Inside West Dean College

There’s some assignments my work sees me go on that gives me a certain feeling in my stomach.
It’s a good feeling. A this-is-why-I-do-what-I-do feeling. And my trip to West Dean yesterday was on such example.

Now, excuse me while I go a bit soppy, but I fell for this magical place on my first visit and each trip after has just deepened my love affair.

This weekend sees the college open to the public, something that only happens once a year, so an invite to the press preview was not something I was going to turn down.

From the Oak Hall to the purple hallway dotted with spectacular artwork – including the Dali ‘lips’ couch and an ancient dolls house used as a training aid for the servants to know what job was next – it was all I could do not to let my jaw hang open. After all I am a professional, I have a notebook to prove it. But let me tell you my insides were doing a happy skip the whole way around.

Anyway, enough of that. And time for some of this…


I probably have a million versions of this picture on my camera and phone.. I can’t seem to go to West Dean and not take it.


Now, it’s probably not fair to have favourites, but if West Dean let me stay (forever) I know I would live in the Oak Hall. The wood panelling, that fireplace, the ornately carved mezzanine floor you can’t see because I took this picture from there…


My visit also coincided with the launch of Sue Timney’s surrealist collection. The college’s history with the art movement is thanks to Edward James who was a patron of a lot of the female surrealists and even collaborated with Dali.. because if you are going to do something you might as well do it properly.

So the table was laden with the new pieces, half from the surrealist floral range – inspired by a bedspread of James’ – and the other influenced by his obsessions with turtles. Sue herself was amazing, and I may have got a bit ‘fan girl’ about the whole occasion. But, hear me out, she had helped turn around the Laura Ashley homewares department and was involved with one of my favourite builds featured on Grand Designs – the London water tower. 

Sue enjoys tea with the paparazzi..


I would have taken more pictures if I wasn’t hanging on/trying to write down every word Sue said. For the record it has to be the first time I’ve ever written ‘architrave’ in shorthand and translating it correctly may have been a highlight of my afternoon back in the office.


One day, tiles like these will be mine.


The collection includes camouflaged aprons, vaguely seen on the left side here, as well as silk cushions and scarves and fine china tableware. Both designer and college said they are ‘seeing this as just the beginning’ – do you think I could RSVP now for the next launch?



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