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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