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Interiors

In London, An Eclectic Home Brimming with Art, Stories and Wallpaper

by Sabrina Smelko

is a painter who runs the contemporary art-inspired wallpaper business, which works with artists such as Goshka Macuga and Kate Owens to design conceptual wallpapers that challenge and excite. Ever intrigued by the role of the viewer and the ways in which they influence the work, Kate’s passions spill over into painting as well, which has her creating works for various galleries from her home studio in Dalston, East London where she lives with her husband, Sam, and their six-month-old baby, Hector.

For many moons prior, Kate lived around the corner in a warehouse apartment, and grew to love the area, which is home to many of her friends as well. So when their current home became available — while it wasn’t the place of their dreams and needed lots of work — they thought it had potential and would keep them close to their friends and local neighborhood digs they had come to love. At the time they moved in, one of Sam’s best friends was living with them, and together with help from friends, they renovated the house, bit by bit. One of their first projects was installing a shower (that’s right, there wasn’t one to begin with), along with plastering over the artex on the 70s ceilings. Reflecting back, Kate has fond memories and laughs thinking about some of their renovation tales: there was the time she made the silly decision to build a step for the washstand, only to change her mind later, which led to re-tiling the bathroom floor; their entertaining plasterer (and spoken-word poet) who would rap as he worked; or the embarrassment that followed when Kate attempted to install shelving in an effort to teach her younger cousin about DIY, only to drill right through the wall. Kate laughs, “Unsurprisingly, I don’t think she’s done much DIY since!”

Though many of the design decisions were made on the fly and based on intuition, Kate and Sam achieved their goal of fostering a space that is warm and comfortable, while allowing Kate to make a mess in a studio behind closed doors. By mi pieces that span various eras with modern renovations, the late 70s aspects of the home come together with their inherited antiques and art deco pieces, giving off a transitional, eclectic feel. Paired with treasured objects, such as the working furniture drawings done by Kate’s grandmother, a furniture designer in the 1930s, their 900-square-foot space is one they are proud to call home.

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The view onto their middle landing which showcases one of six doors Kate discovered on eBay from the 1930s. "I was feeling so pleased with myself until Sam pointed out that the van to go and collect them would cost us £70," she laughs. The art deco lamp was also an eBay purchase.
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The sitting room, one of Kate's favorite rooms in the house where she curls up after a long day, "usually under that Welsh blanket on the back of the sofa!" It features , which is made from a scan of the back of one of her large-scale tapestries. "Historically," Kate explains, "the front of a tapestry is another illusionary device like a painting, but what she shows us here are the hidden workings, the threads and knots, the mechanics." On the wall above the sofa is one of Kate's paintings, titled "The Unnameable."
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The red vase was a wedding gift, and Kate's grandfather made the mahogany side table for her when she was 12, as well as the checkerboard coasters. "He was an amazing craftsman. So meticulous, in fact, that it took him years to finish anything."
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Across the sofa in the sitting room is a shelving installation designed by Kate in an attempt to hide the enormous TV they "inherited (non-negotiable) from their bachelor pad." Kate drew out the plans and hired a workshop around the corner from them to craft the shelves from phenolic plywood.
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Detail of their shelves. The CommonRoom Sample book lives on the top shelf, and a few of Kate's collages sit below. The little hanging monkey is by Danish designer Kay Bojesen.
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In East London, An Eclectic Home Brimming with Art, Stories and Wallpaper
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Kate in her studio. "It’s always a bit of a mess but it handily has a large, north-facing window and amazing light, so I’m very grateful for that."
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Their stunning bathroom covered in Spanish tile. The washstand was found at an antique shop and the trunk was an online purchase, which didn't quite fit in its original state, so Kate cut a few bits off of it.
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In East London, An Eclectic Home Brimming with Art, Stories and Wallpaper
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Their entryway hall features a poured-resin floor and a framed collage by Goshka Macuga, which was given to Sam and Kate as a wedding gift.
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Their kitchen, with resin floors that flow nicely from the entry. "My mum got the table and chairs for us from an auction when we moved in," Kate says. "They’re a bit random, but I quite like them." The vase was also a gift from Kate's mother to Sam.
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in their kitchen, titled "282 Ways of Making a Salad." Kate explains, "Its cucumber design is really a metaphor about making artwork and the balance of ingredients required for the perfect ‘salad’...As Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘to make a good salad, is to be a brilliant diplomatist; the problem is entirely the same in both cases – to know exactly how much oil one must put with one’s vinegar.’ Just like salad, wallpaper design needs to have just the right balance of grit and wit."
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Another view of the kitchen. The unassuming doorway leads to a closet tucked under the stairs, which is host to all of the family's cleaning equipment and supplies. The drawing above the table is one of the furniture drawings from Kate's grandmother and the enamel lampshade was found at a great little shop in London called Labour and Wait.
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The kitchen sink and window, which is home to various herbs and their macrame plant hanger from Kate's favorite vintage shop just up the road, . "The woman who runs it, Lorna, has an amazing eye."
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The bedroom. The wallpaper is based on one of her paintings, which you can see hanging on the right, titled "Be Yourself or Something Else." "It pretends to be one thing, but could easily be ‘something else.’ It can also be hung either way up. One way, with a nod to William Morris, the founding father of the Arts and Crafts Movement, suggests tulips and natural forms. Hung the other way, the design brings to mind a human head or two mustaches. I am interested in mustaches and why men ‘create’ them. They reveal something at the same time as covering something else up. Just like wallpaper."
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Their headboard is made from a throw hung from a curtain pole and the bedside table is another antique inherited from Kate's grandmother.
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This chair in the bedroom sits opposite the bed. "It's usually strewn with clothes that no one can be bothered to put away," Kate laughs. The painting is one of Kate's from 2013, titled "Owl."
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Hector’s bedroom. Kate's mother made the curtains and gifted him with the little mobile above his cot from . Kate found the chair on eBay, which she got reupholstered just before he was born.
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Kate got the letters from a junk shop and then spray-painted them. The wallpaper is by artist . Kate’s design uses registration marks that align each layer of color in the wallpaper printing process. These marks appear along the edge of every roll of wallpaper until it’s trimmed for distribution, which inverts traditionally ornate wallpaper patterns and reveals only the working marks that are usually cut off.
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A whole-room shot of Hector's bedroom. The collage of the zebra on the far wall is by Kate's best friend and Hector's godmother.
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Hector's mountain and leaf cushions from Spanish brand, Paparajote. The art deco dresser was inherited from Kate's great aunt.

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