12. The studio

Despite its location near a busy street, the 1703 home of the artist David Inshaw feels fantastically calm. One reason is that its interior appears softly, evenly filled with daylight. This is in part an illusion: huge lamps simulating daylight hang from the studio's ceiling, while blinds masking a skylight artificially regulate any daylight. 'The studio faces south-east not north, so I had specially made blinds put up,' Inshaw explains in his soft-spoken voice. The colour scheme is generally soothing, too. Except for a bright blast in the kitchen – a red gingham tablecloth and a forget-me-not blue floor concocted from gloss floor paint mixed with pigment from one of Inshaw's Winsor & Newton tubes of oil paint – and a vibrant-hued rug in his bedroom (a design for a plate for the Ivy restaurant, which was never made), neutral tones, from white and putty to chalky green, predominate.

David Inshaw's studio
Part of a huge open-plan space incorporating the kitchen (in the foreground), the studio is pristine
and ordered. The furniture is a mix of Lloyd Loom chairs, Arts and Crafts pieces bought from the
Millinery Works and copies of Marcel Breuer chairs. The stairs lead up to a book-lined gallery.

There is none of the chaos stereotypically associated with artists' studios. Inshaw's cavernous workspace is painted an unsullied white and rigorously ordered: paint tubes are lined up with fastidious precision. Despite being overtly influenced by other artists – he particularly likes Piero della Francesca, Samuel Palmer and William Blake – Inshaw aspires to make art that is 'timeless'. Certainly, there is an elemental, almost primeval quality to the canvases propped up neatly against the studio walls. The paintings' subjects include the ancient, manmade mound of Silbury Hill, near Avebury in Wiltshire, in moonlight (shades of Palmer, who often painted nightscapes) and a more menacing scene of rooks flying against a brooding grey sky.

A view of the studio from the gallery
A view of the studio from the gallery.

One of Inshaw's best-known paintings is The Badminton Game. It depicts two women playing badminton in an idyllic, thoroughly English-looking garden in high summer. Not that Inshaw's paintings are straightforwardly naturalistic. While closely observed from nature, they have a subtly surreal air and his palette is at times unnaturally intense. Inshaw was part of the Brotherhood of Ruralists, formed in 1975. This group of seven painters, which included Peter Blake and his then wife Jann Haworth, moved from London to the West Country, reacting against the urban themes of Pop Art, and sharing the ideals of their most obvious predecessors, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts fraternity. A show of the Ruralists' work, celebrating the beauty of a pre-industrial, rustic Britain, was held at the Royal Academy in 1976. 'We met at each equinox and solstice and held feasts of food we'd mainly picked locally', Inshaw recalls. 'We'd sometimes go to Coombe Valley in Cornwall and collect mussels and samphire from the cliffs. We ate a lot, laughed a lot and had great fun.' Idyllic perhaps, but with hindsight he can see the absurdity of this back-to-nature movement: 'On the top of Jann's shopping list was passion fruit – hardly English', Inshaw says.

The gallery
A slatted workbench designed by Chris Eckersley provides seating in the
gallery, which was designed by the architect M J Long. The curtains are in
a rare fabric designed by Eric Ravilious, who hardly ever made textiles.

Inshaw left the group in 1983 but chose to remain in Devizes, Wiltshire, where he was based and where he now lives. 'My house was built as a Quaker meeting house, and was occupied by Baptists in the 1920s,' he says. 'It hadn't been inhabited for years. It had been a friend's place which I converted into a live-work space.'

A collage created in the early 1980s
A collage created in the early 1980s by Inshaw features
images of his 'favourite women, places and art' at the time.

Its interior bears the strong mark of its owner's taste and past. Is it any wonder, for example, that Inshaw has decorated a cosy spare room with William Morris wallpaper, while his 'Chinese green' bed is a copy of one designed by the Victorian painter Ford Madox Brown for Morris's Cotswold house, Kelmscott Manor.

The guest room
The built-in bed in the guest room is modelled on one
Inshaw saw in a house in Mousehole, Cornwall.

The reason Inshaw gives for an abundance of tongue-and-groove here is nostalgia: 'I'm obsessed with it because I grew up in Biggin Hill, Kent, where lots of houses were made of matchboarding and corrugated iron. Sadly, many have been bulldozed.' It has to be said that, thanks to its impeccable workmanship, his version is more redolent of a chic New England beach house. Inshaw also designed some cupboards with fretted doors. 'They're inspired by some I saw at the chapel decorated by Matisse at Vence' [near Nice in south-east France].

Inshaw's room
The bed in Inshaw's room is a copy of one Ford
Madox Brown designed for William Morris.

Even so, Inshaw is at pains to stress that in fact the house 'was a huge collaborative effort'. M J Long, the architect who designed the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall and collaborated with her late husband Colin St John Wilson on London's British Library, dreamt up the first-floor book-lined gallery and lectern. And, Inshaw says, 'The artist-designer Chris Eckersley designed the slatted benches in the gallery and the kitchen units, and did the drawings for my bed and a bed incorporating a cupboard in the spare bedroom.'

The kitchen
The kitchen shelves were intended for crockery, but
Inshaw preferred to look at art while washing up.

Eckersley's designs were realised by Gaiger Brothers, the local builders hired by Inshaw. One of their strengths was that they were passionate about the project, and so were on Inshaw's wavelength. 'I assumed that all the switches would be in plastic, but their electrician told me you can get all types,' he says. 'He also suggested a huge variety of door handles. So we put in silvery fittings everywhere. It's those details that make the place look stylish.'

The kitchen
The tongue-and-groove in the kitchen reflects Inshaw's nostalgia
for the architecture of Biggin Hill, Kent, where he grew up.

While Inshaw stresses that the house is 'a conglomeration of lots of people's input', it has been custom-made to satisfy his exact needs. It would be simplistic to say that the result mirrors Inshaw's sensibility as an artist (his work sometimes has a sinister edge to it which his home does not) but his art and home do feel intriguingly otherworldly.

David Inshaw: self-portrait
David Inshaw: self-portrait.
The text above by Dominic Lutyens and photographs by Jefferson Smith first appeared in The Telegraph magazine in 2008.