Kettles Yard – Living, not decorating.

I have visited Kettle Yard dozens of times over the last few years – six pilgrimages alone in the last few months before it closed for renovation. I was a little bit desperate to draw the soul of it into my conscious and my heart, nervous that when it re-opens, the very smart new visitors centre will slick it up, rendering it a bit Disney, or a bit too easy. I am genuinely moved every time I step past the jangly bell and are properly sad that it has been closed for two (or more) years.

There are only a handful of places that genuinely make me feel and think so fully  – and think about the purpose of interior design/decorating/styling. What is the point of this profession, this idea that one’s home must look incredible, as opposed to feel incredible. These places I visit over and over to try to connect the emotive reaction to the physical facts. They are all extremely beautiful places, but none are decorated for decorations sake alone and that I think is the key to me loving them - and Kettles Yard in particular.

Kettles Yard at its simplest is a smallish cottage knocked together from several, with a modernist and very large extension. It’s painted one shade of white paint and is both awkward and extraordinary in layout. The magic is that it isn’t officially interior decorated, it is instead a long and rambling poem revealing someone’s life. Story telling at the heart and a completely personal point of view. The house and people are manifestations of each other and everything chosen with their idea of beauty firmly held in solid gaze. You know what this family loves, what they feel and where they have been before. You can see and feel relationships, wear and tear and their unique priorities (which wouldn’t be the kitchen in their home) and that I think is the secret.

If I find myself swayed by a colour palette or fabric when working on any project, I stop myself and ask why. If it’s because it is a nod towards current trends, I put it aside. If it seems somehow attached the person or place and how they want to live, we move forward and the story continues.

An architect acquaintance once mentioned that his potential clients often want him to design their homes to be ‘so Kettles Yard’; complete with the mass purchase of pots, books, paintings and stones. He’s a very intelligent man so I hope he turns them down.

Images 1,4,7 & 10 courtesy of Kettles Yard

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The Daybed - the enhancer.

The daybed is the most popular piece in our furniture collection. I’m sure that shooting the pink version had a lot to do with it. Although I hope that it’s because as a piece of furniture it makes perfect sense, as much as it makes you feel – and feel really good.

I thought a great deal about how people live and would like to live before I started the range. I’m more interested in movement, flow and overall comfort in living than I am with creating a radical/design statement/this seasons must have piece. Instead I prefer tactile, comfortable (in both senses) and beautiful pieces that work for all types of people and all types of homes. I’m really interested in how lives evolve and the storytelling aspect of the items we collect on the way. So everything has to have a reason to exist as well as being (what I think is) beautiful.

I feel that the daybed is the nub of the collection.  It works in homes that are tightly squeezed multi-taskers, as much as it works in really large homes, where rooms need more energy – more places for people and animals to be. Empty or spare rooms lose the vigour that people and living give a home - and so - the Daybed.

The spare room becomes your art/office/novel writing room with somewhere for overnight guests to crash. Or it sits quietly in your studio flat for the same reason. Or – at the end of your bed where you/your children/grandchildren can read/play board games/nap/do nothing. I think people react emotively to it because of how you feel when you see it. It’s asking you to nap, daydream or gaze at a view. More importantly it invites other people into your home where perhaps the previous options were a blow up mattress or not having people stay over at all. Although a sofa is a sofa, it can also be the support role in your story – and that’s what I spend most of my time thinking about.

From a visual and workable point of view it is low and straight backed – and armless. It’s there, but not there and so can sit and fit almost anywhere. Yet it is wide and long enough to sleep on. And it’s really very well made – I call it the ‘three man carry’ well made. If you can pick up a sofa with two people without feeling the strain, put it back down and walk away.

I think the daybed is definitely life enhancing if not life changing – and not just when it’s pink.

View the Day bed

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Cassandra EllisComment