Many of our Light Locations have a story to tell, and one of our newest, Wisteria House, is no exception. Named after the trademark flourish of fragrant purple vines that grows right over the house, this delightful Georgian home is owned by Richard and Clare Proctor. With an engaging background of their own to share, we caught up with Clare, who told us a little more about their own story and that of the beautiful Wisteria House.
Richard and Clare met in their second week at college in Sheffield and have been inseparable ever since. They both ended up working in newsstand magazines, with Richard as Ad Director of Hello! magazine and Clare as editor of Period Living for five years. From that point forward, they decided to join forces and have worked side by side ever since.
“When we decided to work together, we ran our own agency called real.london in Soho for about fifteen years, producing editorial-style content for brands. At that time, we worked with many interiors stylists and photographers on projects, lots of whom we still see today.
For years, we’d always talked about doing a hospitality project together. In 2011 we decided that if we were ever going to do it, then now was the time. We closed the agency, moved to New England and bought a grungy old motel called the Briarcliff, which was straight out of Psycho but had an excellent position at the foot of a mountain. We turned it into a cool B&B for New Yorkers and Bostonians and ran it for seven years. It was hard work but an amazing and rewarding experience.
After we sold it in 2018, we returned to London. We opened a ‘pop-up’ studio called Archway Depot in an old Victorian warehouse that we knew was slated for imminent redevelopment.
When our lease on the Archway finished at the end of 2019, we started looking about for our next venture. We saw Wisteria House advertised in November, and we went to look at it on a bit of a whim; I knew straight away that it had an amazing feel. We could also see its potential as a shoot space for all kinds of practical and aesthetic reasons. But we weren’t sure if we were ready to leave London again.
After Covid, lockdown and a large amount of soul-searching, we realised the time was right and moved into the house in August 2020. We have settled in incredibly quickly and have been busy. The combination of Georgian rooms and modern spaces in one location and the fact that we’re so easy to get to is proving very useful to clients. It’s a fantastic house to live in, and we feel very privileged to be its current custodians.”
Based in the idyllic village of Blunham in Bedfordshire, Wisteria House actually began life as a bakery.
“The village we’re in has many former bakeries, as this was (and still is) one of the most significant wheat-growing areas in the country. It’s right on the River Ivel and very close to the River Ouse, so the grain could be transported easily to the cities by barge.
Interestingly, there were brickworks in the village at the time. The bricks used to build the house are thought to have been made there. They utilised straw left over from the wheat, just going to show that ecological circles are nothing new.”
When asked about any known history of her home’s trademark Wisteria, Clare told us:
“The original three-storey part of the house was built in the late 18th century. In 1820 the owner then built himself a handsome Georgian house attached to the original building. There were four large square rooms, all in the classical style. We think this may have been when the owners planted the wisteria.”
As a creative couple, you could perhaps assume that Clare and Richard would have remodelled and renovated their new home. However, because the previous owners had done such an excellent job, little change was needed.
“We bought the house from a lovely couple called Kenny and Joan, who were moving to Canada. We have done little to it because, in our eyes, it’s already perfect.
Kenny and Joan had bought the house about eight years ago and had changed the original buildings’ interior whilst keeping the Georgian architecture intact. They also took the mostly derelict old bakery outbuildings – the dough room, the stables, and the cart barn – and made them into a modern ‘wing’. This addition housed a large kitchen and studio with floor-to-ceiling windows. They kept many features such as old brick walls, doors, and the ships’ beams in the ceilings, which came here in exchange for wheat in the barge trade days. The garden is also special; apart from the ancient wisteria, there is a lovely walled ‘secret’ garden and a lawn with an ancient (and very productive) quince tree in the centre.
To make it our own, we have changed some colours. I’ve also begun working to further glorify the garden, which never stands still. Although we live in the house full-time, this is our latest business venture rather than a home that takes the occasional shoot, so we have kept the interior very simple, with no clutter.”
Since joining Light Locations, this handsome home has been attracting shoot teams with its enticing combination of old and new. Period features, a converted stable block and a modern studio area offer versatility and contrasting backdrops. And with relaxed owners who know just how the photographic industry works, we think it’s the perfect shoot location.