A FAMILY HOME IN EAST DULWICH
The stylish home of interior designer Anna Richmond is proof that it is possible to combine uncluttered, contemporary living with the practicalities of family life. Karen Jensen-Jones takes a look around
The stylish home of interior designer Anna Richmond and her husband and business partner Chris is proof that it is possible to combine uncluttered, contemporary living with the practicalities of family life. After setting up Conley & Co in 2008 (their own design consultancy), the couple have used their expertise in property development and business design to create a lovely home in the heart of East Dulwich.
‘We were living in Battersea before we had children and friends introduced us to this area, which we’ve grown to love,’ explains Anna. ‘When we found this flat, it was a complete wreck with an overwhelming smell of damp and it needed a lot of work, but we could see its potential.’
Undeterred, the couple set to work and within a few months of their purchase, they’d moved in and their work in progress began.
‘My mother is an interior designer and my early memories are of my parents renovating houses and it was always something I wanted to do,’ remembers Anna. ‘It comes naturally to me and often clients who have much bigger houses than this one with fabulous kitchens and big budgets will come to our home and ask for a similar look.’
The couple’s home is an effortless mix of old and new furniture, interesting accessories and artwork from around the globe, including a collection of Japanese teapots and Danish ceramics, and a sleek modern kitchen completing their eclectic look.
‘I love the simplicity of our kitchen which is small, but totally practical,’ explains Anna. ‘The units are made by Uber with high quality German fittings and the worktop is Hanex, an acrylic solid surface that’s very similar to Corian, but less expensive. And although it’s white, it’s extremely durable, cleans very easily and won’t fall out of fashion. I’m very aware of new trends that come and go, such as bright coloured units and metallic wall tiles, but most people don’t want garish or glitzy interiors. What they do want is somewhere that’s practical to live in with an aspirational feel – a home to be proud of. One of the biggest problems I face with clients is that they see beautiful homes in magazines and want to copy the exact look, but often those homes are just not practical, especially for families. Having a young family of our own, we can empathise and use our experience alongside the style preference of the client.
It’s clear to see that Conley & Co do practice what they preach as their home is the perfect combination of both style and practicality.
‘With two small children ourselves, it’s easy for us to understand how important it is to have a practical home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have beautiful things in it. Chris loves Scandinavian furniture and we have a smart Robert Heritage sideboard (based on Scandinavian design) adorned with lovely treasures we’ve collected over the years. We also enjoy art and have put together a mixture of artists and styles in each room, including works by the Scottish artist Caroline McNairn, old film prints picked up in Hong Kong, and pieces from The Affordable Art Fair in Battersea.’
Anna admits to feeling the occasional pang of jealousy when a client has an unlimited budget, but she gains enormous satisfaction from creating interesting, stylish rooms using her own meaningful possessions.
‘I bought the sweet little sitting room chair on eBay and had it reupholstered with Designers Guild fabric and I think it looks fantastic. The book shelves are simple office furniture, which look really effective, and the mirror I’ve had since I bought my first flat many years ago. It’s been repainted and it fits in perfectly with the neutral greys throughout the house.’
Despite her reluctance to use Farrow and Ball grey paint – ‘which you can see just about everywhere these days’ – Anna has concluded that it’s so popular because it works time and time again. Her favourite part of the flat is the grey panelling in the hallway that she and Chris put together themselves.
‘It’s inspired by the Soho House Club in London, which has a lovely Georgian feel with an urban atmosphere. We created a similar look in the bathroom using bevelled edge retro grey tiles and hanging pendant lights over the sink. It looks very fresh and didn’t cost a fortune thanks to careful budgeting on things like the tiles. I used Ultra tiles, which aren’t the most expensive tiles, yet they’ve lasted a long time, have never broken and still look incredibly smart.’
The master bedroom continues with the neutral colour scheme favoured by the couple with splashes of orange and blue adding warmth and contrast. A mannequin stand, found at North Cross Road’s farmer’s market adds a touch of theatricality to the room, and the fabulous oversized pendant light hanging in the bay window, together with a 1950s Italian ceiling light, create a chic focal point.
‘The pendant light was one of the first things I ever bought when I began working in London,’ says Anna, ‘and a friend who collects 1950s lights lent us this one. I love it so much I’m hoping he’s forgotten about it! And the cute mirror I use every day I found in the North Cross Vintage Store on Felbrigg Road in East Dulwich, which is such a treasure trove once you start rummaging.’
Anna’s two children enjoy spacious bedrooms with vintage style bunting and brightly coloured stencils on the walls and little treasures handed down from the couple’s own childhood, making their rooms colourful, quirky and cosy.
Outside, the family enjoys a large garden where Anna is particularly proud of the purpose-built studio where she and Chris work.
‘We call it Studio 317 and although it’s our work place, we’ve had a few parties in there already. It is without a doubt the best thing we’ve done as it’s given us so much space to work without encroaching on our home. It’s heated and has a WC, wireless network and a seeded roof that looks lovely in the summer. We looked at renting a work space in the area, but this proved much more cost effective.’
It seems Anna’s decision to live and work in East Dulwich has been a complete success.
‘I wasn’t sure when we first moved to the area if we would settle,’ says Anna, ‘but now I’m here I love it. Lordship Lane is always buzzing with people coming and going and it’s great to support local business through the work we do. I often use John Hawkings Picture Framers on Lordship Lane for photographs and artwork and Kitchens and Worktops in Camberwell has a fantastic selection of kitchens and a huge choice of work surfaces. I love the atmosphere in Crystal Palace too where I visit Do South for unique design pieces and you can always grab a great coffee. I can’t imagine living anywhere else and, despite the many beautiful homes we create, there’s nothing quite like my own home.’