PIG Sty(le)

How has Judy, our interior design whizz and creator of THE PIG’s eclectic style, mastered this much-loved look over the years?

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Ever wondered how THE PIG interiors are dreamed up?

Ever wondered how THE PIG interiors are dreamed up?

We never want our rooms at THE PIG to feel like they’re trying too hard. We always aim for them to feel a bit lived in – not too glossy or matchy-matchy. The imperfections and the quirky mix of stuff are all part of the charm. So how has Judy, our interior design whizz and creator of THE PIG’s eclectic style, mastered this much-loved look over the years?

“It all begins with the house itself,” says Judy. “From the moment we first visit a new building, I’m absorbing its character, and everything comes from that. I’m influenced by the architecture, the house’s mood, but also its surroundings – what you see when you look out of the windows. I want the fabrics and furniture and paintings to connect with that.”

Famously, Judy often dreams up a fictional character to help channel the aesthetic mood she is aiming for. “It started with the first PIG, in the New Forest. I could just imagine Great-aunt Mabel pottering around the corridors, with her Nora Batty tights, in her tweed and lavender jumpers. I wanted it to be homely, as if you were staying with your great-aunt, a feeling of faded grandeur.”

In Harlyn Bay, the mood was different – all crackling fires and dark, wood-panelled hallways – so this time it was Mark Rylance in Wolf Hall she conjured, helping her to bring the design alive. “I’ve definitely got more confident in my decorating style over the years,” says Judy. “We use more vintage, individual pieces of furniture in the rooms, and we love finding old bits and reworking them. One of our carpenters was getting rid of an old workbench, and we asked if we could buy it from him – it’s now in the bar at THE PIG-near Bath!”

Many aspects of the design come directly from Judy’s personal style. “I’ve never had ‘girlie-girl’ taste, and I think that comes through. There’s a kind of robustness to our interiors,” she says. Judy and Robin always pick up design ideas from their travels, popping into antique shops, boot sales or charity shops whenever they spot a good one.

If they come across something special, they buy it, and keep it safe until they find its perfect place. “I’m a bit like Burglar Bill,” she says, “I’ll ‘ave that!” She also loves to include work from local artists and makers, who get in touch when news of the latest PIG opening gets around.

With two new hotels on the horizon, Judy has a hectic couple of years ahead. “It’s exciting, because both are very different to what we’ve done before. THE PIG-on the farm, just south of Stratford-upon-Avon, will be the most rustic hotel we’ve done. It’s a beautiful 16th-century manor house, with an amazing barn, lots of outbuildings and lovely old beams.”

She is still thinking herself into the space, collecting ideas, “going shopping in my head”, but Judy knows already that the buildings cry out for simple furnishings, fabrics with texture and small floral prints. “The main thing is not to over-restore the house; it shouldn’t feel overdone,” she notes.

The other new PIG, Groombridge Place, near Tunbridge Wells, is a very different proposition: a 17th-century moated manor house with a fascinating history, as well as a starring role in the much-loved Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Judy is clearly thrilled by the blank canvas she has to play with: “It’s got the most beautiful wood panelling, huge rooms, acres of land and an amazing water mill. We want it to be grand, but not ‘pompous grand’ – it should have a kind of rakish glamour. The challenge is how to do something this grand but in a PIG way.”

For now, Judy is building her ideas for both properties, gathering references and samples, and letting the spaces “talk to her”. Soon it will be time to go on some serious buying trips to find the key pieces. Then, in the final weeks before opening, comes the bit Judy loves the most, when all the new pieces arrive and she brings a stash of other things she and Robin have collected that are sitting in the store.

She starts to dress the hotel and add those final touches of personality and homeliness that guests appreciate so much: “People go to hotels for lots of reasons, and it should be all about their experience rather than our designs. I always want the interiors to feel lovely and comforting but not too intrusive,” she explains. “It’s like theatre, really. We are setting the scene, creating a stage, but it’s the guests and our staff who bring it all to life.

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