Rural bliss in N16

Media couple Rob and Clare Steiner have swapped their achingly chic white apartment on the urban front line for the lived-in look, complete with labrador, in that famous oasis of bucolic peace, Stoke Newington. James Sherwood reports. Photographs by Mykel Nicolaou

LONDON'S loft-dwelling militant tendency would rather shred their Carhartt jeans than contemplate the country life. People generally come to, not from, London. It is inexplicable to them why anyone would yearn for country living in London.

Take two teenage sweethearts born and bred in Hampstead. Rob Steiner is an ad director for BBH in Soho and his wife Clare is a freelance fashion and interiors PR. You would imagine a couple of media darlings would live in an achingly chic apartment somewhere on the Caledonian Road. They did until a year ago when Clare Steiner viewed a three-storey Stoke Newington house colonised by a white Rastafarian and his "family" of lodgers. Formerly an in-house fashion PR, she wanted out. The house is her declaration of independence.

"I've always had an instinctive feeling Rob and I will eventually live in the country," says Clare Steiner. "In fact, I had a dream about the kind of house I wanted in London before I found Stoke Newington. We had been living in a white-walled, one-room apartment when I went to view this house. I knew immediately it was right. The walls were painted in warm colours; there were children running up and down the stairs. The house was a bit messy and worn in and I kind of like that. One of the neighbours told me Finley Quaye lived here."

How a white Rastafarian's vision of interiors appealed to a woman wanting country style in town is surprisingly simple. The existing wall colour changed Steiner's eye. "Rob wanted white walls again. I wanted colour. He said no and went to work. I just did it." The wall colours in the house are not obvious. If they were hot primaries, the house would lose the quirky, country style. Instead she chose Paint Magic jade, saffron, cool yellow and peppermint.

Stoke Newington is a grab bag of artisans, students and families fleeing price hikes in central London. The Steiners' house was already fitted in every room with rough-hewn wooden units, shelves and mantelpieces made by local company Distressed Designs. Curiously, there were no interior doors so the Steiners had simple wooden doors fitted. The faded wall colours and distressed wood fixtures suggest a nicely dilapidated family house in the country. If it were human, this house would be an attractive older woman who has resisted the temptation to be nipped and tucked.

"The bathroom is my favourite," says Steiner. The freestanding bath and sink unit are pure Merchant Ivory, offset by four symmetrical glass brick "windows" and Prada Boutique peppermint walls. "The bathroom is so important to me," she says. "It is spacious, tranquil and serene... especially if I have a glass of wine in the bath. My black Labrador, Bodie, likes to eat the bubbles and then collapse on the bathroom rug."

A real country interior is like a comfortable pair of slippers: well- worn and welcoming. Instead of show-off pieces, their house is littered with comfort-comes-first furnishing. "We've always had this dream of lounging on two squashy sofas watching videos," says Steiner, "but, even though we have two sofas, we always end up on the same one." The sofas in their sitting room enclose a corner around the real fireplace and invite you to curl up with Bodie.

Bodie and Lettuce the cat are immortalised in a cartoon family portrait of the Steiners in the sitting room. "I'd seen these cartoons by an artist called Dennis and commissioned him to do a family cartoon as a surprise for Rob," says Steiner. It is touches like this that personalise an interior. "This isn't anybody else's idea of home," she says. "It is ours."

The sitting room interior tells their story. A floor-to-ceiling alcove is crammed with sculptures and masks collected on their travels. In a parallel alcove is a wall of travel guides, which they buy before each trip. Rob's "toys", his lava lamps and strobe light, are remarkably unobtrusive in the sitting room even though the Steiners are building a third-floor den to house Rob's vinyl collection. Already in place is a vintage poster for The Ladykillers which, Steiner says, is the keynote for the decoration of the room. Also on the top floor is her office, from which she does freelance PR for the Jermyn Street shirtmakers TM Lewin.

The interior quietly says family, comfort and calm. "I think, when we have children, we will eventually move to the country," says Steiner. "But we do have the best of country life with Clissold Park around the corner and neighbours like Sue." Nobody in London even acknowledges their neighbours, let alone pop round for a coffee or dog-sit like Clare and Sue. Before you think, "God, how suburban," bear in mind that the Steiners lived next door to DJs in Caledonian Road. It sounds great until you've had to live through Decksanddrumsandrockandroll at 5am every day.

The Steiners' own brand of urban country living is meant for boozy Sunday lunches with a crowd of friends, for mixing a pitcher of Martini and playing Seventies vinyl in the den, or for a private viewing of The Ladykillers languishing on a sofa by the open fire. And, if it's good enough for Finley Quaye...

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions