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New Beginnings: The Atelier Ellis Flagship Opens in Bath

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New Beginnings: The Atelier Ellis Flagship Opens in Bath

n the window sill behind colorist Cassandra Ellis’s right shoulder are rows and rows of seedlings. These green shoots are destined for the allotment she tends in Tuckers Meadows on the edge of Bath, the city she has recently moved to. They include salad leaves, flowers, and—importantly—lemon verbena, which she intends to serve as a refreshing tea to those who visit her newly opened store: “a tiny, vertical townhouse” on Walcot Street.

Cassandra—whose work we have followed since she founded Atelier Ellis is 2018—has a uniquely poetic approach to color. For her, it is the thing that people hold on to, come back to, and project forward to. It’s what drives her to manufacture peerless paints that “create quiet, joyful backdrops to people’s homes and living, helping them tell their unique stories of home in the way they choose.”

It follows that her first public-facing venture is not only domestic in size but also in approach: a space for tea drinking and daydreaming. Let’s take a look around:

from the street, an unassuming shop sign catches the light: “i&#8\2\ 17
Above: From the street, an unassuming shop sign catches the light: “I’m very conscious that our branding has to be quiet,” says Cassandra. “It’s about us helping people tell their story of home. If it was all about me, then we’ve already got it wrong.”

“Color is a weird thing,” Cassandra admits. “As soon as you take it home it changes, it morphs. Here, our job is mostly to get people to think about how they would like to live and what kinds of colors they would like to live with.” To start that conversation, Cassandra has created a welcoming space in which people “can come and sit for as long as they want and talk to somebody—or not if they’d prefer—about color. I want people to come and feel comfortable, to show them different ways of using color, and perhaps give them permission to start thinking about color in different ways.”

the window seat was made on site from oak floorboards left by the previous tena 18
Above: The window seat was made on site from oak floorboards left by the previous tenants. The curve at the end of the bench replicates the stone curve in the doorway. On display are swatches of Cassandra’s new collection, “Beginnings”.

Color samples are displayed on a bespoke, recycled oak frame. The horizontal bars are grooved to hold Atelier Ellis “brushouts” (recycled A4 color cards that are hand-painted with two coats of paint). Customers will be able to play with palettes and look at them vertically on the frame as they would at home. (For environmental reasons, Atelier Ellis stopped selling sample pots at the start of the year.)

the view through to the front room. the restored wooden flooring is original to 19
Above: The view through to the front room. The restored wooden flooring is original to the building. From the ground floor, visitors are encouraged to take a “color box” with them and wander upstairs, where they will find two very different rooms that double as exhibition spaces.

For the store opening, Cassandra has curated a selection of images by the photographer Jessica MacCormick and a display of 50 hand-thrown cups by Catherine and Matt West of Pottery West. Both artists resonate for Cassandra, who was born in New Zealand.

the front gallery is painted in under wood, &#8\2\20;a meditative dark gree 20
Above: The front gallery is painted in Under Wood, “a meditative dark green”; the cabinets and fireplace are Aged Black. The framed photograph is by Jessica MacCormick.

“Jessica’s images explore blossoming, blooming, and imperfection and are Kiwi in tone,” Cassandra notes. “Kiwis don’t have the need to fill in every gap; we don’t need everything to be finished. There has to be enough room for people to find themselves within the work, which is what I think Jessica has done with this series.”

50 cups by pottery west in an antique display cabinet. the walls here are paint 21
Above: 50 Cups by Pottery West in an antique display cabinet. The walls here are painted in Under Wood; the floor and skirting are Hummingbird.

“50 Cups” was Pottery West’s response to the store opening. “In New Zealand, when you meet somebody for the first time, they’re straight over your threshold,” Cassandra explains. “There’s none of this ‘let’s meet in a cafe 15 times first,’ and I miss that living here. And what do you normally do when you invite someone in? You offer then a tea, a coffee, a drink, which is how the idea for the cups emerged. Every single one of these cups is unique,” she continues, “which is perfect because everybody will be able to see themselves in one of them.”

an atelier ellis color box sits on the desk in the rear gallery, where the wall 22
Above: An Atelier Ellis color box sits on the desk in the rear gallery, where the walls are painted Tamaki: “It’s always summer somewhere, where the ocean is the perfect milky shade of blue.”

For Cassandra, each exhibition represents a chance to introduce exceptional creators to a different audience. “They receive all the sales from the site,” she explains. “There is nothing in it for me except the joy of being able to share their work.” This creative looseness and generosity is partly the reason Cassandra moved from London to Bath. Following a serious illness, she felt compelled to simplify her life. “I didn’t want to slowly slide into what was expected of an interiors brand, because that’s not really what I’m about,” she says. “I wanted less so I could live a better life and do better work,” she says. “Ironically, by moving to Bath, my life has initially been made much more complicated. I’ve set up a factory and a shop and we’ve bought another derelict house, but I know that in three or four months’ time, it will be a much simpler and much better life.”

zumai walls in cassandra’s studio space. a noguchi paper desk light sits 23
Above: Zumai walls in Cassandra’s studio space. A Noguchi paper desk light sits on the table with a piece of antique Japanese boro linen and a ceramic pot by Jennifer Morris.

The seedlings on her windowsill are part and parcel of that vision. “Food is really important to us as a family, and I love gardening and flowers, and I wanted that to be part of who we are as a business as well.” Staff are encouraged to spend a couple of (paid) hours a week at the Atelier Ellis allotment, “fiddling in the soil” or cutting flowers for the store “so that we always have something alive.”

the walls of the back gallery have been painted in tamaki; the cupboard is pain 24
Above: The walls of the back gallery have been painted in Tamaki; the cupboard is painted in Block Print Yellow with a hanging piece in ceramic by Epure. The framed photograph is by Jessica MacCormick.

Aside from planting seedlings, ripping up old carpets, and training new staff, Cassandra has—of course—been busy mixing paint. There are now 90 colors that make up the collection of breathable, virtually VOC-free, water-based, deeply pigmented paints. The most recent collection, which is aptly named “Beginnings”, is, according to Cassandra, “my best yet and the most me.” A reflection on the rhythmic migration of birds that marks the changing of the season, the palette includes avian shades such as Lark, Floof, and Hummingbird as well as personal memories of transportive colors such as the milky, oceanic blue, Tamaki.

cassandra ellis, founder of atelier ellis. 25
Above: Cassandra Ellis, founder of Atelier Ellis.

“Color is the thing that people always come back to,” Cassandra concludes. “It’s the thing they hold on to at the beginning of each new move or project. They want to be able to see themselves sitting in a pale blue sitting room, looking out at their garden with their dog, and they choose their colors because that’s the way they want to shape their lives. It’s about the colors that they’re going to live inside. I find that fascinating.”

For more on Cassandra, see our past stories:

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