In conversation with the owner of Walltown Byre
When Sabina Forwood inherited a 17th-century byre set in 700 acres of rolling Northumberland countryside complete with resident cows, her first thought was one we could all take inspiration from.
“If you’re lucky enough to have something this special, I believe you should share it with others.”
With this guiding philosophy in mind, Sabina worked with local architect Keith Butler and builder Michael Maughan to convert the working byre into a stylish three-bedroom house. The main byre has been transformed into a spacious open-plan kitchen, dining and living area, which is flooded with light thanks to a series of floor-to-ceiling windows and subtly divided by the byre’s original stone arches. The three en-suite bedrooms lead off from this main living space while a separate wing houses an impressive cinema and games room where natural light from arrow slit windows is complemented by bespoke chromatic lighting.
Not merely of philanthropic nature, Sabina is also dedicated to the reuse and repurposing of items too readily discarded in today’s throwaway culture. It’s a belief reflected in the very fabric of Walltown Byre through the use of local materials and assistance of artisans who have revived furniture and fabrics sourced virtually exclusively from auction houses and charity shops.
An accomplished artist herself, Sabina’s collection of objets d’art, textiles and furniture reflect her eccentric nature. “I don’t understand taupe,” she says. “Life is colour. Colour is life – it’s everything. Colour is evocative; it’s sexy; it makes you think.” From the pillar box red kitchen to the rich golden brocade wallpaper of the Ellie Room (named to reflect the fabulous elephant print fabric spotted and rescued from disposal by Sabina), Walltown Byre’s interiors remain true to her bold, eclectic taste.
Stay at Walltown Byre and not only will you have the opportunity to admire Sabina’s surrealist artworks but also those of many other artists. “The essence of Walltown is sharing, so presenting art here - in all its wonderful forms - supports artists while also giving me the perfect excuse to collect and hoard things I love. That said, pretty much everything on display is for sale…”
Should you be tempted by one of Alice Straker’s signature food paintings, an abstract bronze by Felicia Fletcher or Susi Bellamy’s celebrated “art for the sofa” cushions, your purchase could even help to transform a child’s life. Sabina works closely with the Challenger Trust charity, which supports children in some of the UK’s most socio- and economically-deprived areas, and all artists and artisans showcasing their work in Walltown Byre donate 10% of any purchases made through the property to the Trust.
Sabina, who will be hosting youngsters supported by the Challenger Trust at the property for day trips and short breaks, explains further: “Walltown had to run as a viable concern, so I wanted it to be suitable for multiple uses. People can visit for a day or a week, take part in a cookery course, go clay shooting or learn to build a dry-stone wall. Whether it serves as a retreat, party pad, exhibition space or learning space, it’s there for everybody.”
Whether you fall under the spell of Walltown Byre for its unique interiors, for the sense of peace delivered by its bucolic setting or for the creativity that being amongst Sabina and her fellow artists inspires, it’s guaranteed not to leave you indifferent. As Sabina says: “I don’t want people to stay here and think: ‘I’ve had a nice time.’ I want them to think: ‘WOW! That was such fun!”