NELL - AT HOME
We had the pleasure of photographing Nell's beautifully renovated red-brick Victorian terraced house in Harringey on a sunny day earlier this year. The warm wood, lovingly restored features and beautiful collection of carefully sourced antiques really took us back in time. Nell hasn't given in to the need to make the space feel bigger by using whites and minimal, contemporary furniture. She has stayed true to the house's original design and build, using colours and furniture that speak of decades past. Nell is food editor at the Guardian, and has a love of interiors, she lives with her partner Will and their daughter Betsy.
WHEN DID YOU BUY THE HOUSE AND WHAT STATE WAS IT IN WHEN YOU BOUGHT IT?
We moved in in 2012. The interior was fairly underwhelming, but it retained the original sash windows, floorboards and cast iron fireplaces. It still had deep pine skirting that wraps around the corner of the staircase. And upstairs there's an original built-in cupboard on the landing with old hand-painted wallpaper inside. We'd found a small home we could afford that hadn't been completely stripped of character. We stripped and oiled the floors, installed new radiators and windows and got the fireplaces working. We also replaced the fitted-kitchen with our own free-standing furniture and painted the rooms in pale greens, off-whites and greys.
DESCRIBE YOUR INTERIOR DESIGN STYLE.
I'm drawn to simple, functional design, interesting textures and muted colours. I've never tried to create a particular style: we have just gradually filled our house with things we've found and been unable to put down.
YOU HAVE LOTS OF BEAUTIFUL FURNITURE IN YOUR HOME, WHERE HAVE YOU SOURCED IT FROM?
Most of our furniture is from antique fairs such as Ardingly and Kempton or second-hand shops – in particular those in Lewes and on the Holloway Road, where we used to live. There are a couple of eBay finds too: the wooden school lockers tattooed in French graffiti, and the Ercol rocking chair – a gift from my parents when Betsy was born.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
I love all of my stuff but what I love most is finding it. There's a small scrap of embroidery framed and hung to the left of our fireplace that I think is completely beautiful. It's a display of geometric shapes in mint green, purples, pinks, red and black. It's not a finished piece of work – I think someone was just playing with shapes and colour combinations. I found it in a suitcase of offcuts at a vintage fair in north London and paid £2 for it. I have no idea how old it is, or where it came from originally, but it's completely unique. I'm just so pleased I bothered to rummage around that case.
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING?
The small wooden frames that hang between the two reception rooms are second-hand negative frames that I look out for at car boots and antique fairs. They cost next to nothing, and we use them to display Will's favourite photos.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ANECDOTES ABOUT SPECIFIC PIECES OF FURNITURE OR OTHER OBJECTS IN YOUR HOUSE?
I am not an impulsive shopper. I remember exactly where and when all of our furniture, paintings, and objects were bought, but my most memorable purchase has to be a set of workaday earthenware bowls that cost just 10 euros. I bought them from a French man in the Charantes. A local cafe owner had told us about him, drawn a map to his farm and called to arrange a visit for us the following morning. He didn't speak any English, and he didn't even have a shop, but he happily showed us around his barns, poking through his family's ancient belongings with his walking stick. Our purchases made, we were invited into his home for coffee spiked with a splash of homemade eau de vie (it was 10am). We use those bowls everyday.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR HOUSE?
There's a lot of exposed wood, a very creaky staircase, an open fire ... And the garden is tiny, but the view from our back door is quite green and the street at the front is obscured. It doesn't feel like we're in the city, and I love that.
WHAT IS ON YOUR DOORSTEP? TELL US ABOUT YOUR AREA.
The house is situated between Seven Sisters Road and Green Lanes. Towards Green Lanes, there's a lovely green space called Chestnuts Park with a brilliant kids' playground and a dodgy cafe if you're desperate for a cup of tea. Further along the road is an ancient, nameless grocery shop owned by a Cypriot man who sits outside everyday in a vest and trilby. It's a beautiful, dilapidated corner plot and the produce spills out on to the pavement. He sells boxes of obscure herbs and leafy greens, crates of watermelons and giant butternut squash. It's unlike any shop I've ever seen. Green Lanes itself is rapidly being gentrified. Kurdish restaurants still abound, but there's a new local organic shop called Harringay Local Store and an independent coffee shop called Blend that is always full of freelancers and new babies.
WHAT WOULD YOUR DREAM HOUSE BE?
Right now, we can't decide if we want to stay in the city or move somewhere with more green space and more floor space. I would love to have a home that has a hallway big enough for shoes and coats and bikes and a buggy.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SHOP?
Whenever I'm near the Essex Road I make sure I have a wander up and down the aisles of Criterion auction house. We've found some brilliant pieces there considering it's in the middle of Islington. My best buy is the metal-framed day bed that I've padded out with quilts and stuffed burlap sacks. The auctioneer couldn't believe anyone would want it. He thought it looked like a relic from Pentonville prison. And I have to mention Yasar Halim. It's not an interior shop – it's an incredible Turkish and Cypriot grocery store and bakery on Green Lanes. It sells massive gold quinces, mounds of pomegranates, bushy bundles of purslane and sorrel, lemon almonds, dried mulberries, giant tahini buns ... I take my Mum there every time she visits to stock up on preserved lemons and jars of smoked aubergine flesh.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT OUT?
I'm currently trying to convince everyone to eat at Honey and Co on Warren Street. It's a miniscule restaurant that serves homely Middle-Eastern dishes and exquisite cakes. But, right now, nothing beats eating with friends in each others' houses. Betsy can sit up with us, squish all her food into the table, then tinker around as we plough on.
IF YOU HAD A FREE DAY IN LONDON HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT?
Most of my favourite days in London have involved a picnic on Hampstead Heath overlooking the dog pond. There would be a gang of us (big and small) and everyone would bring something to the blanket.