HAIL BRITTANIA!

Filed in Feature Homes by on June 1, 2015

Bowser-152

 

by Susan Ackerman | Photography by Bryan Wendland

 

Not only is this the story of an amazing home, it’s a story about love and the amazing journey two parents were willing to make to be near their children.

 

010The home and family I’m writing about is very much a part of my life. I know I’m revealing more about my age than I care to, but it is important to me to share the fact that my dear friend Sally and I go back (gasp) nearly half a century. We spent our youth in the tiny town of Aitkin, leaving (bolting?) after high school to seek our fame and fortune.

 

The gods looked kindly upon Sally, as her life’s path took her across the Atlantic where she spent thirty years living in England, married to Frank, a wonderful Englishman, and raising three beautiful children. Together they lived an idyllic country life on the family farm, a 600+ acre estate that borders the North Sea and the River Witham, situated in the County of Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England. Frank’s mother, whom we affectionately called Gran, lived a short walk away through the manicured hedges, in the grand 400+ year old country home where Frank grew up.

 

My good fortune was that I made numerous trips over the years where I enjoyed an enviable insider’s view of life in England. I even had my own room with a nameplate on the door that said “Susie’s Room.” The Bowser’s generously shared their friends and family with me, which has truly blessed me with lasting friendships in England and the continent. They even introduced me to the wonderful man who would eventually become my husband. I try not to remind him that I knew and loved England long before I met him, but he was, without question, the icing on the cake.

 

Memorable moments always happened when we were all together, but amongst my favorites were the times we made the trip over the Christmas holiday to Sandringham Palace, the Royal’s winter residence. There we were allowed to be within arms-length of the entire Royal Family, including the Queen and the Queen Mum, as they strolled from the home through the woods to the little church on the grounds.

 

047Whenever I visited England, Sally and I managed to steal time away for antiquing excursions, and always returned with magnificent finds. In the 80’s and 90’s in England, as with most of Europe, there were very few “fitted” kitchens, like the ones we’re used to, with custom cabinetry made to fit the space. A typical kitchen might have had a cabinet for the sink, but quite often the other components in the kitchen would be individual pieces of furniture. When we set out on our shopping expeditions, we nearly always had something specific in mind, as was the case when we hunted for practical but fabulous pieces for the kitchen. We were rarely disappointed. Little did we know that all of the precious objects we found on our outings would someday find their way to Minnesota.

 

The return path to Minnesota began slowly, with two of the three Bowser children coming stateside, where they landed and stayed with me until they got their feet solidly planted. When the third child followed suit, and it looked like the first two had no thoughts what-so-ever of returning to England, Frank and Sally knew they needed to make some serious decisions before they missed out on some of life’s more momentous occasions.

 

In 2005, Frank and Sally sold their entire English estate, had all of their earthly belongings packed into containers that were placed on a ship that set sail for America. The two of them hopped on a plane with as much as they could fit into their suitcases and prepared for their new lives to unfold before them. Upon arriving in Minnesota, not knowing where they were going to hang their hats or even lay their heads, one of Sally’s cousins, who lived in her family farm located right next door to Sally’s old family farm, kindly offered to let them stay in their home for a month or two until they got themselves sorted.

 

199During their nomadic stage, Frank and Sally spent their time researching home styles, visiting homes of friends, acquaintances, and even knocking on the doors of complete strangers, looking for the home that would speak to them.

 

As their friend and realtor, we began the quest to try to find a home they could fall in love with. We spent countless hours and put on a lot of miles in a search that took us as far away as Wisconsin. Months of living with the cousin turned into a two year stay, and while living there, Frank and Sally grew to love the timber-frame home. They asked their hosts if they might be allowed to use the same blueprint to build their new home, and thus began the next chapter of their lives.

 

Frank and Sally then purchased a parcel of land from the cousin’s farm that was beautifully situated on the Mississippi River, with views spanning a 40 acre island. Frank oriented the home towards the river, rotated the building 180 degrees, and moved a few of the interior walls, so the layout of their home feels in no way similar to the cousin’s home. I was thrilled and honored when they asked me to do the design work on their new home, and thoroughly enjoyed helping to create an English Country home in Minnesota. The most enjoyable part for me was in placing all their beautiful English pieces into their new home and watching it transform itself into what now feels much like their home in England.

 

With each piece of furniture that we placed, every picture that was hung, and every accessory positioned, a memory was stirred, of Sally and I tootling through the English countryside, recalling how many of the lovely pieces had looked when they were in Gran’s beautiful home. The old millstone in the garden, and Frank’s vintage family farm implements that have become decorative objects in the home.

 

When the children come for visits, they come home to a place that is filled with memories of a place far, far away, from a time long ago. The best part of the story is that Frank and Sally haven’t missed out on a thing. The children are all married now, and there are three grandchildren with more on the way. My husband thinks I should have begun this story with “Once Upon a Time”, as it is very much a fairy tale. Every time I visit the Bowser home, I feel I’ve been transported to a magical place that will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

More photos, including photos not seen in the magazine, are available in the slideshow below.

 

 

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