A Home with a History: the elegant charm of a vintage-filled Arts and Crafts house in Brondesbury
Having fallen instantly in love with the sensitively restored bones of their corner-plot rental in north-west London, Andy Moller and Nathan Cole set about transforming it into a calming and considered sanctuary with roots firmly in the past
- Busola Evans
- Kensington Leverne
- Harry Cave
For most, the hunt for a new home comes with an exhaustive list of requirements. But Andy Moller and Nathan Cole are not ones to be encumbered by the usual demands of location or period. Instead, the couple have always favoured a rather more unorthodox approach. “We simply look for a feeling. That’s it”, laughs Australian-born Andy, creative director of Studio Boum, which organises bespoke experiences for clients across fashion and design. “You can walk into a room and instantly feel a positive or negative vibe.” It’s a strategy that has served them well, seeing them live in a lively mix of rentals in varying parts of London over time.
Three years ago, they came across their current home, an elegant three-bedroom Arts and Crafts house on a corner plot in Brondesbury, north-west London. One half of a more substantial building, it was once the residence of an opera singer before its current owners – Andy and Nathan’s landlords – took it over and sensitively restored the place. When Andy and Nathan stepped inside “one dreary, rainy evening after work”, that elusive emotional connection was immediate.
“It had the right design qualities. It was clear someone had cared for the space, which is always important to us,” explains Nathan, cofounder and creative director of soon-to-launch sustainable luxury gift-wrapping service Colford. “The owner had put in beautiful timber surfaces, the bay windows had gorgeous dark-terracotta ledges and there were marble fireplaces.” For this pair, who “both come with strong design expectations and really care about the bones of a place and its aesthetic”, it was perfect.
Today, Andy and Nathan’s home is not just a masterclass in how to introduce warmth and authenticity to a rented property, but a platform for their love of art and vintage finds – and their clever knack for putting them together. Beneath a 19th-century painting in their kitchen, for instance, you’ll find a shelf dotted with Victorian inkwells, 1950s brown glassware and some David Mellor stoneware. “They’re all from different eras but weirdly it’s harmonious,” says Andy.
Speaking to them both, it’s clear that this is a couple with a design ethos powered by instinct and a genuine desire to respect their home’s architecture, while remaining authentic to themselves.
Andy: “If you look at all the places we’ve lived in the past, they’re all very different. I don’t know if it’s necessarily practicalities we’re looking for. We’re more interested in the care that’s been put in. We gravitate towards considered spaces, perhaps because we’re overly detailed-oriented ourselves.”
Nathan: “Since moving here, we’ve adapted to the building and sourced things to fit within it. We’ve done that with every space we’ve lived in, which is probably why we’ve got such a mix of things. There are, of course, some objects we’ve brought with us because they worked and others we’ve changed out. We’re in a constant editing process, but it’s fun. And it’s good to be respectful of the space.”
Andy: “We both have an appreciation for different eras. I trained as an architect and I’m always happy to go with the flow of a building, because I want to talk the same language as a space. But I do also love postmodern style and the work of designers such as Richard Sapper, so that creeps in.”
Nathan: “Living in this house has been a wonderful history lesson. I knew a bit about the Arts and Crafts movement but I’d never done a deep dive until we moved here and started buying books on designers such as Archibald Knox and William Morris. All that research has meant my interest in design has just blossomed. At the moment, I’m reading about Oliver Messel; I’m fascinated with the beautiful rooms he created for Princess Margaret in Mustique.
“We’ve brought quite a few period-appropriate touches of our own into the kitchen, including the collection of hammered-pewter pieces, which are very Arts and Crafts. The ceramics in the corner of the kitchen are by Pearsons of Chesterfield, which is my hometown, so there’s a personal connection too. The pottery produced everyday earthenware from the early 19th century until the 1970s.
“I have always been quite handy. I’ve reupholstered our footstool, made some cushions and ran up the curtain that separates the living room from the hallway. We initially thought it was a strange place to have a curtain, but there’s an automatic light in the hall that’s always flashing, so we needed a solution. I wanted something with just a hint of bygone eras – hence the moiré fabric and tassel trim – but by going for a block of neutral colour we kept it feeling contemporary.”
Andy: “We have tried to maximise space, but I don’t think everything we do is functional. The dining table in the bay window could have been bigger, for example, but ultimately we just wanted a smaller one that looks good with flowers on it, because that brings us more joy. If we want somewhere to sit around for hours, we can use the kitchen.”
Nathan: “The three-piece furniture suite in our living room, which originally came from the Conran Shop, has travelled with us in our last three homes and been reupholstered three times – we just love the shapes.
“The rug in there is from Maison de Vacances in Paris. We’ve collected other pieces over time too; we found the milking stools at Ardingly Antiques Fair and we’ve picked up quite a few artworks online as well as from dealers. The cubist painting by Tom Pemberton came from Lawrence Prentice Art and Antiques. We also have a few pieces from the Peanut Vendor, which is near where we used to live in east London.
“I started collecting Constance Spry pottery when I was about 17. I had a Saturday job in a flower shop and became obsessed. They are so beautiful – and they distract the eye from the television on the wall.
“Our barley-twist bedside tables are actually vintage cutlery stands. I found one on an auction website and, by chance, there was another on a different site at the same time. The second one came from a lady who said it had been a wedding present to her parents in around 1915; apparently they were quite common wedding presents at the time. It’s fascinating living with that kind of history. We do both wonder about the past lives of our furniture.”
Andy: “Our work involves a lot of jumping from city to city and that’s exciting, but our home needs to be a calming space. We don’t get to spend a lot of time here, so when we do we want it to be a place of rest.”
Nathan: “It is a place of inspiration as well. We read a lot of books here, we watch a lot of films. We host and we garden – and all those things are part of our work lives too. Precisely because of that, we definitely need to have some level of disconnection. Thankfully this house gives just that.”
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