East London has become one of the most exciting places to eat in the UK, and Hackney-based cook, stylist, and author of two food-centric books Rosie Birkett is the girl to know. From Observer Rising Star of 2015, she went on to pen A Lot on Her Plate, a cookbook that celebrates seasonal, fresh produce and store-cupboard ingredients. Her most recent book, East London Food, coauthored with photographer Helen Cathcart, follows 40 of the top gastronomic talents at the heart of the East London culinary phenomenon.
We recently visited the food-obsessed Birkett at home, where she cooks and writes and gets inspired. The rooms are filled with light, loved objects, and an abundance of greenery. It’s easy to see why she is at the epicenter of East London food.
Photography by Helen Cathcart.
Above: Hackney-based cook, food writer, and stylist Rosie Birkett relaxes in her kitchen with her whippet, Cyril.
Above: The spacious double-height kitchen with glass ceiling was originally designed for commercial purposes and came with simple white cabinets. “I use this space as a studio to create and photograph the recipes and dishes I’m working on, so it’s crucial to have good light,” Birkett says. Hexagonal tiles in a palette of muted neutrals from Fired Earth create a distinctive and affordable backsplash behind the kitchen sink. Birkett’s stainless steel island unit was purchased from a secondhand catering website.
Above: Birkett recently installed a tiled marble backsplash laid out in a subway tile pattern. See Remodeling 101: White Tile Pattern Glossary for more tile pattern ideas.
Above: “One of the biggest compromises about living in London is that I don’t have a garden,” Birkett says. “It’s important to me to have plants and greenery, particularly here because it is such a clean, white, and starkly modern space.” Birkett’s dining table and chairs are vintage Ercol and purchased from eBay.
Above: Birkett found this iconic print of Vladimir Tretchikoff’s famous Chinese Girl painting in a secondhand shop in Whistler when she was living in Vancouver. “Everyone had this print on their wall in the 1960s, and I just love the colors of it—her teal blue face and the faded gold of the frame,” Birkett says. “I ended up paying more than twice what I paid for the painting to send it home. My boyfriend thought I was mad, but now it’s such a focal point of our place and its colors match the cushion covers of our dining set too, rather serendipitously.”
Above: “I am a hoarder and a collector of found and beautiful objects,” Birkett says. “I love handmade ceramics and have a growing collection. I really love anything hand-built and sculptural, like those made by Ana Kerin from Kana.London and also Sytch Farm Studios who throw gorgeous plates and bowls.”
Above: Birkett’s affection for plants extends to the artwork she hangs on her walls. “My mother gave me this botanical print,” she says. “She used to do botanical paintings and also collect them. I think that’s partly where my love of flowers and botanicals has come from.” She picked up the step ladder at an antiques shop in Deal, Kent, which provides shelf space for Birkett’s plants and books.
Above: Birkett has had a soft spot for succulents ever since she first saw them when she lived in North America. “I manage to just about keep them alive, and they keep me company in return,” she says. “Plus I find them fascinating to look at, so symmetrical and unusual.”
Above: “I like to display things that mean something to me by combining textures, eras, and styles,” Birkett says.
Above: The wall space above Birkett’s desk is her mood and memory board.
Above: A large fiddle leaf fig and a living wall, a gift from Birkett’s mother, anchor the kitchen wall. “My mother is brilliant at interior design and is my first design inspiration,” she says. “I have learned to try and only display objects that make me feel something joyous.
Above: From Michelin-starred chefs and specialist butchers to wild foragers and urban beekeepers, Birkett and photographer Helen Cathcart follow 40 people at the heart of the East London culinary phenomenon in their recently launched book East London Food.
For more inventive indoor greenery:
- A New Cooking School in Clerkenwell
- 5 Favorites: Plants for the Bath
- DIY: Maidenhead Fern for Bathroom Greenery
Christine is also the writer of new website Fabulous Fabsters, celebrating women who are FAB (Fifty and Beyond) and sharing their stories.