Inside Ronnie Wood’s cottage studio

Approaching the electric gates to Ronnie Wood’s art studio in a Hertfordshire village, I’m convinced I’ve got the wrong address. In a location so quiet you could hear a guitar-pick drop stands an exquisite stone cottage. It’s pure Beatrix Potter – and it promises a glimpse into a very different Wood to the hellraiser everyone thinks they know.

We’ve never met, but Wood bounds out and hugs me like an old friend before offering to make me tea and honey. Yes, you heard right. I resist the urge to ask if he could throw in some brown sugar.

Wood is dressed in a rock icon combo of black shirt and ultra-skinny jeans and, at 71, is full of boyish energy, his jet-black barnet still fully intact. Many years clean and sober, he has the lust for life of a man who knows he’s dodged some bullets, including a cancer scare in 2017.

Works in progress: the studio with its wrought-iron balcony.

Works in progress: the studio with its wrought-iron balcony. Photograph: Phil Fisk/The Observer

For the past three years, Wood has been lovingly restoring this once derelict 19th-century worker’s cottage into an artist’s studio. The purple front door opens straight into a cosy hall-cum-lounge that doubles as a mini shrine to his art influences. Frida Kahlo cushions fill a small sofa and a bookcase displays tomes on Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso.

The house is surprisingly small, with the hall and dining room all that’s left of the original interior. “The house was falling apart, so I had to gut it and knock the back down,” Wood explains. “The most stressful part was getting planning permission for the big extension at the rear to build on my art studio. I was told I must have special wind-proofing iron girders because of the wind round here. But the wind isn’t different to anywhere else! It took a lot of extra time and money. Yeah, I did get pissed off.”

It was never part of his plan to have a purpose-built studio. This project came with sobriety and the contentment of moving into a country mansion just up the road four years ago with his third wife, Sally, and their two-year-old twins, Gracie and Alice. When he found out the cottage was up for sale, he got inspired, and now Wood uses it to paint, and all four of them occasionally come and stay.

Ronnie Wood’s studio - some of the portraits Ronnie’s currently working on including -on far right - his Picasso - inspired homage to his bandmates. Its Ronnie’s take on Picasso’s The Dance - Ronnie is depicted peering from the side and Keith Richards is dominant figure in painting

In the groove: one of Ronnie Wood’s paintings. Photograph: Phil Fisk/The Observer

“The studio evolved with the clarity I gained from sobering up over the last few years,” Wood explains. “When I bought it I didn’t have a vision of how it would turn out, but as I started work I got a little bit more clarity every day. I just left it to a higher power and thought I’d see where it took me. If I hadn’t got clean, none of this would have happened. In the past it was much easier to get high than to do something constructive. I really think my art has helped save my life.”

In the dining room Wood’s reflective mood continues. It’s framed by beautiful and elaborate stained-glass windows of his own design, featuring hummingbirds – and he’s a bit misty-eyed when he points out that the glass incorporates the initials of his six children.

The dining table is littered with prints of his paintings of Rolling Stones album covers and multicoloured painted set lists, which he compiles in his dressing room before gigs, as a kind of therapy.

Heavy metal: the copper bath with hatch through to the bedroom.

Heavy metal: the copper bath with hatch through to the bedroom. Photograph: Phil Fisk/The Observer

Wood’s art takes every form, fills every crevice. On the upstairs landing there’s a nude drawing he did of Sally made into a rug: “It’s called The Bum and Sally had it made up as a present for me… Isn’t it great?” he chuckles.

Sally regularly visits Ronnie in the studio with the twins, who love to paint alongside their dad. No doubt they view it as a giant Wendy house – there’s even a huge rhino sculpture in the garden that they’ve been allowed to paint (Wood was one of the artists commissioned by Tusk for their Rhino Trail benefit auction).

In the wall of the only bedroom, he’s designed a hatch into the small ensuite bathroom with its magnificent copper bath so that he wouldn’t miss the fun of seeing his young twins at bathtime. Just off the landing is a wrought-iron balcony that Wood also designed. It is the perfect vantage point from which to look down on his art displayed below. Irish landscapes and scenes of woodland deer sit alongside backstage views of the ballet, brightly coloured “guitarscapes” and portraits of his fellow Stones.

In the studio, I am mesmerised by a random, life-size mannequin topped by a lampshade – a find from a junk shop in Barcelona. “I love browsing through junk shops and collecting mad stuff,” he grins.

Every corner reflects Wood’s artistic flair and sense of humour – except the kitchen. Fitted along a wall of the studio space, it’s not so much a kitchen as a worktop with a few cupboards and a canary yellow retro fridge packed with coke (the drinkable variety).

Dotted around the studio are several works-in-progress depicting the Stones, waiting patiently on easels. Currently he’s working on a surreal portrait of his bandmates in a blacksmith’s workshop, and a take on Picasso’s Three Dancers, with Keith Richards taking centre-stage.

With a glint in his crow-black eyes he adds, “I only tell Keith, Mick and Charlie what I’m doing after it’s done. I showed the Picasso one to Keith and he went: ‘I like Mick’s tits,’ which I took as a huge compliment. The guys used to take the piss out of my art all the time, but now they concede I’m not bad!”

Before I leave, Wood says he wants to show me his favourite thing and leads me over to a ceiling-high bookcase with a bespoke sliding library ladder. With Peter Pan charm, he gleefully shins up it and shouts, “Come on, have a go.” I’m up there in a jumpin’ Jack flash.

Limited-edition prints are available at


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