The glass menagerie

What makes a house a home? For the chef-patron Jacob Kenedy, it's art, animals and space to entertain
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The Independent Online

When Jacob Kenedy moved into a new home last year, you might have thought he would be happy enough with the design: an early Victorian house in Stockwell, south London, its previous owner was Mark Homewood of Designers Guild. So far, so chic, but it wasn't quite right for Kenedy. Perhaps the 30-year-old chef-patron of acclaimed Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo in London's Soho is just used to doing things his own way.

With Victor Hugo, his partner both at home and at work (they run Bocca together), Kenedy began a bit of a redesign. "Mark had done a lovely job on the house already, so we undertook probably quite unnecessary works," he acknowledges. "The bedroom and bathroom at the top are as found, but going down the house we did more. The kitchen we remade. The basement we completely gutted, and made into a slightly decadent entertaining space. This was a three-bedroomed house, now it's a one-bedroomed house, so we've got lots of entertaining space."

The couple went all-out on the decor for their various living spaces: from the bright-yellow paint that brightens up the basement to the huge looped curtains – or "magnificent beasts", as Kenedy terms them – of the more formal entertaining area upstairs. "They are quite theatrical – and there's a grandness to that room anyway," he says.

The decorations also hint at the alternative path Kenedy's life might have taken: all those pretty blown-glass bowls and ornaments are the work of his own hand. "For five or six years I was going twice a week to the London Glass-blowing Workshop in Bermondsey, and I very nearly became a glass-blower. k I was about to sign with the Conran Shop, but I spent a few weeks in the kitchens at Moro, and fell in love with cooking."

Today, Kenedy guards the pieces he made back then rather jealously. Glass-blowing is apparently a fragile talent and he doesn't think he could make them now: "I had a go recently and it's not like riding a bike! Maybe one day I'll start doing it again, but I definitely don't have the time to relearn at the moment."

Those familiar with Kenedy's book The Geometry of Pasta, which combines recipes with attention to design, won't be surprised at the chef's artistic bent. And it clearly runs in the family: his mother Haidee Becker is an artist whose work adorns the walls of Kenedy's home. She, too, takes an aesthetic interest in food, and many of the paintings around the house are her large canvases of meat and fish – the real-life subjects of which were sourced from Kenedy's own restaurant.

"I've got a couple of portraits by her, one of a seated lady which I love, and then a series about food," explains Kenedy. "She took a gallery space across the road from our restaurant, and she would kidnap a lot of the food from the kitchen and paint it. In the ones of the pigs' heads, I think she captured the beauty and the sadness of meat."

Of course, this being a chef's house, plenty of thought went into the kitchen, which Kenedy and Hugo remade keeping one side old-fashioned (with the original "epic butcher's block")and the other sleekly modern. It was crucial to have plenty of room and lots of work surfaces: "If you're cooking for a large number of people, it gets full of pots and pans and plates. I have acres of space now, which makes me happy. We also have a lovely gas cooker, a 1930s indestructible beast, but it was very cheap, only £100."

Design was important even in the most practical room of the house. To keep things stylish and neat, Kenedy resisted the temptation to get cupboards where you can "just shut the door on the mess", opting instead for open storage. "It can look quite beautiful, but it also prevents things from getting too cluttered as I can be quite chaotic."

Kenedy has had to force himself to be tidy: "I've taught myself, because naturally in the kitchen I make a lot of mess." But it might be the good influence of his partner too; he confesses that, "I'm the slob and Victor is organised."

Together though, they had a lot of fun redecorating their home. The result is a colourful combination of clean and streamlined, and ostentatious opulence. One thing's for sure – they've got it just how they want it: "We're in heaven," enthuses Kenedy. "It was chaotic hell when the builders were here, but then they left and we got a puppy and now it's domestic bliss."

Jacob Kenedy is the chef-patron of Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer St, London W1 ( boccadilupo.com). 'Bocca Cookbook' is out now (Bloomsbury, £30)

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