Julia and Paul’s home gives vintage a new twist, mixed with rock ’n’ roll photography, iconic movie poster prints and quirky collectables
i’m drawn to objects that tell a story,’ says Julia Thompson. And true to her word, she has plenty of tales about the vintage finds dotted around her family home. There’s a great story of how she haggled over a pair of orange Seventies swivel chairs in the blazing heat of Provence. And then there’s the one about rummaging her way around Amsterdam’s flea markets in search of her favourite amber glassware. With Julia, even the more contemporary pieces come with a backstory, such as the portraits of Jarvis Cocker that remind her of her Nineties partying days. Or the risqué Ellen von Unwerth print in the master bedroom. ‘It was the first piece of art Paul and I bought together,’ she says. ‘Not every woman would fancy that over her bed, but I love it.’
Julia has always had an eye for the uncommon beauty of vintage pieces and the home she shares with her husband Paul and their son Frank brings out the glamorous side of all things aged. ‘Some people assume that vintage style equals fusty and dusty and I get that nobody wants to live in a granny house,’ she says. ‘But who wouldn’t want to live in a home that feels individual?’
For Julia, creating a look that’s fresh – and 100 per cent granny-free – is all about how she puts old and new pieces together. ‘The beauty of using vintage items is that it stirs you into being creative, as you’ve got to give them a different character,’ she says. ‘You have to add your own twist.’
Julia worked as a fashion stylist for several years, so mixing, rearranging and what she calls ‘endlessly frou-frouing’ come naturally to her. ‘Fiddling around until things look right is something I’ve always been able to do,’ she says. ‘It’s just that, these days, I’ve progressed from doing it on models to working on a larger scale, both here and in clients’ homes.’
The family has lived in this Georgian townhouse for 10 years, but reinventing its style and structure has been a slow-burner, rather than a rush-in-andrip-out project. ‘Frank was a baby when we moved in, so we just enjoyed living here and took our time deciding what we wanted to do,’ says Julia. Then, three years ago, the couple finally bit the bullet and reworked the house’s layout. Robert Dye Architects created a double-height extension at the back, which added a study to the higher level and a large kitchen-diner at garden level. A set of roof lights and subtle vertical openings between levels allow a free flow of light, so the two floors feel connected.
‘Previously, there was an Eighties-style conservatory at the back of the house,’ says Julia. ‘It wasn’t an inviting space – it was damp and cold and we avoided it. This also made us less inclined to use the garden, which was a long, overgrown patch, which our dog Coco destroyed after racing up and down in pursuit of the local foxes.’
Once the extension was complete, the pair complemented it with a garden redesign by Barbara Samitier, turning that stretch of wrecked lawn into a sequence of serene spaces full of lush greenery and linked by paved paths. ‘We now use the outside spaces all the time – eating breakfast, sitting out with friends or having dinner together,’ says Julia. ‘It has really transformed how we live.’ The garden design works especially well because Barbara looked at the house’s interior style before she undertook any work outside. ‘She understood my love of intriguing finds and created a garden that feels similar. So it’s relaxed, but also dotted with hidden treasures,’ says Julia.
Back inside, her interesting finds range from mid-century sofas to iconic film and exhibition posters. ‘I love the way a poster sums up the glamour of an era, even down to the fonts and images,’ she says. ‘And when one includes a picture of Steve Mcqueen, that’s a definite bonus.’ By mixing pieces that whisper of a glamorous past with a dash of modernity, Julia’s home feels contemporary. Lighting by Jasper Morrison, a De La Espada coffee table and a supersized Poliform bed all add polish to the weathered edges. But rest assured, there’s no danger of Julia succumbing to this aesthetic entirely. ‘The idea of living in a white box full of modern furniture makes my heart sink a little,’ she says, smiling. ‘I prefer pieces that come with a bit of soul.’
Photography displayed around the home also works with Julia’s design ethos, including Dominique Tarlé’s image of Keith Richards and his son Marlon, which was taken in 1971 during the musician’s self-imposed tax exile to France. ‘I like that it’s not immediately obvious who they are,’ says Julia. ‘You wonder what’s happening in that particular moment before you think about the rock star element.’ As with everything else Julia has curated for this home, there’s a feeling of a tale behind the acquisition of this print just waiting to be uncovered. ‘Who can resist a good story?’ she says.
Find out more about Julia’s work at frankinteriors. space. See Barbara Samitier’s landscaping portfolio at barbarasamitiergardens.co.uk