Me And My Home: Finders keepers

Gwenda Brophy meets a couple who have created a very individual - and retro - space


Lloyd Rust lives with his wife Jo in an Arts and Crafts-style house in Bocking, Braintree, Essex

Lloyd Rust lives with his wife Jo in an Arts and Crafts-style house in Bocking, Braintree, Essex

We chose this house because we wanted a place with a bit of character and had already been down the Victorian terrace route, so we were looking to try out something a bit different. The house was built in 1928 but is located in one of the oldest, medieval market streets in the Braintree area. It is in the Arts and Craft style - part of the movement in the last half of the 19th century that was a reaction to the uniformity of Victorian mass production and which attempted to revive handicrafts and applied arts as well as to stimulate good design.

Although that is very much in line with our philosophy, quite simply we thought it had a bit more "punch" about it in terms of character, although we ended up choosing character over substance because there is actually nowhere to park. So far we have spent much of our time restoring some of the character that had been taken away - unblocking fireplaces, for example - while ensuring we kept as many of the original features as we could. Fortunately the house still had features like picture rails and the original pine built-in cabinets, which although are fairly basic we won't get rid of, and anyway we use them as our wardrobes.

In terms of the interior style it is something of an amalgam of Fifties to Seventies British design with all sorts of accoutrements added on. I think it is something of a reaction against my day job as salesroom manager of an auctioneer. I see my fill of Georgian and Victorian furniture all day long, so I want to live with something a bit different from that when I'm at home.

My philosophy for antiques is to buy what you want when you see it if you can afford it, especially as the sort of names I'm interested in don't come along every day. I am the extremely proud owner of two pieces by Gordon Russell, the furniture designer. I have managed to track down two variants of his famous Helix sideboard. One is a rosewood that was featured on the classic Homemaker china of the Fifties by Ridgway Potteries, who were in business from the mid-Fifties to 1964. The sideboard even has its CC41 utility stamp still on it. Then by chance 11 years later a house nearby was getting rid of furniture and I bought a second, this time in a light wood with circles and ellipses on it.

We have managed to discover great finds in all sorts of places. I found a Marcel Breuer Wassaly chair in a charity shop. As it's a Cassina version it only cost £18, although I considered that to still be a bargain. Our Stag furniture is a charity shop find as well. I rescued some G-Plan furniture from the auction house I used to work for a few years ago, long before the retro revival was as strong as it is now. They had two suites, I took one and they destroyed the other because they couldn't get rid of it. Jo has never forgiven me for not rescuing that one as well.

Although we are very different people, we both tend towards the same sort of taste. Jo trained as a shoe designer at Cordwainers - where Jimmy Choo also trained - and she possesses the eye of a good designer. I suppose you'd call our style eclectic, but even that's probably an understatement, and maybe disassociated is a better description.

I'm a great believer that you can't really know everything about an item unless you actually own one and live with it. Beautiful things should not just be like museum pieces. As far as I can see, there is also no automatic divide between a work of art and something that is also practical. We have a Georg Jensen set of cutlery that is both; and one of my favourite designers is Bernard Rooke, a studio potter who has been a big name since the Sixties. I have a couple of lamps of his, all sandy grainy texture. Originally he produced sculptures but found that if he made it into a lamp base it was more readily acceptable to the public.

Even though my first love is the Fifties to Seventies period, I am open to having items around from any other period - there is some 18th-century delft ware in the house. If something takes my fancy then it doesn't matter when it dates from. I drink out of Georgian glasses - or church chalices - depending how egotistical I'm feeling at the time.

The house is full of all the latest technology, which some people find surprising, but I don't remotely see any contradiction. You are still dealing with great design, and that for me can equally mean an up-to-date Bang & Olufsen sound system.

I think you could say we have created a fairly individual home for us and our house rabbits, Mollie and Kevin. They are our pride and joy and live in their own original Fifties or Sixties children's playpen.

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