This week on The Street Where You Live you're meeting Decca Lang- mother, wife, interior design maven and all round hot mama. Single-handedly putting the yummy into mummy, over the last four years Decca has helped launch a home wear and apparel company, renovated and designed her countryside Victorian cottage (which involved living in a caravan for 12 months) married her teenage sweetheart and had two delicious daughters. Impressive going, non?
Decca lives in maybe one of the most idyllic places in the world, the gorgeous town of Bruton in Somerset.
Scroll down and take a walk on the street where she lives. Trust me, it'll be a treat.
On living in the beautiful town of Bruton:
I live in a small, rural and rather pretty historic town called Bruton which is nestled in the the middle of my beloved home county of Somerset with my husband Alex and our two little girls Betty, who’s just turned two, and Herbie (yes she’s a she not a he - ask Alex) our six month-old darling. Somerset is a very special place in the South West of England that, until fairly recently, many people just used to drive though in the summer to get to the beaches in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. The secrets out now though, and its understated charms (and the delicious cider) are making people stop a little longer.
My husband and I have lived here for four years but we’ve been living the ‘country dream’ for nearly six. I have to say it wasn’t exactly in ‘the plan’ to retire into country life at the tender age of 23, but true love and my husband's career brought us very close to my motherland, so it all fell into place. Since moving to what we thought was a hidden gem of a spot, Bruton has seriously been put on the map, with some pretty hip and happening things going on; namely the opening of uber cool gallery Hauser and Wirth last year, and a few lovely places to eat. The press has been going bonkers for this little place we call home, but ultimately it’s still a cosy, friendly and wholesome place that we are very lucky to be apart of. I am definitely enjoying the rise of the faintly urban pulse it’s starting to develop though, it’s such a plus. I feel like London is coming to me rather than the other way around, which makes a nice change.
I suppose you could best describe where we live as quaint. But in a really lovely rugged, old way. We are tucked down behind Bruton High Street on a little lane that follows the River Brue. Even some locals don’t know our lane exists! We are surrounded by a hotpotch of amazing old rooftops and honey coloured stone buildings ranging from medieval to very modern. There is a beautiful Packhorse Bridge that dates from the 15th century that crosses over the river, and a grassy area with old stepping stones 50 meters from our front door. All the children play in the river in the summer, it’s pretty dreamy. It’s all very typically English, although on a hot Summer's day you could be in France.
On (literally) building a home:
We bought a wreck of a Victorian cottage four years ago. It was a tiny two bed, downstairs bathroomed and kitchen-in-a-lean-to mess. We added a double story extension that made it a three bed with a proper upstairs bathroom. I never imagined we would live in a town as we had been looking,and going to auctions for huge, far too expensive piles of rubble that were really in the sticks. We had actually been looking to buy for over year when my father-in-law pointed it out. It had been on the market since the very beginning of our search but we had ruled it out as too ‘urban’, too small, not enough of a project. I actually only came to view it to meet the estate agent. But as soon as I saw the garden and its potential I was sold. During the work, Al and I camped out in a tiny caravan with a gross plastic awning which was our sitting room/kitchen/dressing room for almost a year. I did my best to make it pretty with just a Persian rug, lamp and sofa. Believe it or not, it was super cosy and I actually really enjoyed it, apart from the (at least three) times we found the local drunk/tramp asleep on the sofa in the awning. He obviously thought it looked cosy too, and helped himself to our wine glasses for his cider!
I love our home so much. It’s really big for the middle of a town, the River Brue runs though it and it has a south facing wall with an old plum and apple tree. It’s a complete sun trap and so peaceful. We get lots of school kids passing and chattering (and swearing) during break times as we are across the river from the King Bruton boarding school but other than that it’s just birds and the church bells across the road.
We obviously had no money left after all of the building works, but that’s fine as I quite like old things and I love looking for bargains or finding bits here and there. Most of the stuff in our house has a story- like the decorator’s table that I found in my parents barn that is now in our kitchen, or my Grandfather's workshop dresser that I restored. Our house is definitely lived in and definitely not fully finished; we still don’t have door handles three years later! We’ll carry on collecting and scavenging. It’s a work in progress - I don’t think there will be a day when I say “we’re finished” and if there is, then we’ll probably be onto the next project.
On her darling daughters, Betty and Herbie:
It’s pretty full on at the moment with my two little dreamboats but it really is the best fun too. Betty is a real laugh - on the day she was born her horoscope said that she would be “weird but in a nice way” and that’s definitely true. She is a hoot and her big personality is really starting to shine though. Her incessant chattering is very entertaining. Herbpot is just happy to gaze at her big sister with a huge grin at the moment and has a very sunny disposition and the sweetest little face. I could talk about them all day and I usually do...
On her husband Alex:
Alex and I have been together for 10 years! We first met on his home turf on the coast in south Devon while I was enjoying a summer hanging out on the beach with friends during my gap year- I was only 18. He was the rugged, motorbike riding, beard sporting local who happened to live opposite. Lucky me. He’s a pretty laid back sort of a guy, so not too much trouble to live with - although I do complain quite often it’s like living with a messy teenager (he just tells me to lower my standards). Having said that, he built our house, can make pretty much anything, including our kitchen worktops, hearth, curtain rails and babies, not to mention really good poached eggs, so I can’t complain too much.
I am very much a full time Mummy at the moment and have been for over two years. I love it. Being a Mummy is no walk in the park though. It’s hardcore! I didn’t go back to my job after having Betty as there wasn’t really time before Herbie was on her way. It was all planned, as mad as it is having two tiny people so close together. We’re “racking and stacking” as Alex so eloquently puts it. I really did love my job and love working in general. I’ve had a job of some sort since the age of 14 so not working (and earning) has its challenges.
I am in the midst of plotting my return into the world of grown up work at some point in the near future, but I do really want to be properly around for the girls while they are so young. Alex works really hard and travels a lot with his job as Director of Engineering for an aeronautical company that he’s helped build up, and he‘s so flat out so I can’t even begin to imagine the stress if I was working too. Unless we forked out for a Nanny! It’s a massively over used cliche but they do grow up so so fast, and my view is I’m still pretty young, so I have all the time in the world to work on my career once they are a bit older. That’s if we don’t have any more of course, then my plans could change again but we’ll see how that one pans out?! It’s a wonderful thing being a mummy, but I, like thousands of mothers out there, am still trying to strike the home/work balance and keep, or more like ‘regain’ in my case, a sense of identity that is difficult to keep a hold of when you have kids. It’s an area people have actually written whole books on so I’ll stop here.
On her work:
I’ve always worked in interiors and design. It all started when I took a summer job in a wonderful interiors shop called Salcombe Trading in Devon the fateful year I met my future husband. I thought it was just a job to pay for nights out in Fusion, (the local, very bad nightclub) but I ended up working there after graduating in History from University College London.
Before the babies, I was the operations manager for the beautiful home wear and accessories shop The Merchant Fox, a sister company to the well-established Fox Brothers & Co. who manufacture some of the world's finest woollen, worsted, cashmere and flannel cloth for suiting and jacketing. It was a business I was closely involved with from the beginning, so I spent my time designing and finding products and traveling around the UK discovering the most amazing wealth of skilled artisans. It was full on, as is running any start up business, but it was a privilege to work with such wonderful products that have so much history. Winston Churchill wore a Fox Flannel chalk stripe suit and Cary Grant was also a massive fan! I love creating, making things look nice, starting new projects and building businesses so I hope I’ll be getting back to that soon.
On Bruton’s community spirit:
Bruton has less than 3,000 people and only a handful of shops; including the obligatory charity shop (which is a good one). There are a few vintage/antique shops, like Philips & Skinner which sells some lovely things, an organic food shop, a butcher and an amazing restaurant/bakery/wine store/hotel called At The Chapel which we live behind. It’s really dangerous as they have the most delicious food/bakery/wood fired pizzas/wine/cocktails. At The Chapel changed Bruton’s course dramatically and we love it- it is slightly an extension of our home. I used to work from there a lot before I had Betty and they also catered at our wedding. When I had just had Betty, I used to go up there for coffee while she napped in the pram. It was so nice to walk 100m and see grown ups and usually always someone I knew. It was truly my salvation. They are getting some pretty serious praise, which is well deserved as the owners Cath and Ahmed work so hard at making it what it is.
We have a real mix of neigbours young and old, but Bruton is really small and we have some great friends here. We pretty much know all of our neighbours; who range from teachers to designers to eco warriors. It’s a very creative place and has been for a very long time, and is even more so now with the arrival of the gallery. The writer John Steinbeck actually lived here for a time in the late 50’s. Legend has it my grandfather met him in a pub in Glastonbury and took him on a pub crawl of the local area and loved Bruton. He was later quoted as saying “It was a fortunate accident which drew me to this place.” My grandfather and his storytelling was a bit like the film Big Fish - but I’m sure there’s some truth in there somewhere.
Bruton is such a close community that you rarely walk anywhere without bumping into someone you know or one of Betty’s little friends. I have some lovely friends who have young children too. We all go to a playgroup in the next door village every Tuesday. It’s run by an amazing tour de force of a lady called Mary who’s in her late seventies, maybe even eighties, and she set it up 21 years ago. It’s all very rural, very friendly and we would all be at a total loss without it.
On escaping the rat race:
I’m so happy that we ended up here. We could have so easily not have. The only downside is that we moved away from all our friends that are closer to Alex’s work but we have definitely settled here. We haven’t had much time to throw ourselves into community life with building and babies but we have so many friends who live here and nearby. We also have friends to stay from London a lot and they all love coming to see us and having a taste of our relaxed country life. I love being able to bring the girls up here. I can pop to the shops, we can go to the park, feed the ducks at the duck pond and can end up not getting in the car for days (which is quite a difficult thing to pull off when you live in the country). We are always looking out for houses for sale in the area because we don’t want to move away - I adore our home but we will grow out of it in the near future. It makes me sad to think that one day we may leave but we always knew this wasn’t our ‘forever house’. Namely because it doesn’t have anywhere to keep Alex’s motorbikes, surf boards, paramotors, boat, or a field he can build a motorbike track in. That really is why we’ll move - according to him.
When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
Pride. As soon as we turn the corner off the main street onto our lane, Betty always says “Here we are, hommmmeeee Mummy” and it makes my heart melt. I honestly look forward to coming home every time we’re away and I always tell Alex how much I love our little house.
Describe your street in five words:
Old. Idyllic. Slightly Secret. Charming.
On her perfect day off in Bruton:
A day or weekend when we are all at home together without having do any building jobs and we can just potter about are such a treat.. We will either have people to stay or visit. Friday nights would kick off with cocktails and dancing on the bar at the Roth Bar and Grill. It gets pretty wild by all accounts - I haven’t actually made it there for this yet as having Herb halted my cocktail consumption quite dramatically and the bar only opened in July. So we would have to start the weekend there, any excuse! Breakfast/brunch we’d have At The Chapel. We would then stroll around Bruton feeding ducks, walking to the Dovecote which is a folly on a top of the hill that overlooks Bruton and surrounding countryside, it’s really iconic. Then we'd continue walking up to Hauser and Wirth and have lunch.