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Home Comforts: Bridie Hall on first-rate bops, making pots and shopping for tops

The decorative artist and designer likes listening to the Beatles and has a shirt so pretty it’s always on display. But what’s hidden in her cupboards?

Illustrations
Grace Helmer
Home Comforts: Bridie Hall on first-rate bops, making pots and shopping for tops

Bridie Hall is perhaps best known for the shop she founded in Bloomsbury with her friend, the architect Ben Pentreath. Bijou but brilliant, Pentreath & Hall is a treasure chest of desirables, from beautiful books and postcards to lacquered lamp bases, needlework cushions and the odd well chosen antique. Best of everything on offer are Bridie’s own creations: a panoply of patterned wastepaper baskets, brightly coloured brush pots, lettered in gleaming gold; marbled lampshades; framed intaglio cases.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Bridie is something of a taste-shaper. Unsurprisingly, her late Regency townhouse in Islington, north London, is fit to bursting with exquisite things, whether that’s a blue floral shirt or a playful print by Hockney. And while we love the idea of Bridie hanging her laundry over the Aga while playing the Beatles, really we’re just dying to know what she listens to in her headphones… She says we’ll never know…

My most recent home improvement…
Building a Donald Judd-style desk/shelving unit conceived by William Smalley into my study. It’s been so cleverly designed for storage, and the top is a metre high, so I can stand upright to work at it without having to hunch over.

That room was intended to be my drawing studio, but I’ve almost exclusively been making pottery in there.

The latest addition to my wardrobe…
A beautiful pale-blue floral-print blouse by Zimmerman, bought from from Net-a-Porter. It has such lovely detailing on the collar, and every cloth button has a little orange flower on it. It’s hanging on my dressing room door on display, as it’s so pretty.

The most useful item in my kitchen…
My Shelia Maid clothes airer. It doesn’t get the dinner on the table, but it efficiently and tidily dries everything out of the way and in very good time above the Aga (which is probably the most useful item in my whole house).

What’s always in my fridge…
A pint of milk in a glass bottle. It has been delivered to my doorstep every Friday morning for the last 15 years by my lovely milkman, Ian, from Moreton Dairies.

The prize bottle in my drink’s cabinet…
I have a gorgeous bright-green lacquered drinks cabinet, but I’m not in the habit of populating it. It’s way too tempting! I’m an animal around that kind of thing.

The prize bottle in my house is whatever is ice cold and open, ready to be enjoyed by whoever is visiting.

Hanging on my walls…
My walls are filled with art. I’ve had a relatively new arrival from Lyndsey Ingram’s gallery: a screenprint of the poster for David Hockney’s Parade, the opera he designed in 1981 for the New York Met. I still need to get some muscle in to help me get it downstairs and hang it – it’s a mammoth 2×1.2m! I also have a fair collection of Robin Denny prints, which I absolutely love, and a large array of Peter Hone plasters lining my hallway.

The knick-knacks on my mantelpiece…
And endlessly changing parade of objects and curios, mixed with whatever I am working on and whatever might catch my eye from my larger collections – faux coral, geometric solids, rock crystals, seashells, candles, candlesticks and bud vases, hopefully with a flower or two from my garden.

The books on my shelf right now…
The Importance of Living, by Lin Yutang, which was published in 1937.

It’s a wry, witty antidote to the dizzying pace of the modern world. Lin Yutang’s prescription is the classic Chinese philosophy of life: revere inaction as much as action, invoke humour to maintain a healthy attitude, and never forget that there will always be plenty of fools around who are willing – indeed, eager – to be busy and make themselves useful. He also says to exercise power while you bask in the simple joy of existence. At a time when we’re overwhelmed with wake-up calls, it is a refreshing, playful reminder to savour life’s simple pleasures.

I’ve also got Land from the Masthead: A Circumnavigation of New Zealand in the Wake of Captain Cook, by Philip Houghton, published in 1968. It’s very slow-paced (I’ve spent the last three years making my way through) and paints a beautiful picture of the coastline of New Zealand in the mind’s eye.

The music on my stereo…
I play lots of CDs on my stereo: Born for a Purpose, by Dr Alimantado, The Blue Notebooks of Max Richter, Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow, played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Beatles’ White Album. What’s on my Apple Music playlist on my phone is a completely different answer, though…

Growing in my garden…
I have an apple and a fig tree growing on my roof terrace. It’ll be their third year of fruiting and I am going to make sure I take very good care of them and promise to feed them every fortnight.

I used to have two apple trees up there, but one died last summer (I think it drowned). I might fill its pot with tall sunflowers, after I drill a few drainage holes in its base.

Hidden away in my cupboards…
My blood runs cold thinking about this. It’s best described as something that needs addressing in the fullness of time. Maybe with a friend who has a car with a generous boot and the willingness to drive me to and from the dump a few times.

On my to-do list…
Well, I suppose my cupboards, now that you’ve brought it up! I’d like some purpose-built storage for my dressing room and a curtain to finally spare my modesty from the neighbours. I also need to get that Parade print downstairs and into the dining room, so I can enjoy it every day when I’m having my breakfast.

Cleaning my windows is also on the list, as is getting my moth-eaten rug cleaned and repaired. I want to buy a kiln, but that’s probably not a good idea…

Further reading:

Bridie Hall

Bridie Hall on Instagram

Pentreath & Hall

Photo credit: Katy Beveridge

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