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An Ever-Evolving East London Home For A Creative Family

by Kate Jacobs

Sometimes home is more than just a house; when you’re friends with your neighbors – old and young – and love your local shops and pub, that sense of home can expand to include your whole neighborhood. So when photographer Jenny Lewis and her husband Duncan Western, of film company Splice, moved to this dignified Georgian terrace 10 years ago, they were only relocating here from the next street. With a baby on the way they needed a family-friendly house, but were loathe to leave the hip neighborhood of Haggerston (in the East London district of Hackney) that has been the couple’s home since their college days.

The house they chose was a bargain because, “it was completely neglected and really quite nasty,” Jenny remembers with a shudder. But the damage was basically cosmetic and, with Jenny’s father a contractor who created her childhood home, the couple felt empowered to bring it back to life. Since then, the house has been an unashamed work-in-progress evolving gradually as the family has grown to include Ruby, now 10, and Herb, 7, as well as the family’s cat, Milo. “I’ve never been in a hurry to make the house perfect,” Jenny shares. “It comes along at its own pace.” The decadently huge bathroom was created after a couple of years while the rear extension is just two years old and has enabled the family to create a light-drenched, eat-in kitchen for parties, play-dates and family life in general. And now the former dining room has been reborn as a dedicated music room, with drum-kit, keyboards and guitars for this family of enthusiastic musicians.

Hackney is London’s hotbed of emerging creative talent and Jenny’s ongoing photography project Hackney Studio has strengthened her relationships with numerous local craftspeople and artists. Many of the pieces of art and furniture in her home were swapped for her photographic work, like the stacking yellow plastic stools by Martino Gamper that dot the house. These sit happily alongside interesting bits passed down through the family or foraged from the streets, “I never seem to go shopping for furniture,” Jenny muses. “Each project that I do leaves a trace in my home that reminds me of that person.”

Above all, the house is adaptable; Jenny works from home, “that way I can just get on with it when I’ve put the kids to bed. It’s really important to me that there’s no division and that home and work can entwine.” And with flowing space and built-in speakers everywhere – even the garden – the house is also good-to-go for parties. Most of all, it’s a family home with the kids and their friends in and out all day, making music, art and videos and generally following in their parents’ creative footsteps. —Kate

Photography by Ellis Parrinder
Styling by Kate Jacobs

Jenny sourced matching French ceramic Chappee stoves for the living and music rooms, "I love their chunky look – like Art Deco radios," she explains. The Lion-Rabbit print, by American street artist Gaia, was from East London gallery, Nelly Duff.
Duncan Western with wife, Jenny Lewis, and their children, Ruby and Herb, in front of their East London Georgian terrace. Traditional sign artist Archie Proudfoot reinstated their house number using traditional techniques and gold leaf.
Jenny and Duncan recently extended the ground floor of their East London home to create a roomy and light-infused eat-in kitchen where they have made a feature of the neighbors’ exterior wall.
The sprayed their standard white kitchen cabinets in a shade that Jenny describes as "road sign yellow", teaming it with light grey floor and wall tiles for a bright, industrial look.
It’s easy to shut the living room doors on the rest of the house and hunker down with the wood-burning stove, so Jenny opted for a "cozier, darker palette". The Haggerston sofa by Matthew Hilton was chosen to cope with the rigors of family life.
A friend gave Jenny the vintage pink telephone for her birthday. "We do take calls on it – but it takes too long to dial out!" she laughs.
In the music room, drums picked up on the family’s travels sit alongside a vintage dentist chair and a Polly Borland photograph of Monica Lewinsky – a present from the photographer whom Jenny assisted when she was starting out.
"I love my studio, I put my radio on and I’m in my own little world," smiles Jenny. The desk was made by Michael Marriott for an installation at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch during the London Design Festival.
In the studio, Jenny is working on her recent project for Water Aid, One Day Young Malawi photographing mothers and their new babies. "Going to Malawi totally changed everything for me. Not only is their water a health risk but I realized how much water is a women’s issue. It’s is a girl’s job to collect water so if it’s a six hour round trip to get it, that means no time for school or setting up a small business."
Artworks in the couple’s bedroom include a Ludovica Gavisia print on the wall by and a ‘Fun’ bottle by artist David Shillingham.
The couple combined two rooms to create a bathroom large enough to comfortably cope with family life. When shopping for tiles, Jenny fell for these these forest green limestone tiles which became a ‘had to have it’ item.
A cluster of junk shop and street-find mirrors add a certain Thirties-era glamor to the bathroom.
The couple stacked two cabin beds to accommodate children, Ruby and Herb, and all their posessions. They can close their curtains, donated by a stylist neighbor, and create their own little world.
Herb was given his own Pure Evil rabbit by the East London graffiti artist after striking up a conversation with him while Duncan was buying some pieces for his company HQ.
The neon green hall shoe rack is one of Jenny’s favorite possessions. Furniture designer Michael Marriott made it especially for her to accommodate her beloved high-top sneaker collection.
Jenny loves the way the family’s lives have become intertwined with their home.

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