art and crafts
I discovered this incredible art-filled Victorian terraced home through a talented designer I met at Handmade in Britain craft show a few years ago. Saul J Grant makes all manner of lamps and pendant lighting handcrafted from steel, reclaimed industrial salvage, and old-school fittings, including fabric-wrapped cabling and filament bulbs. I was immediately drawn to his designs and was excited to hear he’d been working for an Italian family in London, installing several of his pieces and making bespoke items for their new home.
When I turned up to meet the owners and see the house for myself a few weeks before the shoot, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I’d seen a few snaps and knew it would be worth shooting, but I wasn’t completely prepared for the quality of all the workmanship. The owners, Daniele and Susanna, have strong design sensibilities, she is a former architect turned artist, he is an academic and novelist and previously a stay at home dad (the children are now in their late-teens/early 20s), so both know exactly what their family needs in terms of function and form. Employing some talented craftspeople, they have modernised the house yet been incredibly sympathetic and respectful of the original architecture; it’s the perfect balance of old and new.
Daniele and Susanna are keen travellers, and have lived in many major cities around the world, but chose to settle in London for it’s buzzy atmosphere and quirky culture. They love to collect art from around the world and European antiques to blend with those Daniele inherited from his grandparents; and seek out furnishings from far-flung places: from the US, Guatemala and Mexico, to Bhutan, Indonesia and Morocco.
From my point of view, the house was pretty much ready to go, but most homes I style need a few extra pieces, like cushions and throws, which I select very carefully to blend with the homeowners’ taste; for this house, I started searching for a maker who creates luxurious pieces using ikats. I soon discovered Nicky Heard on Twitter, and loved her story that she had travelled to Indonesia a few years previously (to visit her daughter who was working out there at the time) and stumbled upon the colourful and beautiful patterns of the ikat made by the talented local artisans. Nicky had returned to the UK, suitcase packed with examples, and started making throws, wall hangings and cushions that combined the silky fabric with beautiful linen. I met Nicky at her home and saw the passion in her eyes, the excitement she had for her new venture, and the warmth that oozes from her; I knew this lovely woman was the right choice for this project, my Italian couple would definitely approve; and I would call on Nicky many more times in the future…
As expected, the shoot was a dream, photographer Brent Darby captured the rooms beautifully; it would have been hard not to, though: every direction you turn in this house there’s a photo opportunity – Daniele and Susanna have such an exquisite talent for putting interesting rooms and gallery walls together. It’s the perfect art-lovers home. But they are insistent that their home is not just for display purposes only.
‘First and foremost, this is a family home,’ says Daniele. ‘But we have chosen to surround our children and ourselves with images and objects that inspire us; I think that art is therapeutic. Apart from their aesthetic value, most of the objects in our house have a sentimental value: they remind us of travels together, of the people who offered them to us or from whom we have inherited them; and the great majority of paintings are in fact by Susanna.’
We might not all have quite the collection this couple have, but hopefully it will inspire you to hang those much-loved pieces, create that gallery wall, to make your home as beautiful as it can be to inspire you in your life.
See more of Susanna’s work at http://sgdportraits.blogspot.co.uk
‘We bought the coffee table in Paris, says Susanna. ‘Its top is made from reclaimed “parquet Versailles”.’ The mirror ball on the table is Art Nouveau from Naples; the rugs are kilims. The ceiling light and lamp on the left are by Saul J Grant. Small dark blue ikat cushions by Nicky Heard.
The tripod lamp in the corner is by Saul J Grant. The painted cupboard is early 17th century from Veneto (the region of Venice). Milk jug and small cups (on the breakfast table) were made by Jane Sarre Ceramics.
The kitchen is a bold green design from Italian kitchen company Valcucine, which now has a showroom in London. Sculpture of the ‘Baby Baboon’ by Kendra Haste, a British artist based in London. ‘Susanna commissioned it for my 40th birthday,’ says Daniele, ‘and it was made to sit on top of a Baroque Solomonic column that my parents bought from an antique dealer in Mantova.’
‘The triptych is by Anthony Whishaw, an English painter we both love,’ says Susanna. ‘We met him 15 years ago.’ The rocking chair belonged to Daniele’s great grandmother (Società Anonima Antonio Volpe, 1922). The trunks are Japanese Kansu. They bought the swivel chair in Paris and the bedspreads are ikat designs by Nicky Heard. Rug was from Samarkand, Uzbekistan
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