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Journey Home 3: Mary

Journey Home 3: Mary

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and if you're lucky you'll hear crunchy pebbles underfoot and feel the gentle breeze rustling the leaves of a palm tree...

Inspired by Trebach Garden in Cornwall
“I associate the 1950s with my grandparents house. They had a 1950s bungalow near Portsmouth and I’ve also stayed in a lot of fifties holidays homes in Devon and Cornwall growing up. I think I have always had a romantic Enid Blyton view of things I suppose. I have never felt that comfortable with naturals and minimalism. It doesn’t make me feel relaxed.”

Mary’s strong 1950’s theme is deeply inspired and expressed in many ways throughout her home. The quirky layout of her maisonette designed and built in 1956 and the whole place has been gutted and done up since moving there in 2005. It had also been redecorated a number of times as well. Dean and Mary have been married since 1994 and their daughter is 20 and studies Graphic Communication at Norwich University of the Arts. Everything in their home is intentional and thought through with strong themes that hold everything together. The main inspiration harks to Cornish Cottages which fits Mary’s interest in the 1950s and suits the one-level maisonette layout. Sea blues, greens and botanicals dominate the colour palette as Mary loves colour as long as it's not too bright and hates neutrals.

the Space

Having studied in London, Mary and Dean moved to Swindon and then downsized to return to London. An uncharacteristic move! As a result, Mary has some amazing tips for smaller spaces. Storage has got to be one of the the main issues when you don't have a basement or attic. Because they had to downsize when they returned to London Mary had to be very selective and conscious about what items to keep as there is no space for unnecessary or unwanted items. In the kitchen some extra high horizontal cupboards provide extra food storage and there are lots of built-in bookshelves in various rooms used to great effect. Smaller homes also get more wear and tear, especially if they have small people in them so keeping extra paint to touch up these areas is a good idea. Mary thinks it's even more important to have a theme linking the rooms in smaller homes. One way Mary has achieved this was to use the same flooring throughout which has a very unifying effect. You can then add rugs to refresh the look between rooms or when the passion takes you to do some redecorating.

Enticing Entrances

Borrowed Light Farrow and Ball Lampshades by Gillian Arnold

Blue is the main artery flowing through the house which is immediately calming just like the sea. The artwork and Blue Landscape lampshades by Gillian Arnold provide pops of colour against the pale blue walls painted in Borrowed Light by Farrow and Ball which also extends into the kitchen. You also get the first hint that Mary and Dean love original furniture which has been bought all over the place. Some pieces were bought or commissioned and other bits were up-cycled by themselves. Their first ever furniture purchase was the green chest in the lounge bought from Greenwich Market in 1996. I love the authentic worn look of blue desk in the hall and it's pretty handy for storing Mary's tea sets.

Upcycled desk, sweet william and Clifton Suspension Bridge
Tea set in blue cupboard
“I like the juxtaposition of living in bustling London Borough which is really quite Urban and trying to create this little space here. It’s surprisingly quiet.”

There is a lot of original art is this home. Quite a few were wedding presents and others bought on trips to Cornwall. Each piece holds a special memory to the family and buying them are a priority when on holiday. The themes are similar of blues and florals. Mary loves visiting art shows and sourcing work in Coverack where they often stay and so the holiday theme continues. There is a strong family connection to Cornwall and Mary wonders if they will end up there one day...

Mary, Mary quite contrary how does YOUR garden grow?

The garden is a delight of colour and drama. The outside space is seen as an extra room and extension to the house. The Chinese Windmill Palm which definitely gives the garden its oasis status was given to Mary as a present by a landscaper friend and by a stroke of luck and just enough warmth not only survived the British weather but has thrived. It arrived at only a couple of metres high about ten years ago and has grown into a magnificent tree towering overheard! The whole garden has been landscaped with decking and steps now replacing the mudslide that the dog used to roll down. Mary is strongly against paving in outside spaces as its not very environmentally friendly. She recommends stones for easy upkeep but also loves the ‘beachy’ sound of it underfoot. The themes transpires again! Mary loves  the creative process of working in her garden, making it her own and considering the changing seasons throughout the year. As she approaches her front door she's aware of the hidden daffodils that she knows are waiting under the soil.

“My main inspiration for the garden is Trebah Garden in Cornwall. It’s a truly stunning garden and great day out for all the family and even has a secluded beach at the bottom of the garden which was even used as an embarkation point for the Dunkirk landings.”
“My Dad built me a Wendy house when I was small and I loved the windows with the cross-bars and curtains. So when we built our shed, we put in windows with cross bars and curtains. However our rather stern carpenter was most perplexed when I asked him to do this but whenever I look at the windows I think of my Dad.”

Mary uses her outside space to great effect and loves to serve afternoon tea there using her vintage China. Her treasured spotty tea-set is Midwinter Stylecraft Domino (fashion shape) designed by Jessie Taite. It is usually found in red as the black variant is very rare. Mary's Nana picked it up for a few quid from a junk stall in the 1980s and gave it to her as a gift for her18th birthday before she headed off to university. She only discovered recently how rare and valuable it is! This tea-set sparked her love of 1950s china and she has quite a few pieces now.  

Black Midwinter Stylecraft Domino Tea set

Let's move into the Lounge

Scandinavian Red and Green Living Room Wall Porcelain Doll by Dulux
“When I was a kid I went on holiday to Switzerland and it was the first time I slept in a duvet. It was red, green and white (with a floral design) and I can still remember that duvet. It was the first time my sister had seen snow and having previously lived in Africa we had only ever slept in sheets. I’ve always loved this colour combination. I didn’t want a brown leather sofa like everyone had. I wouldn’t mind a red leather one one day though!”

The strong red and green Scandinavian look has a really cosy feel that I have always felt having visited this room for many years now. I've always loved the mantelpiece created from a reclaimed 17th century beam from a Cotswold barn. What surprised me though on returning to the space was the colour of the walls. They may look white but they are in fact Porcelain Doll by Dulux. It is a very very pale pink which appears white to the naked eye but you can instantly feel the warmth from such a subtle pink tone that couldn't be achieved by a pure white shade. Note that the original skirting boards remain and painted white to fit the fifties period. Great choice Mary and I'm sure you know by now that I'm really into skirting boards!

Frank Sinatra and Balloons over the Clifton Suspension Bridge

As we enter this room there is a Frank Sinatra record playing and we discuss how vinyl is making a comeback. We too in the the last couple of years have bought a record player so we can be much more intentional with our free time. We sometimes put on a record to chat (my personal favourites Submotion Orchestra or Daughter) or read National Geographic. You make listening to music an activity in itself as you need to turn the record over after a few songs and the joy of music takes on a new meaning. Also some music was made for vinyl and good quality speakers (my husband tells me). Mary has also discovered this small joy in life.

Above the record player hangs a image of hot air balloons over the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This picture was actually bought for Dean’s mum one Christmas who used to live there but she sadly died the next month so this hovers with a bittersweet memory. She lived in Bristol her whole life and was very proud of her city and Dean grew up there. Pam especially loved the Clifton Suspension Bridge and there are several artworks of the bridge and the Balloon Fiesta in memory of her and of Bristol.

Continuing the theme, Mary has a special collection of books from the publishing house Persephone which re-prints out of print women's fiction and non fiction from turn of 20th century to 1960s. As a social scientist Mary is particularly interested in how women's lives have changed during this period. Women’s journey into working life took a real shift in the fifties and there was an incredible amount of social change. I love that Mary's interests as a student and in her free time spill over into her home decor decisions as she celebrates this revolution.

Persephone Book Collection

Bedroom Botanicals

Gillian Arnold Wallpaper Deep Floral Dance

Already owning a range of vintage furniture Mary wanted to create a restful space in her bedroom and wasn't afraid of going floral. Flowers is a huge theme of the house due to the owner's love of gardening but here I think you'll agree it's not too chintzy. This fresh feature wall called Deep Floral Dance from Gillian Arnold's wallpaper collection celebrates British botanicals in a really modern way. When you look closely this particular version of the wallpaper could actually represent any season. The rust leaves could be autumn, the white vignettes could be winter, the pink flowers summer and the green hints the promise of spring. I love how this mirrors Mary's connection to her garden and the way she celebrates the passage of time through the seasons. I'm completely in love with the tropical yellow version of this wallpaper! Check it out here. A feature wall is an excellent idea for a smaller room as it doesn’t dominate the room too much. However I'd also say that you can go really brave with small spaces like painting them dark and even wallpapering the ceiling! Mary colour matched the neutral base shade at B & Q which has such great effect in this room. Imagine the three other walls painted white and there wouldn't be such a relaxing atmosphere in this room. 

“The Chinese floral painting is by my Nana, Ethel Clark who went to Chinese Painting classes for many years.”

A few more interesting corners of Mary's home

Their daughter choose some William Morris wallpaper in her room (which she now only visits when home from university) as an upgrade to a pink Cath Kidston print after visiting the Red House and little did she know that after meeting her boyfriend that he also had William Morris wallpaper in his bedroom too. Talk about a match made in heaven!

Check out some quirky touches to the bathroom. I'm sure I've said it before but you can really put any type of image on the wall in there!

This home has always been a welcoming one to me and this family have stayed dear friends even though we no longer live next door to them. I've loved searching deeper into their lives to see how they have expressed themselves through their home and the journey their family has been on. From student accommodation to a rented flat or for their own home, Mary has always tried to create a sense of welcome, home and nostalgia. A place of safety where memories are celebrated and new memories are made. This is what homemaking means to her. As we continue journeying through people's homes it's emerging the ways in which we translate our passions and experiences into physical things and how that happens in a diverse range of ways. I find that really exciting and inspiring! 

M & D created on vontage Letterpress by their daughter  Eliza

M & D created on vontage Letterpress by their daughter Eliza

Mary has 20 years experience as a Careers Practitioner and recently moved to a new role at a university working with schools and colleges across London on outreach and educational liaison projects. She also works privately as a Careers Coach one evening a week - more information here.

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