My Home: Jo Gordon, knitwear designer
Jo Gordon's designs may feature in Hollywood, but her business is still run from her simple, organic home in Dulwich
Wednesday 26 October 2005
I trained as an artist at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen and lived in a rather grotty student flat that cost just £12 a week. But I loved living there because of the feeling of space you have in Scotland.
When I moved to London to attend the Royal College of Art and then to set up my knitwear business, I wanted somewhere that had the same kind of feeling of space. My husband Ian and I started living in Camberwell, but we'd come across drug addicts at the bus stop outside our house - and there wasn't even a hint of a garden.
It wasn't the sort of place we wanted to bring up a child, and so we started looking for somewhere else and eventually we hit on Dulwich. For me Dulwich is perfect. It has lots of parks, and green spaces and you can walk to most places so it's ideal for my three year old daughter, Anna Rose.
Also, our house is practically a mansion in London terms. We have four bedrooms and there's enough space for me to have my office on the ground floor, which means that I can occasionally hold sample sales of my cashmere jerseys, wraps, and hats in the front room. When we moved here originally, I had wanted to have my studio in the loft, but as yet we've never had enough money to do the conversion.
It took quite a while to find the house, but as soon as I walked in I knew it was the right place. I love lots of things about my house, but I think it's the amount of space and the big garden that really make it for me. A Russian family owned it before us, and they had it decorated in the most garish colours, things like mustard yellow, airforce blue and khaki green and the garden was full of beetroot and hundreds of old vodka bottles. But most of the original details, like the fireplaces and cornicing, were all intact. Ian is an architect and he was instrumental in all the design decisions in the house. My main decorating task was to undo all their DIY. I returned to a blank canvas. What I love most about my house now are the clean white walls. I grew up in the 80s, in the heyday of Laura Ashley when floral prints and wood chip were rife, so I like to keep things really simple. I don't like prints and can't stand colour on walls, and really hate wall-to-wall carpeting. I've got wooden floors throughout, it has a very Scandinavian feel. I find it is therapeutic to be able to feel the floor beneath your feet. I don't like curtains as they take up too much space. I made blinds from raw artist's canvas.
My kitchen leads out to the garden and you step straight onto the grass. I've grown masses of vegetables, everything from butternut squashes to courgettes and tomatoes, and I'm quite determined to become self-sufficient soon. It's ridiculous buying things like beans from Thailand.
Some people go to a gym to relax, but I guess I'm a bit more traditional and find that gardening is a much better way to switch off. I'm really into recycling as well and we have the largest pile in the whole street. I recycle everything possible.
My favourite room to relax is the back drawing room. I spend most of my evenings sitting in my Hans Wegner rocking chair and knitting. I had my rocking chair especially made with some money I inherited from my two grandmothers. We've been lucky in that we have been given quite a lot of furniture. As wedding presents, we were given a Le Corbusier chaise longue and a leather chair. Probably the most expensive item we have is our Zanotta sofa, which my husband bought on impulse. It was incredibly expensive but it is very stylish. I would say that most of my inspiration is a result of constant trips round junk shops. I have a beautiful piece of fabric, draped over one of my sofas, which is a patchwork that was made in 1880. I bought it from an old lady at a vintage fair in Hammersmith. It was quite expensive but I am so glad that I bought it: every time I look at it I feel inspired by the quality and level of workmanship.
My daughter Anna-Rose has the biggest room in the house, it faces the front road. We originally planned to have her room but found ourselves being woken up every night by the milk man. She has 1960s textile hangings on the wall, it has huge windows and is very sunny. It is full of funny things I have made her, a patchwork wigwam, lots of rag dolls, a huge humpty dumpty, and dressing up things.
Our bedroom is on the top floor at the back of the house. It looks straight onto an oak tree, which is always full of squirrels in the morning. Living and working in the same space has its good and bad sides. There can be times when I don't leave my house for days, and it's hard to switch off. But I love my house and being here. Now when clients like Gwen Stefani and Natalie Portman call up to order things from the States, it's quite strange to think that everything just starts from my home.
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