A FINE LINE
In Kathryn and rob’s reworked Georgian apartment, even the pared-back spaces are still full of clever and creative touches
Kathryn and rob’s pared-back georgian apartment is full of clever and creative touches
kathryn Bristow says that in another life she would have made a pretty good detective. ‘I love a bit of investigating,’ she says – although she’s usually in pursuit of good design rather than master criminals. ‘I can spend hours online, tracking down a particular vintage light or an item of furniture. And if I can’t I find what I want, I’ve been known to make it myself!’
This ground-floor apartment in Bristol, which Kathryn shares with her partner Rob Law and their children, Ida, four, and Rafe, two, has certainly benefitted from her sleuthing skills. Special pieces include vintage Bertoia dining chairs and a Lissoni sofa that spreads out on an epic, luxe scale.
Meanwhile, a simpler coffee table and a sculptural modern chandelier demonstrate Kathryn’s knack for improvisation – the latter was fashioned from welded metal piping and light bulbs. Even the dining table is the result of Kathryn ‘having a very clear picture of what I wanted in my head but not being able to find it’. The solution? She found a reclaimed church door that was exactly the right size and shape and then got a local forge to make steel legs for it.
This creative approach is evident throughout the flat, which Kathryn and Rob bought seven years ago. ‘We weren’t looking to move because we hadn’t really finished doing up our last place,’ she says. ‘But I idly picked up the local property paper and there was a half-page ad for this flat. All it showed was the view from the back garden – but I immediately wanted to see more. I knew it would be good.’
The flat’s previous style was a ‘conveniently blank canvas,’ says Kathryn. ‘In fact, it was so plain that Rob actually thought there was nobody living in it. In reality, they were just very tidy people who weren’t particularly into interiors.’ However, all that blandness meant the couple felt no compunction in ripping out the bathroom and kitchen and making an impact with their own style. Herringbone parquet replaced the existing flooring, which was largely carpet over concrete (‘but the bog standard version, not cool concrete’). The couple also knocked through from the living room to the kitchen and, most recently, added a master suite in a two-storey extension.
This sleek addition was built into what had been an enclosed, high-walled courtyard and has a large bathroom, a dressing area and the bed up on a mezzanine level. ‘I wanted it to feel like a grown-up space,’ says Kathryn. Skinny steel balustrades and a metal staircase keep the look sharp in both the bathroom and the bedroom above. ‘For me, the more pared back a space is, the more restful it feels,’ she says.
But even with its grey walls and metal elements, the mood in this home never veers into feeling too cold, with flourishes of creativity dotted around. The Smeg fridge comes in an acidic lime shade, matched by the paint on the front door. A wall clock tick-tocks away without the need for conventional numerals, and a message in decal lettering greets visitors as they hang up their coats. Entitled Le mur du couloir (the corridor wall), the paragraph itemises the qualities, uses and exact colour of said wall. ‘I loved it when Studio Be-poles created everyday objects such as paper bags and boxes of matches and listed the “ingredients” in beautiful typography on the outside,’ explains Kathryn. ‘This is my not-so serious tribute to that clever idea.’
Ultimately, this is a home that doesn’t take design too seriously. ‘I love our investment pieces, like the sofa, but nothing in this house is off limits,’ explains Kathryn. Which is just as well because Ida and Rafe also love the sofa, but for different reasons. ‘In their eyes, we’ve bought them their very own soft-play area – and they can’t believe their luck.’