Through the wide windows of Max and Cassie Ray’s family home in Oxfordshire you gaze on to a placid lake. As aqueous shadows ripple across ceilings, the splash of a canoeist’s oar is the only sound that punctures the rural silence.
Surprisingly, this bucolic setting was once a network of gravel pits. Then, in 2007, the developers arrived, the holes were flooded to create tranquil lakes and the 850 acres landscaped with trees and meandering footpaths. Now it’s a private estate dotted with modernist second homes favoured by city-dwellers in search of rural seclusion, albeit with the urbane trimmings of a spa and gym.
The timber-framed properties are sold off-plan to standard designs, but Max, an angel investor, and Cassie, a newly-qualified yoga teacher, whose children are seven and nine, had other ideas for the three-storey retreat, which they bought in 2018.
‘We didn’t want it to feel too corporate or hotel like,’ says Max. The couple turned to interior designer Katie McCrum, for whom this was a chance to start from scratch designing a home firmly rooted in nature.
‘We chose reflective surfaces to mimic the play of light on water, and natural textures like rattan that nod to the vegetation outside,’ she says.
That connection to the landscape strikes you as soon as you arrive. In the main living area, Tadelakt-lined walls reflect the colours of the lake, and a cabinet made from Japanese burnt wood adds earthy drama. Above the bespoke dining table, a pendant lamp made from banana leaves diffuses the light ‘like a floating cloud’, says Katie.
There was a serendipitous moment when Katie showed her clients designs for the mural above the fireplace. It is by Caroline Popham, who turned out to be their neighbour in London. Their answer was a swift, ‘yes please’.
It was important that the interior captured Max and Cassie’s divergent tastes. His is more for ‘Japanese minimalism’, hers for ‘cosy, layered bohemianism’, explains Katie. The main bedroom, with its Japanese paper winged screen behind the bed and jewel box-like wardrobe, is a synthesis of these aesthetic leanings.
Both are also keen fans of the work of the Marrakech-based maker known as LRNCE, who designed the armchair where they sit to appreciate the room’s panoramic lake views.
The couple missed those vistas during this winter’s lockdown. But, on mizzly urban days, the promise of suppers on the terrace and netting pike in the lake became the antidote to Covid gloom. ‘There’s a sense of peace here that we don’t feel anywhere else,’ says Cassie. mccruminteriordesign.co.uk
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration April 2021
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