The perfect pairing of a music photographer and an art director resulted in the creation of this rock ‘n’ roll pad in Hither Green, which features original photography of Kurt Cobain and Leonard Cohen
Words by Nikki Spencer
Looking around Tony Barratt and Jan Galloway’s funky flat in Hither Green there are faces that you immediately recognise. Barry White hangs out in the kitchen, Kurt Cobain in the study and Leonard Cohen in the living room.
For years Tony worked as a freelance music photographer. He travelled the world, mainly for NME, and many of his favourite portraits from that time adorn the walls, adding to the rock ‘n’ roll feel of the couple’s stunning home.
Their beautiful two-floor, three-bed property, with its spacious high-ceilinged rooms, open fireplaces, stripped-back brick walls and bright wallpapers, all looked very different when they first set eyes on it back in 2004, reveals Jan, a magazine art director.
‘The people who lived here were hippies and everything was painted a dirty olive green and every available wall space was covered with shelves and shelves of yellowing paperback books,’ she recalls.
Over the years the couple have done up the flat themselves, room by room, making the most of those handy school holidays that Tony now enjoys as Head of Design and Technology at a prep school in Kent. They started with the sitting room, where they stripped and re-plastered the walls, laid new floors and added striking features like the turquoise and silver Osborne & Little wallpaper, from Pickwick Papers in Greenwich, and the black chandelier from Urban Outfitters.
The kitsch array of silver ornaments on the mantelpiece was something they started collecting when their daughters Lucca and Rosa were little.
‘I bought a silver gnome in a sale somewhere and the kids loved it, so we just started buying more. There’s everything from silver dinosaurs to flying birds, and friends keep adding to the collection,’ says Jan.
They redecorated the bathroom, adding a shower and a roll top bath, and created a delightful home office which doubles as a guest room and overlooks the garden. They’ve re-plastered the old shelf-pocked hall walls and painted everything white, bar the staircase balustrades, which are Plummett grey from Farrow & Ball.
A huge skylight makes it light and airy upstairs and they have stripped one wall back to the original Kentish brick, adding a large mirror from After Noah. They’ve created an additional WC, and made the most of the original features, uncovering a fireplace in the master bedroom.
They saved the best till last though. The kitchen, which they totally refurbished last year and describe as
the ‘heart of the house’, is clearly their proudest achievement.
Jan, a keen cook who likes to have ‘everything on hand’, planned the IKEA kitchen right down to the last detail: ‘We waited until we could afford to do it properly,’ she explains as she highlights the Fisher & Paykel fridge and dishwasher, the Rangemaster cooker and the Quooker boiling water tap. ‘I have always wanted Fisher & Paykel appliances as the design is very simple but efficient. The Quooker tap has revolutionised our lives. It’s so quick for cooking vegetables and for hot drinks.’
The padded grey linen bench and chairs are from MADE and the filament lights are Cox and Cox, although not everything is new. The large wooden kitchen table is one they bought from IKEA years ago and has been recently revarnished. It has certainly seen a few parties in its time: ‘You can still see the heel marks from when Lucca’s friends were dancing on the table at her 18th birthday party!’ says Jan.
After 10 years, now that their home is finally finished, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Tony and Jan would choose to take things a little easier and just enjoy the results of their hard work, but the reality is that they want to do it all over again. They have just put their home on the market and are on the lookout for another property needing a lot of TLC, although they won’t be going far.
‘We love it here in Hither Green,’ says Jan, ‘so fingers crossed we can find something in the area.’
The photo of Barry White in Tony and Jan’s kitchen was taken in the singer’s studio at his home in Sherman Oaks in LA in the late 80s: ‘He was lovely,’ recalls Tony, ‘although his voice was so deep that at first I didn’t understand what he said when I arrived. Turns out he was asking if I wanted some tea!’
Tony’s best known picture is of Kurt Cobain and Nivana and was reprinted in X as an NME cover to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their album Nevermind: ‘Lucca had just been born and to be honest I was so sleep deprived I didn’t know what day it was. I’d never heard of this band I had to go and take a photo of but within weeks they were the biggest band on the planet.’
The Leonard Cohen portrait includes their daughter Lucca, then aged 2: ‘Jan was working and we didn’t have childcare so I took Lucca her along with me on the shoot. Leonard Cohen had this reputation as a bit of a whisky drinking, ladies man so I thought it would be good to photograph him with child. He picked her up and hung her upside down which she loved and it made a great photo.’