The house of
five perfumes

Charleston Farmhouse, former home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is steeped in Bloomsbury and inspired Jo Malone’s new perfumes.

Charleston Farmhouse, former home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is steeped in Bloomsbury and inspired Jo Malone’s new perfumes.

Charleston Farmhouse, former home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is steeped in Bloomsbury and inspired Jo Malone’s new perfumes.

Charleston Farmhouse, former home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is steeped in Bloomsbury and inspired Jo Malone’s new perfumes.

Près de Noordhoek, sur la côte ouest de la péninsule du Cap.

Near Noordhoek, on the west coast of the Cape Peninsula.

They were free and creative spirits whose lives were anything but black and white. The Bloomsbury group inspired Jo Malone’s new spring fragrance collection.

The English countryside is not a place of surprises: that morning there was a light drizzle that made the wooden posts gleam, the sheep’s wool glisten and the path leading to Charleston soft underfoot. And then the door of this old farmhouse nestling in the verdant hills of Sussex swings open and straightaway you are greeted by waves of yellow, mauve and blue in the entrance hall, and myriad decorative motifs and designs. There is not a single window lintel, mantelpiece or molding that is not decorated. This gentle yet lavish palette is that of the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, members of the Bloomsbury group, a galaxy of artists and intellectuals who brought a breath of fresh air to Victorian England at the beginning of the 20th century. They were more a family than a circle of artists, joined in friendship, love and fraternity. Writer Virginia Woolf (Vanessa Bell’s sister), economist John Maynard Keynes and critic Lytton Strachey were among the regular visitors to Charleston, now a museum. “I spent my childhood holidays at Charleston,” recalls Virginia Nicholson, who has the first name and tall figure of her great aunt, Virginia. “My grandparents’ house was a place of uninhibited, messy creativity. There was always paint, clay, paper and glue to play with. I grew up believing art was something everyone could do.”

Aromatic evocations

This atmosphere of “simplicity and intellectual verve” inspired perfume maker Yann Vasnier to create a set of limited edition perfumes for Jo Malone:“I wanted to give an olfactory impression of what you imagine life might have been like as you walk through the house: the games, the evening get-togethers, the bicycle rides, the readings by the pond. And also to re-create the contrasts between the dark corridors, richly decorated rooms and the peace and quiet of the garden, which reminded me of orchards in Brittany.” A bouquet of hyacinths and dew to convey the optimism of a new day, a sensual cascade of garden lilies and white musk, a sillage of leather and artemisia inhaled in the library, an accord of whisky and cedarwood as mysterious as a creaky wooden floor, and an astonishing combination of tobacco and mandarin, like a blend of adult discussion and a kids’ afternoon snack. Five perfumes and five bottles brushed with paint, in a box decorated with watercolors that could have been lifted from the walls.

Charleston

Firle, East Sussex.

www.charleston.org.uk

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