On the bright side: inside the home of a colour lover | Katie Forster

Loud colours, salvaged furniture, neon lights Theres never a dull moment in Kate Haxells home, procures Katie Forster

One of the first things you notice as you enter Kate Haxells home is the bendy staircase. The craft book novelist and editor has knocked out half her stairs and rebuild them with a 90 -degree corner, resulting down into the open-plan living area instead of towards the front door.

Usually, you walk into a house and the first thing you see is something telling you to go somewhere else, so we changed the shape of the staircase, says Haxell. It is just one of many personal tweaks and bespoke items in the house often the handiwork of her husband Philip, a situate builder and model maker.

When they bought the Victorian terraced house in Camberwell, south London 15 years ago, five male medical students had been living there. It was insanitary, she tells. Your feet stuck to the bedroom carpet. The couple camped out upstairs while they knocked through walls below, choosing a different shade for each room as they ran along.

Theyre cooler colours, but it doesnt feel cold, says Haxell. I would never, ever have a white room. Unless you have amazing architectural beauty, it reminds me of a cheap hotel.

Mix and match: the kitchen with its copper oven surround. Photograph: Holly Jolliffe for the Observer

Haxell has fond memories of her 70 s childhood, especially of when her grandparents moved into a house in Surrey that had been decorated in line with the latest fashions. It was wholly fabulous. They had a lilac bathroom suite, which I thought was just so cool. There was a bar in the kitchen area and sparkly starrings on the ceiling, she says.

Now there are 70 s influences scattered throughout her own house, including a mirror bar, originally created by Philip as a prop for a Herms shop window, and a zebra-print Ikea pouffe in the dining-room area.

Haxell says they originally wanted a shagpile carpet fitted in the bedroom, but it was too expensive. Now furry rugs surround the curved, grey velvet-covered base of their bed instead. Haxell constructed the retro-style white headboard herself and they chose a whimsical painted cloudscape for the ceiling.

I wouldnt want the decoration to be too serious. I like funny things, she says, whose birthday present this year was the golden plant-shaped lamp in the sitting room, also made by Philip. It is loud. We have some quirky bits of furniture and the wall colours sort of offset them. If the walls were red, it would be very Andrew Logan.

Shelf life: the dining region. Photograph: Holly Jolliffe for the Observer

Instead of a fitted kitchen, theirs is a mix of appliances, second-hand objects and custom-made storage units. The tall, metallic oven casing with a built-in crockery closet was constructed with a sheet of copper that Philip find running spare.

It stimulates me think of Victorian kitchens, with all those copper pans hanging up, tells Haxell. The sink, originally from a laboratory, was picked up in a salvage yard, while the utilitarian-looking trolley next to the fridge was bought years ago at Spitalfields market.

The couple have two cats called Vincent and Dustin. They have stimulated the most of the extra space and each has a room to themselves as well as their shared bedroom Kates office, where she keeps some of her five sew machines, is painted green, while Philips playroom in the loft is decorated in bold orange with neon lights from jobs and shoots he has done.

The house, which Haxell says is not yet finished, has been a slow-burning project: it took six months for Philip to finish stencilling the trees embossed on the landing walls. Weve taken a long time to do it, working in batches and considering different elements, she says. If it doesnt work, well have another run. If your sanity can stand that, you end up with a home thats incredibly personal.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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