Color and Craft Revive a Country Cottage in England’s Oxfordshire

About five years ago, Suzie de Rohan Willner, the CEO of the British fashion and home-goods brand Toast, was driving with her husband, Stephen Green, through the Oxfordshire countryside when they came across the village of Wallingford on the river Thames. “We said to ourselves, What a beautiful, beautiful town,” says de Rohan Willner, who was living in London at the time. “One day we’d love to live in a place like that.”

When the pandemic hit, they knew the time was right. Searching for a home for sale, they discovered a gem—a Georgian farmhouse with a beautifully tended, mature garden complete with an original Victorian greenhouse. “I just love Georgian architecture, with its beautiful windows and great light,” says de Rohan Willner, of homes built during that era of British history, which dates from 1714 to 1837. What’s more, both of her adult children had settled nearby and Green is a partner in an architectural design company in the county. “We knew this was an opportunity if there ever was one. So we grabbed it.”

Lunch in a Victorian greenhouse.
Rachael Smith

In the fall of 2020, the couple moved in, together with de Rohan Willner’s mother, who is in her 80s. Soon after, her first grandchild, Elodie, was born. “So we’re very, very lucky,” she notes.

In renovating the home, she adhered to the philosophy she has cultivated at Toast, a brand whose ethos revolves around handmade goods, sustainability, and acquiring pieces that will last a lifetime. “We wanted to keep the house authentic,” says de Rohan Willner, who oversaw the interior design while her husband managed the renovation. “It hadn’t been overly done up, and to us that is a beautiful thing. It’s got these beautiful Welsh slab stone floors, a yellow stove in the kitchen, and all the original shutters. We mostly just painted. The kitchen was where we put most of our effort.”

Indeed, the eye-catching kitchen, with its peach-colored lime-painted walls and bold green cabinets, is a show-stopper—and a space de Rohan Willner dreamed about having for many years. Born, in Surrey, England, she spent summers in the south of France with her grandmother and moved to France at age 16. She obtained a degree at the American University of Paris and later raised her family there. “I wanted a very practical kitchen that suited the house but also reminded me of France,” she says.

Take a Tour of Suzie de Rohan Willner’s Oxfordshire Home

suzie de rohan willner house

It took more than 10 tries until she found the perfect green for the cabinets: Farrow & Ball’s Emerald Green. She commissioned a wall of built-ins reminiscent of the shelves in French grocery shops or apothecaries; here, the shelving holds pantry ingredients decanted into glass jars, an enamel bread box, and de Rohan Willner’s collection of handmade Toast mugs. “I’ll treat myself to one every season,” she says.

The home has a typical Georgian layout, with four rooms on each of its two floors. In the living room, the original mantel was painted to match the wall color, a muted brown (Tarlatan by Paint & Paper Library). At one end of the space, de Rohan Willner works two days a week from an antique desk (she commutes to her office in London on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays), where she enjoys a view of the garden, and at the opposite end a pair of rolled-arm chairs are topped with velvet cushions, from Toast, of course.

suzie de rohan willner english country kitchen

Rolled-arm chairs are topped with pillows from Toast.
Courtesy of Toast

The home is a showcase for the art and collectibles that she and her husband have amassed over the years. She has a penchant for antique chairs, from the Windsors in the kitchen to the spindled Carver chair at her desk. “The whole house is a collection of things from each period of my and my husband’s lives,” she says. “I love to pick up bibs and bobs and it all comes together very happily.”

Much of the art has a personal connection: A collage portrait of de Rohan Willner created by her daughter is now displayed above the mantel in the living room, and on the walls near her desk she hung a still life of flowers and a portrait by her former mother-in-law, Vesla Stranger.

suzie de rohan willner english country kitchen

Toast CEO Suzie de Rohan Willner in her Oxfordshire home
Rachael Smith

At Toast, de Rohan Willner started a program, New Makers, to foster artisans. Each year, a panel chooses a group of makers and offers business and marketing advice. “We offer support and sell their products and take no profit—all the profit goes straight back to them,” she explains. Her home is filled with objects from the makers in the program, from ceramics by Viv Lee to a willow basket by Julie Gurr. One of her latest favorite acquisitions is the Toast coverlet in her bedroom, a patchwork quilt made by artisans in India of fabric remnants from their fashion line. “I’m particularly proud of it because it is an example of the circularity we’ve been trying to move toward at Toast,” she says. “We were one of the first to do clothes swaps, and here is an absolutely beautiful piece that uses remnants. It’s a work of art.”

suzie de rohan willner victorian garden greenhouse

The Victorian greenhouse and garden at Suzie de Rohan Willner’s home in Oxfordshire.
Rachael Smith

After years in the city, she especially relishes time in the garden, although she admits it is more her husband who has the green thumb. “We’ve got vegetables growing at the back, a beautiful lawn, and lots of roses and lavender growing everywhere,” she says. Best of all is the greenhouse, where she hosts family parties and lunches, with the table set with linens and ceramics from Toast. “There is a stunning vine that takes over the interior of the greenhouse and grows the most beautiful grapes,” she says.

For a busy entrepreneur, life in the country turns out to be just the ticket—even on days when she has to make the 90-minute train commute to London. “I’m quite full-on, and so what it does for me is give me time to slow down on the train,” she says. “And then by the time I get home, I’m in the country and can go for a walk along the river and see people rowing. There’s something quite beautiful about that, isn’t there?”

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