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Rooms Full of Stories: A Shop Owner’s Colorful Cottage from New Book “House London”

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Rooms Full of Stories: A Shop Owner’s Colorful Cottage from New Book “House London”

November 14, 2022

Sisters Ellie and Anna Stathaki grew up in Greece and separately made their way to London for postgrad studies. Nearly 20 years later, they both found themselves happily, if unexpectedly, still in London and working in overlapping fields: Ellie is the architecture editor at Wallpaper* magazine and Anna is an architecture and interiors photographer.

Not surprisingly, they decided to collaborate on a contemporary design book, and the subject they zeroed in on is something they both love about their adopted home: the many inventive ways people from near and far live in the city’s historic brick houses. “London has rows upon rows of them, and, at first glance, they can look quite similar, but they’re not, especially once you step inside,” they say. House London, newly out from Frances Lincoln, presents a series of case studies that are, explains Ellie, “essentially about diversity, versatility, and imagination.”

Here, we’re presenting a notable example from the book: Cottage Noir, online shop owner Kemide Lawson’s Georgian worker’s cottage in north London, a Grade-II listed structure layered with elements that celebrate her family’s Nigerian and Jamaican heritage. Join us for a tour.

Photographs by Anna Stathaki from House London courtesy of Frances Lincoln Publishers, unless noted.

&#8\2\20;our house was built sometime in the \1750s and \1760s as a bakery  9
Above: “Our house was built sometime in the 1750s and 1760s as a bakery and a baker’s cottage, now joined,” say Kemi, who lives here with her husband and their two young daughters. “It had been well cared for, which was lucky: Since it’s listed, there was very little we could do to it structurally. But to me it was still a blank canvas. I saw how the house was full of histories and stories and was inspired by this to use my family’s African and Caribbean heritage as the basis for my interior design plans.”

The living room has fireplaces at either end; Kemi tiled the nonworking one in a random black and white pattern to “lend some energy to the space—I love geometric shapes and the symbolism of them is part of the design landscape of my West African heritage.”

kemi, who formerly worked in corporate finance, and her sister lara senbanjo, a 10
Above: Kemi, who formerly worked in corporate finance, and her sister Lara Senbanjo, a digital marketing specialist, together run The Cornrow, an online emporium that they founded in 2020 to offer “housewares, books, and lifestyle products that celebrate and center the Black experience.”

Kemi and her husband were both born in London, spent their childhoods in Lagos, Nigeria, and returned to the UK in their early teens to go to school. “My husband is of Nigerian heritage and I have Jamaican (from my mother) and Nigerian (from my father) heritage.” Photograph by Andrew Urwin, courtesy of The Cornrow.

a vintage asafo flag from ghana, featuring a welcoming tree and a union jack, h 11
Above: A vintage Asafo flag from Ghana, featuring a welcoming tree and a Union Jack, hangs over the sofa. The Mickey and Mercy Cushion, £49, by Shine Shine of Cape Town, and the Yael et Valerie Cushion in sage, £65, are both from The Cornrow.
there&#8\2\17;s a working fireplace with a matching green mantel at the oth 12
Above: There’s a working fireplace with a matching green mantel at the other end of the room, which is papered in Textured Grasscloth from Altfield.

Kemi herself oversaw the design with help from her mother’s partner, Jonathan Farrer, former owner of Interior Supply at Chelsea Design Centre. “Jonathan was an expert sounding board for my ideas,” she says. “He advised on suitable fabrics and colors while literally and metaphorically holding my hand as I made some pretty bold decisions.” For the installation, Kemi hired a contractor who oversaw a team of specialists.

the kitchen viewed from the front hallway. the black and white wallpaper is yae 13
Above: The kitchen viewed from the front hallway. The black and white wallpaper is Yael et Valerie’s Gingerbread pattern depicting ornate historic houses in Haiti. The mother and daughter textile house hand-draws their designs and produces them in women-owned factories in Haiti.
&#8\2\20;the existing cabinets were in great shape and good quality, so we  14
Above: “The existing cabinets were in great shape and good quality, so we just repainted them,” says Kemi, who chose a bright green from Little Greene called Sage & Onions. “The kitchen overlooks the conservatory and the garden, and I wanted something to reflect that. I also wanted a vibrant color to make the kitchen a fun, energetic place.”
the table stands alongside the old hearth adorned with celebrated british artis 15
Above: The table stands alongside the old hearth adorned with celebrated British artist Chris Ofili’s Afromuses Man and Woman Set, a pair of his paintings on dishtowels from The Cornrow. “This may be a humble tea towel, but it can also be stretched onto a canvas at your local framer and double as a beautiful and affordable artwork for your home,” reads the accompanying description.” In fact we insist you have these two framed—it’s a must.”
tromp l&#8\2\17;oeil book wallpaper from rebel walls disguises the door to  16
Above: Tromp l’oeil book wallpaper from Rebel Walls disguises the door to Kemi’s husband’s office.
past & connection, a yael et valerie wallpaper depicting 500 years of black 17
Above: Past & Connection, a Yael et Valerie wallpaper depicting 500 years of Black womanhood, adorns the upstairs hall. The wool carpet that travels up the stairs and into the four rooms is the Margo Selby Stripe Sun Seasalter design from Alternative.
kemi runs the cornrow from her home office, shown here, which doubles as the fa 18
Above: Kemi runs The Cornrow from her home office, shown here, which doubles as the family room, aka “the snug.”
one of the upstairs bedrooms was converted into a dressing room that kemi and h 19
Above: One of the upstairs bedrooms was converted into a dressing room that Kemi and her husband share. She found her dressing table at Anthropologie, and the art on the facing wall is a mounted textile from Zimmer + Rohde: “It depicts faces that to me resemble African masks.”
painterly clouds—designer&#8\2\17;s guild cielo wallpaper—env 20
Above: Painterly clouds—Designer’s Guild Cielo wallpaper—envelop the main bedroom. The Marseille Woven Blanket is from Atelier Yuchi.
house london is £35 at uk booksellers. it&#8\2\17;s available in the s 21
Above: House London is £35 at UK booksellers. It’s available in the States from Bookshop for $46.50.

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