As the title suggests, this home is full of “
mmmm” moments. Its calming atmosphere and eclectic decor reflect the depth of its owners: Vija Rhodes, a maker of handwoven textiles who grew up in the south of France, her husband Greg Rhodes, who works for Reebok, and their beautiful Hungarian Vizsla, Bernie, who ended up being their golden ticket to getting the home! Vija and Greg were renting in Victoria Park, East London, UK at the time, and on their many walks with Bernie as a puppy, they ran into the estate agents who were based around the corner. They came to know them well (over many puppy cuddles), so when this home became available, they were the first and only people contacted.
Designed by Crown Estate architect John Spence & Partners in the early 60s, the home had more window than wall in nearly every room, original parquet floors and a massive garden. But “it needed a lot of work,” Vija says, “which is exactly what we wanted.” They hired a builder named Richard, a Yorkshireman in his late 60s, to live with them through the weeks that it took to complete the home. “Living in a dusty building site in the dead of winter (and with someone outside of your little family unit) was really hard at times,” Vija says. “At points we were washing up outside in the pouring rain and flushing the toilet with a bucket!” Walls were moved, the bathroom and kitchen they designed began taking shape, the purple ceilings and walls were painted over, the old faded burgundy carpets were pulled up, and the floors were all hand sanded. Bernie had a blast living and playing in the construction site, and in the end, it was completely worth it.
Vija and Greg's bedroom. They have a daily routine of waking up early and drinking their morning coffee in bed (with Bernie under the covers) watching out the window into the park just beyond their garden.
"The old crate was a temporary bedside table solution which has ended up becoming slightly more permanent," explains Vija.
Greg's parents bought an old church on the Yorkshire moors a few years ago to turn it into their home. "This pew is one of the originals they gifted us," explains Vija.
Detail of the pew and one of the string of hearts Greg gave Vija.
Their bathroom is also calm and understated, featuring stripped oak floors which they covered in varnish and burnt it off with a blowtorch. "We wanted the bathroom to be similar to the other spaces in the house," says Vija, "Greg made the sink unit and did all the copper pipe work and plumbing." The backboards are reclaimed oak roof boards from Lassco, the brass taps are treasures from eBay, and the wood sink is an old African pummelling bowl. "We knew we wanted a wooden bowl from the beginning but at the time it took some finding!"
They extended the bathroom into the spare room to give the space more breathing room. The original cast iron bath was found on eBay.
Their haberdasher's cabinet with glass front and drawers doubles as a storage unit, which is perfect as they don't have overhead cupboards. They left their oak floors (complete with original bolt holes) lightly sanded and unsealed "as any further wear would just add to it's charm," says Vija.
The shelves, made from reclaimed wood, are visible from both the kitchen and diner. They are host to Vija and Greg's ever-expanding collection of ceramic pieces. The cups are a mix of vintage and new, and the little speckled teapot, a favorite of theirs, is by Australian ceramicist Katia Carletti. The glasses are a mix of old jam pots and school tumblers from Labour and Wait.
Their kitchen was designed around the haberdasher's cabinet. The placement of the low-level lighting (which were all handmade in England) was chosen so that the space worked well as a functional kitchen, but wasn't flooded with artificial light. The worktops, floor and cabinets were handmade by Richard using reclaimed French oak from old railway carriages.
A painting by Vija's father, an artist, hangs on the wall. It was given as a wedding gift.
One of their few north-facing windows, which lets in the softest light. After months of trying to find the right taps for the kitchen, they finally discovered these beauties in a junkyard in south London.
Our hand-routed draining top sits over the Belfast sink, which they discovered in a friends garden.
Flowers from the garden sit beside a Japanese enamel kettle and their Chemex, which has taken up permanent residence in the corner under the stain glass window.
"We love having a kitchen diner," says Vija, "we can sit and chat and have a glass of red wine together whilst one of us (mainly Greg!) does the cooking." The cherry wood dining table was a piece Vija's dad brought back from a trip to France years ago which Vija begged him for. The chapel chairs were a lucky find from Spitalfields Antiques Market.
The window behind the table faces east, so their little umbrella tree has a halo of light surrounding it in the mornings. The wall then gets bathed in light from the large south facing windows in the living room later in the day.
Their living room, which illustrates Vija's love of plants. The big window looks out onto our garden "and it almost feels like you are outside under the rustling trees!" says Vija. When Bernie isn't nestled on the sofa or upstairs in their bed, he can be found here on his pile of sheepskins, often watching squirrels out the window.
The view of the living room from the dining area. Vija and Greg removed the double doors between the kitchen, dining area and living room so the space would flow better. Their antique day bed acts as a sofa with high sides that envelop you on winter evenings. The blanket is a hand-woven Eagle blanket from Joinery in New York.
A theatre set light box Vija made during her illustration education hangs above the sofa. The cushions are mostly handmade from linen, aside from the large patterned one made from material brought back from a holiday in Mallorca.
The magazine rack was a gift from Greg's parents found in an antique shop in Northern England. The little ceramic planter is another hand built piece from Katia.
The wall opposite the large window is home to an antique tripod light, a gift from Vija to Greg for their one year anniversary. The large wall hanging is one of Vija's woven pieces.
They built a log cabin studio at the bottom of their garden. It has a totally different feel to the house with whitewashed walls, ceiling and floor making it as light and bright as possible. "I have a very ritualistic way of working," explains Vija, "and the space enables this and allows me to be at my most creative and productive."
The windows open out onto the garden and face the house. They would have loved to have windows on all sides, but sensibility won over, as it would have made the studio more prone to break-ins.
They used old scaffold boards as shelves for Vija's loom parts and other pieces. The lights were all sourced from eBay.
Greg found the bench on the side of the road near his work and brought it home. "Due to the limited space, I use this bench as my desk/work space," says Vija, "It is narrow and long rather than short and deep which works much better here." The feathers were gifts Greg brought back from his walks with Bernie.
View of the studio from the garden.