21 September 2023
Garden Inspiration: Behind the scenes with Dick & Angel Strawbridge at The Chateau
Dick and Angel Strawbridge are well known for their bold and beautiful renovation of Chateau de la Motte Husson, with Escape to The Chateau inspiring thousands of DIYers and renovators across the globe! Whilst looking for the perfect heritage stone for the outside area of the chateau - Angel found us. What started with an initial image search led to the beginning of an inspiring collaboration between two family-run businesses that are passionate about restoration. We spoke to Dick and Angel Strawbridge about their journey so far, their experiences of using our traditional garden paving, their own garden inspiration and their plans for the future.
We started off by chatting about family businesses, something Westminster Stone are passionate about as a 3rd generation business. Dick and Angel shared their views and perspective on creating a legacy for their children, should they wish to take it on in the future:
"It was our dream to create a business that maybe the kids will take on, or maybe they won't who knows? But it was important to us to support the family by doing something that eventually the kids could be involved in if they wanted to. Interestingly, even at a young age, they have shown a passion for what we are creating. We don't know what the future holds but we feel we have been successful in that it's all been a family adventure and it has paved our future." Angel Strawbridge
"Family businesses need everybody pulling together" - Dick Strawbridge
Top family moments when renovating the Chateau
- "The first night we moved in, We had the kids tucked up and we finished at one in the morning. We had one plug between us and all our heating was run from one gas bottle that lasted only four hours. So that first night was all four of us in one room, with an extension cable and a lamp plugged in. It wasn't even camping - I've been much more comfortable camping, but it was actually very special." - says Dick Strawbridge
- "Renovating Strawbridge Suite took longer than we thought. We had put a lot into the business side and rightly so" says Angel, "as we needed to find ways to make a revenue stream. It was a good 3 years before we did the first work on the Strawbridge Suite and it just felt so good to have electricity and a bathroom without a shower that stuck to you. We really appreciated it after waiting for so long. We included globes with all the places we have travelled and lots of mementos and pictures of the family up on the wall, the finished suite has a lovely feeling." - Angel Strawbridge
- "The first year we got married. We were waiting to start the food lovers weekend and we had a wedding in the diary. I spent a lot of time in the walled garden with Dorothy and Arthur," says Dick Strawbridge "as it didn't cost anything to work in the garden where everything else costs for materials. I have lovely memories of that time, Dorothy in her little tartan coat with a fur collar and wellington boots picking up stones with Arthur. I never got anything done with them there but they were helping Daddy and enjoying being in the country. We came from East London via Southend to come out here and that for me was when the country really struck home." - Dick Strawbridge
- "The roof and render. Everything we had done since the first year was gearing up to save money to get the roof and render done and once we finished it last year it felt like a massive weight was lifted' says Angel, "We didn't want to pass a poison chalice to the children,: says Dick Strawbridge, we want to pass on a legacy that isn't going to be scary."
Hidcote Paving Outside the Chateau
Dick and Angel's journey with Westminster Stone began when they were looking for flagstones to complement the outside of their 150-year-old stone chateau. It was important that the patio looked good for their wedding guests but they also needed a product which looked like it has always been there. They chose Hidcote Paving from our National Trust Collection and in Season 5, we saw Dick Strawbridge laying it outside the front of the chateau, after the arduous task of raking the existing gravel.
"When we found the picture of the Hidcote Paving it drew us immediately to your site, it's not only nice looking, it's exactly what we wanted, which was this old-looking stone that had different mixtures of sandy and grey tones. When we first got in touch, I felt a bit worried because sometimes you find the perfect thing and then it's not available or it doesn't exist but you turned out to be lovely and helpful and it was the start of a fantastic relationship." Angel
What are your thoughts on the Hidcote paving now it's laid?
"You can see your passion for reproducing old stone - you're brilliant at it! You took what I loved and guided it and made sure it worked. The paving looks like it's always been there, it fits and that's because of where you have taken your inspiration from to produce your products. Does it complement it? Yes, it does! Nothing else would have worked!"Dick & Angel Strawbridge
The folly was a dilapidated building that had been neglected for many years and used to house gardening tools and even pigs at one time. Dick and Angel Strawbridge decided to restore the folly and transform it into a beautiful and unique living space that would last for years to come. It has become a massive feature of the walled garden and the inspiration has been carried through to the adjacent seating area. Initially looking for a black and white Victorian tile, Angel was thrilled when she was able to recreate this unique look using our Old Provence Petit Lozenge & Charcoal Tiles. Ensuring that the Folly would last for years to come and giving it the character and warmth she wanted.
Why did you decide to restore the Folly?
"We did all the work on the folly because it is going to be there for another 150 years. We replaced all the joists in oak, put in oak flooring upstairs for the kids and eyelid windows all lined in oak. I knew that for it to last, we had to go for a paving finish downstairs. However, with your paving, it's got the same lasting capability but it looks like a room that has an interior/exterior feel to it. I can see our grandchildren when we are gone using it." says Dick Strawbridge
How did the flooring add to the Folly?
"The flooring gave the entire Folly a uniqueness that we would not have got elsewhere. Whats interesting is you can take something that is lovely on its own, but when you put them together in a certain pattern - it is outstanding."Angel Strawbridge
Garden Inspiration: How can I make my garden stand out?
Angel gave us her top tips for being bold and using colour inside and out!
- Live in a space before you change it.
- Have confidence and make sure you are doing something for yourself and not other people.
- Start small, with one wall or cushion and build up from there.
- Add colour to exteriors with furnishings and furniture, the paving can complement the space.
The Walled Garden Inspiration
The walled garden was a neglected space that was overgrown with weeds and brambles. Dick and Angel decided to restore the walled garden and transform it into a productive and beautiful space. They chose our Yorkstone Paving to create a pathway through the garden and outside of the folly. The paving was chosen to complement the style of the walled garden and to create a durable and low-maintenance surface. Dick told us "We've been working on the walled garden since the first year and it has now started to take shape as we have seen it through the seasons and we know what works for us. We are ready to go ahead with the paving to reduce the maintenance on our side and make something stunning to look at and walk around."
What time of day does the Yorkstone Paving Look the best?
"The walled garden is different from every direction at every time of the day and that is the beauty of a walled garden" says Dick Strawbridge. "We had to design something that allowed the whole circle to work. Every single view is wonderful. When choosing the stone, you have to really think this is forever. It will always look good because the more wear that is on it, the more you get the feeling that the walled garden owns it."
How did you create a flow from the Folly to the walled garden?
"We decided to follow the Folly flooring through into the walled garden" says Angel, "to create an area that looks like a rug and zone out our outdoor seating area - it all just pulls it together. When we were doing the dressing, I'm used to getting an outside rug and it felt weird to not use one, but of course we now have one there forever."
"I have to just say, your paving matches everything. You could have a stone farmhouse, a Tudor house even a more modern house and I would probably put your stone on all of it, because you have managed to create something modern yet old and it's just genius, it really is"Angel Strawbridge
Dick Strawbridge's advice for renovating a period property
1. Have a plan - even when priorities change.
2. Don't beat yourself up or feel guilty when things don't go as planned.
3. Eat the elephant one bit at a time.
What are your plans for the future?
Lastly, we asked Dick and Angel about their future plans which are as busy as usual and involve more interior work, barn conversions and their 'good old fashioned book launch' for their new book "The Chateau: Forever Home".
Next year they begin their "Dick and Angel forever home (avec le nitty gritty) 2024 tour" which will see them on their biggest UK theatre tour to date. They will explore why they dared to do it and take the audience behind the scenes of their forever home, from where they began to the present day.
What are your plans for working with Westminster Stone in the future?
"For us, the service and getting things done is important, if someone says they are going to do something in a certain way and they do it, that gets a tick from us and you've got a repeat customer straight away. That's really important because families and people do that when they've got a passion for their business like yourselves" - Dick Strawbridge
What are your future plans for the chateau?
"We are putting a lot of love into the outside area and it's going to be just for us and we are going to love it." says Angel "There is more to come and we love having Matt Kight here - he keeps coming up with ideas!" - Angel Strawbridge
Explore the Chateau Paving
Hidcote Flagstones add a rich sense of maturity to gardens and landscapes. Inspired by the National Trust’s Hidcote Manor, these flagstones have been meticulously reproduced using original masters to capture the fine detail prevalent in traditional Cotswold paving stones. The distinctive soft buff, cream and weathered grey tones complement both brick and stone buildings alike.
Old Provence Petit Lozenge & Charcoal Tiles
Inspired by antique terracotta tiles, these tiles offer a dreamy warmth and traditional charm that will be welcome in any outdoor setting. The striking design of these Old Provence Petit Lozenge & Charcoal Tiles provides a show-stopping design feature in any landscape. Made in Britain from hand-crafted masters, the unique combination of terracotta and charcoal hues is truly exquisite.
Yorkstone Paving Slabs
Yorkstone Paving Slabs add character and elegance to any outdoor setting. Crafted using hand-selected original York Stone masters, these paving stones offer a truly authentic finish. Their distinct riven effect along with distinctive hues make it perfect for garden patios and pathways where a welcoming brightness and warmth is sought.
About the Author
'Sian has been working with us at Westminster Stone for over 5 years and has developed expertise in garden design and landscaping. Her passion for nature extends to tending her own garden, teaching yoga and hiking during her free time.'