The Art of Living: Kentish Town interiors full of art, warmth and colour
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
“You have to follow the house rather than impose your taste on it,” says Kentish Town resident Marina Bassano over a Campari and soda in her burnt orange painted kitchen.
“I don’t think we do any favours to our houses if we want them to follow us too much. This is a Victorian cottage and we want to enjoy it for what it is.”
Her home in Quadrant Grove may be a classic 19th century London terraced house but, hailing from Turin, one of Europe’s contemporary art centres, and having lived previously in both a Shoreditch loft and a flat in the Barbican, Marina’s eye for modern design is well honed, and the house is a fascinating mix of styles and eras.
Initial design advice came from her good friend, the renowned interior designer Paolo Genta, who she stresses usually works on much grander projects.
“When I moved into the house, the space was great but the decoration was pretty magnolia, very neutral and a little sad. Paolo took one look and said ‘How about the Indian Piper?’”
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This was a reference to The Piper, a 1960s nightclub that has been dubbed Rome’s answer to Studio 54, with decor inspired by British beat and later psychedelic music. The “Indian” reference comes from the Indian-inspired palette on the walls.
Stepping through the front door, you’re immediately greeted by thick stripes of rust, pink and burgundy – colours that are repeated throughout the house, one for each room.
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Furniture by name designers is dotted throughout the house, alongside more idiosyncratic market finds. An almost complete set of G-Plan cabinets were retrieved from skips in the years before they found their second wind of desirability in the mid-noughties.
European pieces by the likes of Alvar Aalto, Jean Prouvé and Angelo Mangiarotti bridge the gap between the pared back 1960s British furniture and the bold, rich colours of the walls.
This transition between old and new, exuberance and restraint is exemplified in one particular piece, a sofa picked up in Camden market.
“The sofa’s quite extraordinary,” says Marina. “The frame is French but I was very attracted by the stitching. This is someone who knew what he was doing. It’s an amazing piece and I just cannot figure out who did it, but clearly there was an artist involved.”
Genta also came up with the ingenious solution to fitting the immense art book library and picture collection in the modest home.
“I was working in contemporary art and at that stage the internet was not as useful as it is now, so we had a lot of reference books. Paolo organised the recessed lighting, he suggested black for the storage furniture. He even made sure the shelves were recessed the correct amount, not flush and he came up with this system so that the pictures can hang in front of the books on wires.”
The pictures are hardly an afterthought though, given Marina’s involvement in contemporary art and her collection includes works by such art world luminaries as Raymond Pettibon, Christina Mackie, Wolfgang Tillmans, Donald Urquhart, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd and Pablo Bronstein – most of them early career works by friends and acquaintances.
There’s something good to look at everywhere you turn, and there’s no denying, it’s a far cry from magnolia.