenities include a village shop, infants school, pubs, village hall, church and a famous 60 foot Maypole.

The cottage is partially timber-framed black and white, and partially stone built.

There is a large reception hall, a sitting room, study, kitchen/dining room and ground ?oor shower room.

On the ?rst ?oor there are three bedrooms and a family bathroom. The kitchen, bathroom and shower room are all new.

The house is unusually light with many of the rooms having two windows. Original features include exposed beams.

The delightful gardens to the rear are laid mainly to lawn and run down to a brook which joins the River Avon. Beyond this is open farmland. In addition to the purpose built studio in the grounds there is a single garage and parking for three cars.

Manor Cottage has a guide price of pounds 435,000 and is being sold by Savills. For details call 01242 548000.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2011
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