If you follow our stories on Instagram you'll know we took a little trip to Wales the other week. As part of our Inspired series we went to meet Rachael Fisher, who together with partner Paul created the charming wooden cabins of Hergest Lee, situated in Presteigne which is just over the border into Wales.
Both cabins are small, cleverly designed spaces where modern lines combine with vintage styling to create a really homely feel. We spent a couple of days staying in The Lean To and getting to know Rachael before exploring the local area and heading out on a beautifully wild winter walk in the local hills surrounding the cabins. Spectacular views, wild ponies roaming on the ridge and an eclectic self built cabin to call home, what more could you ask for?!
Tell us a little about yourself…
I grew up in Wirksworth, a small town on the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire, after studying jewellery design in Manchester I moved to London and stayed there for 10 years working in fashion PR, from there I took my business freelance and moved into interiors, an area which I have always felt passionate about, I’ve worked for some really interesting clients and enjoyed the consultancy side of the business. More recently I have been working with Paul on the design and build of our future home (an old threshing barn here in Wales). I moved here when I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter (6 years ago now). In that time we have built the Cabin and The Lean To here on site which we manage as holiday let’s under the name Hergest Lee.
Having previously worked in fashion and interiors PR, building and running the cabins is quite a change, what inspired you to start Hergest Lee?
It was something that just kind of evolved naturally after we bought the barn, we knew we needed to build a holiday let to fund the build so applied for planning for the cabin on the top of the site and The Lean To on the north end of the barn. To be honest it isn’t something I ever envisioned myself doing for a living but I do really enjoy it.
How do you balance the demands of motherhood and running a business?
I just found that I had to get on with it and fit my work / the business in around the children, I remember writing press releases with Romy in the baby carrier and painting walls whilst Francis slept in the pram, I do wonder how I did it sometimes! it’s not been easy, we don’t have any family here to help but in some ways that’s helped us to push ourselves further.
For me it’s about not being defeated by the impossibility of getting anything done and having small children and just doing what you can, when you can. I surprise myself with what’s achievable sometimes. I think if you find something you really enjoy doing it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ so the little time you have you enjoy doing it, it’s fulfilling and rewarding.
You and Paul literally built the cabins yourselves with pretty much all of the structure and internal woodwork being done by Paul. It's SO impressive and makes the spaces extra personal to stay in, tell us a bit more about the build...
The cabin was the first to be built and Paul constructed the main frame in his workshop and we erected it on site. It took about 8 months to complete from start to finish.
The Lean To was kind of an after thought as we applied for planning for two cabins on site but the planning for the second was denied, there was an existing lean to on the barn which had been demolished so we were allowed to re build that and that became The Lean To. Paul trained as an oak framer in Brighton and has designed and built houses before so it wasn’t new for him. Although with this build I feel like he has really been able to push himself creatively with the curved form of the cabin and the plans for the barn. We have designed and built the cabins ourselves, the only thing we didn’t do was the electrics but everything else has been built from scratch with our hands.
The interior of The Lean To has a distinctly dark colour scheme and is furnished with mid century vintage. What influenced your interior design choices?
We like the timeless aesthetic of Mid Century furniture and the sideboard, bed head and table are all by lb Kofad Llarson I think they fit really well with the dark colour scheme inside.
For the colour palette for The Lean To we wanted it to be dark and intimate and browns and reds/creams came to mind we were inspired by the colour palette on the Kallo stock cube packet! We found one in the cupboard and Paul picked it up and we both knew that those were the colours we were in-visioning.
Most of the decorative items in the cabins we already had, they just kind of seemed to fit well in the spaces, things we have picked up along the way. There’s a mirror in The Lean To that we bought back from a trip to France, I was about 7 months pregnant and the car broke down in France so we had to carry it all the way home on the ferry but I was adamant that it wasn’t being left behind. There’s an old letterpress drawer in the cabin which belonged to my dad from his first job in Lewes printing works. It still has my sisters name in it from the 1990’s as we used to collect things and put them in the little boxes. Everything has a story which makes the places really personal, we wanted the cabins to feel like a home.
Which are your favourite places or markets for picking up vintage furniture and other treasures?
We love local antique fairs like Antiques in Tents
, Leominster is great for Antique shopping, we have bought a few pieces from Amy at Brocante Living
, she has an amazing eye, and there’s a shop in Ludlow called Nina and Co, on the first floor towards the back you will sixthlink who has some very special mid century pieces. Harp Studio/shop
has a beautiful curated range of pieces which we love.
Presteigne has some very good antiques shops too Appledore antiques and Courtyard on the high street, but we pick things up from all over the place, we bought the unit in the cabin back from Belper on a trip too see my family. We’ve recently just splashed out on some pistachio leather chairs for the barn from Vinterior. Everything we buy is second hand we rarely buy new things.
Hergest Lee is set in beautiful countryside on the border of Wales and England, where are your favourite local places to explore?
The walks straight from the cabin are spectacular, we really are spoilt for choice. We are also about 25 mins from Hay on Wye which is great for a day trip. I enjoy going to Ludlow on market day. We love wild swimming in the Irfon Valley which is about 50 mins away but so worth the drive.
Describe your fashion style…
My mother ran a modelling agency in the 70’s/80’s, my father worked as a fashion photographer for some time and my brother designed for Paul Smith in Nottingham where I completed my work experience when I was 15, I also studied fashion & textiles at Chesterfield College so I’ve always had a real interest in clothes from a very early age. I enjoy the different personas clothes allow you to feel, it’s like an escapism. My style icons are Julie Christie as Lara in David Lean’s 1965 adaptation of Dr Zhivago. When I was little I used to watch this film with my mum and my grandma and remember being so obsessed with Lara, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I also became equally obsessed with Patricia Arquette in David Lynch’s Lost Highway and her style/hair.
What do you love about Chapter 2?
They are beautiful, hand crafted shoes which really spoke to me, I like how they mix masculine and feminine aspects and they remind me of old victorian packer boots, I’ve been searching for the perfect pair of lace up boots for years now and as soon as I saw the Jackdaw boot I fell in love. There’s something unique about a really beautiful pair of shoes that makes you feel very special. They’re traditional and timeless but also contemporary which I love.
I like to think that shoes take you on adventures big and small, where will your Jackdaw Boots take you?
We talked a lot about Italy and I’m hoping my boots will take me on an adventure very soon in Northern Italy!
Rachael wears Jackdaw Boots in black with her favourite vintage dress & cardigan from Babaa.
Photos: Fay Murphy