Words and Styling by Emily Wheeler
Photography by Ingrid Rasmussen
All rights reserved
Full unedited article:
What was it like moving from the big smoke to the country?
There was an element of culture shock! But people are incredibly friendly and polite here, and the pace is much more gentle than in London. We do miss properly fierce coffee and the Brick Lane Bagel Bake though! But we love where the house is, being higher up you get a lot of light and there are woods just at the end of the road. The first time we drove up to the house after we’d bought it we thought, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re going to live here’. There’s also a lovely community here and the neighbours are brilliant, whereas in London you often don’t know who your neighbours are.
How would you sum up your style?
We try not to be too self-conscious about achieving a ‘look’ – it would feel a bit contrived, like living in a showroom. I think as you collect things you like you start to become more aware of your own taste and what you can get away with in terms of space and practicality. We’ve had about six sofas in here and we thought they were beautiful, but at the end of the day if toddlers can’t jump on it, it’s no good to us!
What inspires you?
Mark is inspired by Victorian mills and factories, industrial history, Petra in Jordan, vintage lettering and typography, old cine film, anatomy charts. I’m inspired by maps, birds, fairy tales, old circus posters, a huge pile of National Geographic magazines from the 20s and 30s that Mark found somewhere, The Grant Museum and medieval illuminated manuscripts. Quite an eclectic mix!
How has life inspired your work?
Mark grew up being aware of the principles of good interior design. His dad is a builder, so as soon as he was old enough he’d help him with jobs. He learned most of my practical skills from him and he got to see inside all sorts of houses and learn about how spaces can be restructured. He really notices the way people arrange things, and the way their possessions can reflect who they are.
Has work inspired life?
Even when Mark’s not working he seems to have a need for things to look balanced. If a piece of furniture at home isn’t quite right it really jars with him – he can’t think straight until he’s sorted it out. I’m a bit like that with a drawing – sometimes I know there’s something wrong but I can’t put my finger on what it is, so I have to sit and stare at it for days until I know what to do next. I’m working on illustrations for Savannah Miller’s fashion label twenty8twelve at the moment and I can’t rest until they’re perfect.
What is it about vintage and reclaimed furniture that gets your hearts racing?
It’s like looking for treasure – now and again you unearth something amazing and there’s a real feeling of excitement. I think Mark is a bit of a special case, though – until I met him I hadn’t realised that it was possible to be obsessed with 1950s light switches! When we first got them he would just stand there blissfully turning them on and off because they make a very particular and satisfying ‘clunk’. He’s definitely a detail kind of a person.
Is vintage a way of life, then?
I think it depends on what makes you happy. I imagine some people might find our house difficult to live in; there are no wipe-clean surfaces or fitted kitchen, and my mum can’t understand why we would want to eat at a rusty table. But equally, the flagstones can withstand any amount of teatime spillages and we never have to worry about marking the worktops. It’s quite important to us that our house doesn’t dictate the way we do things.
Where do you take your inspiration from?
The Victorian mill Mark’s grandma worked in for her whole life, La Belle Boutique – our friend Naomi’s beautiful vintage shop in Bristol, old copies of National Geographic, local history.
What makes a house a home?
Children, books, big windows to let the light in and a proper fire.
Do you invest or collect?
We’re definitely hoarders. If Mark finds something beautiful then he has to buy it. He only sells things to fund the addiction!
How do you choose your colour scheme?
There’s not a scheme as such – it’s all white!
How do you choose which pieces to keep for your home?
Mark piles things up in the living room while he figures out whether they’re right or not. It drives me insane. Currently there are 20 enamel factory lights, a stuffed swan wrapped in cling film and a Victorian easel that almost reaches to the ceiling.
Many things; it’s where we both do a lot of our work, plus it has to be a play gym for our children and a haven when they’re asleep!
Do you have any design tricks?
Our house is small, so we’ve tried to give the illusion of more space by putting in bigger windows, taking down walls and using furniture that maximises the wall space. Furniture that stands off the floor also lessens the feeling that the rooms are crowded with objects.
Do you have a favourite piece?
They’re always changing. At the moment I really love the blackboard in the living room and our Edwardian sofa, but its days are numbered!
It sounds as though your home is constantly evolving?
Mark tends to live with something for a while and then suddenly decide it has to go. I’ll come downstairs one day and he’ll have thrown away the kitchen table. When we first moved in he got a bit over-excited about renovating and ripped off the bathroom door before we had anything to replace it with, and there followed months without any privacy at all. I also go mad when he brings home enormous objects and leaves them in the middle of the living room for a few weeks while he gets a feel for them. At the moment there are twenty industrial factory lights on our living room floor.
Will it ever be finished?
We really like the idea of moving to Bristol…
One last word of advice?
Throw away your television!
My personal style is….
A bit shambolic but with enough happy accidents to get away with it. I’m completely in love with vintage dresses but I don’t often get the chance to wear them. I have a beautiful 1920s pale pink flapper dress I bought for £20 recently – I’ll find a reason to wear it one day!
The last thing I bought and loved was…
A beautiful 1940s dress for seven pounds in my local market.
And the thing I’ve got my eye on next…
‘Rosehip’ boots from Seasalt, a Cornish shop. One of my oldest friends has them and I had to ask, ‘Would you mind if I got some of those if I promise not to wear them at the same time as you?’
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year
Sachneh in Israel; amazing natural pools that are so blue they look as though they’ve been Photoshopped.
A recent find/discovery…
A friend has just showed me how to gild – it’s addictive! The other day we managed to get all the babies to sleep at once so we gilded some conkers.
An indulgence I’d never be able to live without…
Posh drawing pencils and good paper
The last music I downloaded….
Howe Gelb and A Band of Gypsies
On my beside table…
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
In my fridge….
My mum brings proper Israeli hummous whenever she visits
The site that inspires
My friend Phil’s illustration site. We studied together – his work is awesome.
My favourite website
http://www.WWOZ.org – New Orleans community radio online, playing great jazz, blues and Latin music.
I can’t live without….
1. Windsor and Newton drawing inks
2. Skype, so I can see my family who live overseas
3. My collection of vintage shoes that I never get to wear because we live at the top of a muddy hill
4. Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka with cloudy apple juice
5. Columbia Road flower market
6. My boxing clubto let off steam and keep fit
7. My little girl’s drawings
8. Our lovely neighbours – our street is like a mini-village.
10. My slow cooker
1. Climpson’s coffee shop for the best coffee in London (67 Broadway Market, London, E8, tel: 020 7812 9829, webcoffeeshop.co.uk)
2. La Belle Boutique, a lovely vintage shop in Bristol (47 Picton Street, Bristol, tel: 07771 634444, labelleboutique.co.uk)
3. The Old Treehouse in Hebden Bridge for beautiful toys and presents(1-3 Market Street
Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, tel: 01422 845566,theoldtreehouse.co.uk)
4. Avalon Organicsfor fabulous organic cosmetics (avalonorganics.com)
5. Brighton Car Boot Sale and Sunday Market (Brighton Race Course, Brighton, brightoncarbootsale.co.uk).
6. Leeds Vintage Fair(Various locations, leedsvintagefashionfair.com)
7. Etsy.com for lovely handmade gifts
8. The Willow Garden, Hebden Bridge for beautiful flowers (27 New Road, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, thewillowgarden.com, tel: 01422 845616)
9. Intershop 2000, Berlin for great vintage everyday products made in the German Republic (10245 Berlin, intershop2000.com)
10. Lucy and the Caterpillar for vintage bits and pieces (St George’s Square, Hebden Bridge, tel: 07909 292122)
The long wooden desk came from a Yorkshire textile mill and the huge antique blackboard was from a Victorian school. Contact Mark at Rochesters (Rochesters.uk.com, tel: 07941 395 727) for similar. The antique desk chair was originally a sewing machinist’s chair and is also from Rochesters. For a similar stool try Graham and Green (grahamandgreen.co.uk, tel: 0845 130 6622) while Utterly Gorgeous sells glass display domes (utterly-gorgeous.co.uk, tel: 01825 760841). Caravan sells similar anglepoise lamps (caravanstyle.com, tel: 020 7033 3522) and John Lewis sells rugs like this (johnlewis.com, tel: 08456 049 049).
The 1930s leather club chair is a treasured find from a French antique market. Niki Jones sells similar cushions (niki-jones.co.uk, tel: 0141 959 4090).
The wood burning stove was a wedding present from a local friend, for similar try stovesonline.co.uk. The radiators throughout the house are all from different eras, “we love radiators and light fittings and we’ve gone for lots of different styles because we couldn’t limit ourselves to one style,” explains Mark. The shutters were made from Staffordshire pottery boards and put together by a local joiner. For similar go to Shutterly Fabulous (shutterlyfabulous.rtrk.co.uk, tel: 0845 287 0633).
“The stone floor was already there and we were able to gradually reveal the features that had been covered up for the last thirty years,” says Mark, who is now venturing into interior design after finding success supplying furniture to Superdry, Paul Smith, Jack Wills and Urban Outfitters among others.
The hooks came from a Blackpool bingo hall and Mark and Talya found the front door in the street, only to find it was a perfect fit. For similar coat hooks try Pale and Interesting (paleandinteresting.com, tel: 01797 344 077).