My kitchen Russell Norman has a family space for fridge magnets, pin-up memos and antique utensils
Our kitchen is the hub of family life, the fridge in particular. It’s our family message board: my daughters leave notes and drawings; I tack theatre tickets and utility bills under my array of magnets. When I’m not in Venice (where I’m writing a book) I will either be in my office or in the kitchen, testing recipes and, according to my wife, using every pot, pan, utensil and dish we own, and making the biggest mess. It is the most important room in the house.
For some dishes – such as seabream with crazy water – I’ve always wanted to get slices of garlic as thin as the gangster making ragu in Goodfellas, slicing his garlic with a razor blade. I found this hand-forged pocket knife (1) in a cook shop in Spain. It’s as sharp as a cut-throat razor, with a wooden sheaf to fold into. I use it only for garlic.
I picked up this trusty pasta cutter (2) in a flea market in a little square near the church of Miracoli in Venice. Because it’s so wonky, it gives this lovely, homestyle edge to my ravioli. And it makes a nice sound. Occasionally you see a piece of kit that isn’t useful, but you just like the look of it. I found this pair of scissors (3) at a street market in Turkey – they only cost a couple of coins. Once I started to use them at home, I realised they were really good: handmade, with a simple tightening mechanism and self-sharpening blades. They’ve never gone blunt. I like kitchen shortcuts – rather than slice pancetta, I’ll use my scissors. So a really good pair is a must.
My 1927 Gibson L-1 (4) usually hangs on the wall, next to my (nonroyalist) wife’s ironic collection of commemorative royal mugs. I play, and I have a few vintage guitars. This is one of the first commercially produced guitars that professionals used for jazz. Handmade, and very, very rare now. I found it on Bleecker Street, in NYC, in a shop called Matt Umanov. I walked in and remember saying to the
guy I’m not in the market for another guitar. And the whole time he was showing things, I was looking at this one. I asked about it, and he said: “Oh man, this guitar, it’s like it’s voodoo. It speaks to me.” And I said: “Yeah, it’s speaking to me.” It’s got these beautiful old transfers on it: a ship, a shell, a parrot and a dog, it could be Captain Jack Sparrow’s guitar. It’s got a beautiful warm sound: not for big concerts, as the guy in the shop said, it’s a couch guitar.
I don’t really collect things, but I do love kitsch fridge magnets. Nasty touristy ones, interesting quirky ones, I have all sorts. Two characters from My Neighbour Totoro – my daughters love Studio Ghibli; Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and a set of literary figures; an octopus – which is something people always give me because of the Polpo connection; and, my favourite, a giant plastic lobster (5) from a bucket-andspade shop in Margate. It’s designed to wobble about when you close the door.