Monday, 12 October 2015

Framing Family Life

The exterior of Irenie Cossey's home, photographed by Tim Young

The last of my 'so long London' posts is my most recent piece for Image Interiors & Living, a house tour in London's Islington, styled by Amanda Cochrane and shot by Tim Young. Read on...

'I'm all about framing moments' says Dublin-born Irenie Cossey as she reaches for a piece of artwork by her youngest daughter, Clara. It is a box frame displaying two dolls that Clara, aged six, made from paper and wool, sitting on a shelf surrounded by other colourful creations. As you look around the room you see a host of other keepsakes and mementos, and soon you realise that throughout this spacious north London home you can find ornaments and gifts, family hand-me-downs and children's artwork. Don't let the white walls and modernist furniture fool you: this is a house that treasures memories and perfectly frames the many moments of family life.

Irenie Cossey at her dining table, custom designed by Barber & Osgerby, photographed by Tim Young

Creativity must run in the family, as this conversion of an 1860s Islington villa was designed by Irenie with her husband Adam, both working in architecture, while they were expecting Clara. They bought the house with a view to creating a space big enough for their growing family (Clara's older brother Jake is nine and the eldest, Olivia, is ten). The biggest task was to replace the 1970s extension to the rear of the house with one of their own, creating a fluid living, dining and kitchen space which opens out onto their garden and pulls light in from all directions. But far from leaving the original house alone, Irenie has put her stamp on spaces throughout.

Irenie Cossey's bulthaup kitchen with Jasper Morisson chairs and a vintage lamp, photographed by Tim Young

There are a handful of simple principles at work in the house, which Irenie has honed through the previous homes she and Adam have designed for themselves. One such principle is the thoughtful yet relaxed mixing of old and new. Giving consideration to the period of the house, she has reintroduced cornicing throughout and even found a number of great cast iron radiators to place on the ground floor, amid the eclectic mix of modern and contemporary furniture. In addition to balancing old and new, Irenie also balances colour and calm to great effect. White walls and simple flooring running through most of the house allow the real features – great furniture, objects and artwork (created by Irenie and the children as well as finds from elsewhere) – to sing. Brightly coloured blinds made from Kvadrat and Bute fabrics, lacquered storage units and the rich red carpet on the stairs 'pop' but never overpower, always tempered by their calm white and warm grey surroundings.

Irenie Cossey's living room with Hans Wegner's CH25 chair and a shelving unit from TwentyTwentyOne, photographed by Tim Young Irenie Cossey's youngest daughter in her room, with a vintage chair and school desk and a Harry Bertoia wire chair, photographed by Tim Young
Irenie Cossey's bathroom with lacquered storage and a rug by HAY, photographed by Tim Young Irenie Cossey's eldest daughter in her room with vintage furniture, a rug by the Rug Company and Kvadrat blind, photographed by Tim Young

Simple flooring and white walls create a blank canvas for each room, lending a great degree of flexibility to the many rooms of the house, something Irenie sees as being key in a family home. What starts as a studio can become a bedroom for a growing boy, a den and an office can combine,
spaces can evolve. They 'grow up' with their inhabitants, without major redecorating required. There is flexibility in the way Irenie uses the furniture, too. Her vintage writing desk is now a dressing table, while her beautiful mid-century sideboard is filled with art materials. And why not? Located in the light-filled kitchen/dining area, the bespoke table next to it is the ideal space to paint, draw and construct, and Irenie and the children are often found working there, particularly Jake, some of whose impressive drawings and paintings adorn his bedroom walls.

Irenie Cossey's son in his room with a Monocle print, pouffe by Donna Wilson and throw by Eleanor Pritchard, photographed by Tim Young

The garden – Olivia's favourite space to spend time in, with room for her to play football and cricket – is where Adam took the lead on design. 'I stopped at the door!', says Irenie, who was weeks away from giving birth to Clara when they moved in. But despite a design handover at the threshold, the transition from indoor to outdoor space is fluid. The patio slabs and brickwork echo the colour palette in the kitchen, while the bright green seating pops just like the features inside. A balance of a dining area, planting and open space means that Irenie and Adam make the most of what is an increasingly rare treat for those living in London.

Irenie Cossey's bedroom with George Nelson lamp and vintage couch upholstered in Bute, photographed by Tim Young

Lastly, the house is full to the brim with storage space, but it is placed so cleverly you could easily miss it. Irenie took every opportunity to carve out space in every room: there are shelves, cupboards and recesses wherever you turn. It means that everything the family needs is close to hand, yet the house feels anything but cluttered. But while the everyday essentials are tucked away, plenty of surfaces and spaces are dedicated to the stuff everyone wants on show, ensuring this family home frames the moments that matter.

Irenie Cossey's bathroom with Eames rocking chair and three legged stool from Another Country, photographed by Tim Young

All images by Tim Young, courtesy of Image Interiors & Living