JEMIMA GARTHWAITE - HOME TOUR
Jemima Garthwaite, social media expert and founder and director of creative agency This Here http://thishe.re, lives in a Victorian terrace in Hackney, East London. Jemima commissioned friend and architect Tom Kaneko to design an ambitious extension transforming the narrow terrace into a light and open space to enjoy cooking, relaxing and entertaining friends. Constructed from Norwegian Spruce, the horizontal timber boards and exposed rafters create a striking contrast with the traditional design of the house. The predominantly glass back wall brings light into the space and the natural textures and warmth of the wood both inside and out links the house seamlessly with the garden. These photographs have been published in 25 Beautiful Homes and The North London Journal.
TELL US ABOUT BUYING THE HOUSE AND THE STATE IT WAS IN WHEN YOU MOVED IN
I had spotted the house next to mine a few months before, and had it ear-marked as ‘dream house’, but it had been snapped up a few weeks before I started my search. I’d set up a rather clever alerts system that emailed me the very second a property in my target area came on the market, and subsequently was the first to view and offer on my house. After some to-and-fro, they accepted and I was over-the moon. The reason the house was affordable was because all previous owners had made very minimal interventions to its fabric - it had the most basic kitchen and bathroom possible, and all original features had been thankfully un-touched - a huge piece of luck - but as a result, it was still the rather cold and dark house it had been since 1860.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH DESIGNS FOR THE RENOVATION?
I studied architecture and so was quite a hands-on client, and spent many work lunchtimes with my roll of tracing paper sketching out infinite new layouts, from the wildly unachievable to the mildly unachievable. My design explorations followed two sight-lines that I wanted to create in spaces that were currently dark and gloomy. To maintain a closeness to nature, I decided that the garden should be visible upon immediately entering the house, and to maintain this through winter, would also be visible when sitting in the armchair beside the fireplace in the old sitting room.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR FRIEND TOM TO DO YOUR RENOVATION?
This was never a question for me - Tom was living in my house with his future wife from the moment I bought it so knew it well, and since he had just made the move to London and was planning to set up his first solo practice here, luckily for me it was a case of right time right place.
YOU MANAGED TO DO THE RENOVATION ON A SMALL BUDGET, HOW DID YOU MANAGE THIS?
The renovation was possible on a small budget with a huge amount of elbow grease from both Tom and myself, and some very careful choices of materials and negotiations with contractors by Tom. When the money ran out we had no plasterboard on the walls, merely rough screed on the floor, and the kitchen was a few pipes sticking out of the walls and floors. To take it from this to completion relied upon a balance of my blind lack of fear and Tommy’s coaching and practical solutions. Essentially an epic DIY job, with Tommy even stepping in to hand pour the cement floor. Very few architects have that opportunity or desire, and so realistically, the ambitious build came to life as a result of our close friendship, a relationship Tommy builds to a degree with all clients.
WHAT WORK DID YOU DO TO THE HOUSE YOURSELF?
For a couple of years, me and the B&Q staff were on first name terms, as well as the chaps running the local dump - I don’t think my beloved car will ever recover from the infinite times she was loaded up with bricks, rubble bags, and scrap wood - but at least I know she’ll last forever now she’s made it through this! I thoroughly embraced the challenge of learning the new skills, and dedicated most evenings and weekends to it, occasionally scooting home at lunchtime to do some particularly noisy things so as to not further alienate my rather forgiving neighbours with late night banging. The only real down-side was a fairly broken back from all the lifting, and un-shiftable ingrained dirt in my rough builder’s hands which I frequently sat on in client meetings at work to avoid detection.
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE RENOVATION?
For a period of weeks I had to manually shift waste water into a drain - so after every shower, I’d be downstairs dressed for the office, lifting a huge bucket across the room. No wonder my back went! I actually really enjoyed the challenges, and I’m now the go-to-girl for DIY advice, so shall be helping out lots of my friends with their own projects.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR HOUSE?
The fires for winter, the window seat for relaxing, and impromptu dinner parties and bbqs with friends. It’s the perfect social house.
TELL US ABOUT ALL THE INTERESTING PIECES OF FURNITURE YOU HAVE
I’m very lucky that my parents and grandparents have all had very good eyes, and I’ve enjoyed taking on old family pieces and adding modern touches. A recent project was reupholstering a few old armchairs and sofa that was falling to pieces - 7Upholstery in Shoreditch did an incredible job with a mixture of linen and leather that I adore - they’re set up for another few decades now - I’m trying to make decisions that will survive the test of time when I can. Whilst I’ve also picked up a few pieces along the way, I’ve tried to avoid trendy bits though they’ve snuck in - it turns out Copper’s all the rage these days, and it just happens to be one of my favourite things - fingers crossed those items don’t look dated in years to come.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR INTERIOR STYLE?
The only ‘style’ I think I can identify is that I like natural porous materials, always keen to avoid plastic and glossy paint. As well as this, I’ve been slowly trying to extract the last pieces of Ikea hiding in the backs of drawers and tucked in away in corners - it’s harder than you think!
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
I’m told it wasn’t always so lovely, but as a post-gentrification resident, I can’t claim to know the real Hackney. Victoria Park Village (as the estate agents branded it) is a blissful place - it has the old and the new, the park, the church, and the canal, is on the doorstep of the Southbank of the future (the Olympic park), and is welcoming to all manner of Londoners; somewhere I can really relax and be myself. I’m lucky that so many of my friends feel the same, so I’m coming to be surrounded by a lovely bunch of local friends. More of that please.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM HOME?
My dream home is an ambitious thing, which will take some searching - I’ll probably need to find an old residential mechanics workshop up for sale. I’ll find it on a quiet London terraced street behind a huge wooden garage door with paint peeling from the sun, and a smaller door within that. Through the smaller door, I’ll clamber into a wide passage leading to a bright cobbled courtyard. The house, perhaps a bungalow, will run around three sides, with the terraced row on one side. I’ll have a tired looking dog, a run down vespa, space to make things with my hands, and too many pot plants.