It can sometimes take a while to find a rewarding occupation, especially one that has to fit around a busy family, is both creatively satisfying and enables a connection with people.
But when the stars do align it’s amazing how quickly things fall into place. Less than a year ago Kali Hamerton-Stove and her good friend (and now business partner) Sarah Crysell hatched a plan to open a café and shop in Goudhurst. Sarah is a talented and experienced cook, having owned and run Olive Stores in Brenchley, but it was uncharted territory for Kali, whose background is in PR.
Kali admits to being a little reluctant at first, but it was a really good idea; “I love finding a café with a lovely shop in one place, where you can sit and relax, surrounded by pretty things. The more I thought about it and talked to Sarah, the more I imagined that in five or ten years’ time I would want to be doing this sort of thing. I simply wasn’t sure that I was ready, but you never are.” Their discussions started in January of this year and they kept talking. A decision was made by March, they invented a look and a name – cleverly constructed from Kali’s last name and Sarah’s maiden name – and by the beginning of May Hamerton + Jones was open for business. Roll forward just a few months and the business is thriving. Sarah, a talented cook, guides the menu and food offering, and Kali concentrates on the retail side.
“Sarah does the baking in her kitchen, I help,” says Kali. “The menu is simple and homemade: we do three salads every day, a tart or quiche, sausage rolls, soup and a seasonal warm dahl or vegetarian soup. The most popular is smashed avocado and poached egg with chilli flakes on Lighthouse (the bakery in Ticehurst) sour dough toast.” They also sell Monmouth coffee, a cult brand that people travel miles for.
When we meet at Kali’s home, plans for Christmas are in full swing. Lucky Kali has an expert on hand to help with decorations; her mother, Mary Kathryn, is over from Tennessee for a seasonal visit. They are busy decorating the house for a wonderful and very traditional family Christmas, using fresh foliage and greenery and gorgeous decorations that Kali also sells at Hamerton + Jones. “We mainly sell homewares and antiques, jewellery and stationery, but it’s always changing – at the moment we have lambing pens, long matches, vintage charms on Liberty ribbon, pony skin belts, ferns in old French dairy pots or bread tins and, of course, our very popular and lovely kitchen scissors.” Lovely scissors? Now I’m intrigued – who would have thought that scissors could be lovely?
Lovely is really what it’s all about for Kali – lovely, but also quirky and well made. “I love trawling around for vintage finds for the shop,” she says. “I only sell things that I love. I don’t like throwaway objects, they have to last and to have a purpose. I like to keep things changing all the time, but it’s also important to sell things with history and a story.” Part of the story has to do with an organisation called Kisany, a Congolese women’s charity that Kali represents in this country. The charity makes and sells beautiful embroidered items. “I like to buy things that are responsibly made, especially those made by women.” She is especially pleased with the fabulous cashmere throws made by women in Nepal. “They are such amazing quality, really thin, really soft and so warm.” Just the thing when you live in a big old house in England.
Although originally from Tennessee, Kali lived in California, where she worked in PR and repeatedly attempted surfing. She has spent the last 18 years in England, living in London, moving out to Sevenoaks for a while before settling in Goudhurst seven years ago. “We knew the area well and were looking around here when the oast came up for sale,” she says. “It had been on and off the market for a while, but when I saw how much space there was inside, I could imagine the children scooting around the floors.” They made an offer and have not looked back.
The oast house was originally part of a group of three houses: the mill house, the oast and the farmhouse. “There’s a round oast and a square oast here,” Kali explains. “We do our best with the curving walls and love the quirkiness. I don’t buy specially made curved furniture, but I choose furniture carefully so that it will fit the space.” The downstairs roundel has become the family’s library and is lined with bookcases. “It’s amazing how many books it takes to fill a library,” laughs Kali. “We thought we had a lot of books – we are both avid
readers, but we haven’t come close to filling it.”
The kitchen was the first space that they renovated, keeping the original shape and layout, but updating the cupboards and adding an all important island unit. “We live in the kitchen and living room,” says Kali, adding “I keep the tv in a cupboard, so that it’s not on display all the time, which means that if the children don’t see it they don’t immediately think about it, so they go and do other things.” A clever trick, that. Other than these two rooms I suspect that some visitors might choose to spend their time in Kali’s laundry. “It is the envy of all who survey it,” she laughs. “It has an extra drinks fridge, a wall of cupboards, a work bench for wrapping presents – and there’s still lots of space for our masses of laundry. I feel like this sort of room is a bit American.” From the look of it we need more of these in England.
“We are slow to do things in the house,” says Kali. “There are still things that haven’t been finished after seven years. We do it in dribs and drabs and things change. One thing we did do after a couple of years was to put in a new floor on the ground floor and we insulated under the floorboards. It has made such a difference. It was so cold before we did it.”
The walls throughout the house are painted with warm, but muted neutrals. “They are warm colours because it’s a big space and I wanted to feel cosy – especially in the bedrooms,” says Kali, adding, “I choose colours that change in the light at different times of the day. It gives a moodiness. I love dark little rooms. The downstairs bathroom is painted with Farrow and Ball’s ‘Green Smoke’ and Richard has a dark olive study. It’s like being inside a little jewel box.” Kali admits to only one mistake with paint. “I chose a colour called ‘Arsenic’ to go on the inside of some of the cupboards. I thought it would brighten them up and chose it because of the name of course – who wouldn’t want to use a colour called Arsenic? It was this really bright tealy-blue colour but it was way too much and made the cupboards look hectic,” she sighs. “I hated going into those cupboards and had to repaint.”
The upstairs roundel, approached up a small flight of stairs, is a storybook room that would be the envy of many a princess. The pretty bed was hand made by Kali and is the room’s focal point. It has been painted pale blue and gold and is heaped with cushions. “I love beautiful beds,” says Kali, “I spend a long time finding exactly the right one for each room.” The children each have a cushion with their initials on – this one has a big rosy red E for her daughter.
The boys’ bedrooms are strikingly different. A pair of stag’s horns (available in various sizes from the shop) loom down from a dramatic (and very useful) blackboard wall in one. He has chosen a theatrical dark grey (so dark that it looks black) linen duvet cover that matches well with the blackboard. The sheets and pillow have an ostrich theme – to remind them all of the time Kali was attacked by one on safari. Her other son’s room is dominated by two huge framed and signed jazz festival posters from New Orleans. The jazz festival has a special significance for the family, because this was where Kali and Richard first met.
The master bedroom is uncluttered and tranquil, simply furnished with an old clerk’s desk and a delicate sofa that has been re-upholstered in bright Designers Guild green. “It’s my favourite colour,” she smiles. The office where Kali works on ideas is just outside the bedroom. There’s a mood wall with a desk below for putting together collections of finds. A new type of very sharp and functional scissors is just about to come on the scene – apparently every household in China has a pair. There are some quirky and comfortable looking old cinema chairs that were a bargain from Bristol, “By the time I’d had them recovered, they weren’t such a bargain,” she sighs. They do look great now though.
Back downstairs and all is calm and Christmassy. Quirky decorations grace the dining table: sparkly grapefruit, stripy crackers, an exotic looking Indian plinth holding a candle. The tree shimmers with flamingos, rainbows and roller skates – and out of the corner of my eye, in nearly every room, I catch a glimpse of a Christmas pig or three. All the decorations are available to buy in the shop, together with a host of locally and ethically sourced brands.
Hamerton + Jones is supporting small local businesses in other ways too; carrying products from local makers like Fraser & Parsley and Rikke Line as well as holding wreath making and still life drawing classes. A portrait painter, nutritionist, and skincare expert will be visiting and the work of local artists, designers and craftspeople are rotated regularly. “We call them house guests,” says Kali. “If we find out that someone in the village has a talent, we want to collaborate with them and support their work.” This is going down very well. “Sarah and I have been so touched by the village’s support of the shop and café,” says Kali. It is the small businesses that are at the heart of village life and so, on many levels, the café is helping to promote and unite the local community, as well as bringing in visitors from outside.
Perhaps one day all villages will have a Hamerton + Jones café, supplying good food, quirky gifts and a friendly atmosphere. In the meantime, Goudhurst can celebrate. And I need to think about getting some kitchen scissors.