Homes: explore editor Carol Burns’ home under lockdown
PUBLISHED: 13:14 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:14 15 June 2020
Explore then home of Cornwall Life’s Carol Burns who is a designer and artist
One of the things that swung the purchase of our house for me, was the wraparound deck. We’d only looked at two houses but I loved the idea of coffee on the deck. In common with many houses in Cornwall, the house sits on a steepish slope, so the back door is higher off the ground. The deck goes around the whole back of the house and I’ve decorated it with pot plants and climbers and different places to sit. It’s a real suntrap.
Lighting is so important. I grew up in the 1980s when the pendant light reigned. Now we only use lamps. I know that wood burners are hip right now, and we do have lots of working fireplaces, but I use them as light features – my favourite is the lava lamp. I love chairs too – we have really random ones throughout the house. I work from an orange moulded plastic 1960 Panton Chair. It looks as good as it is (surprisingly) comfortable.
I work in our grandly titled library, mostly because it is so full of books. There are lots of arts books and photography and architecture books, with loads of crime novels hidden at the back. The desk faces the window so I can look out at the view of our deck and watch our cats prowl their compound. I’m not a good enough gardener to always have cut flowers – but I will usually find a branch of apple blossom or olive tree to decorate my windowsill with. If I get really stuck, I’ll chop off a leaf from one of our fan palm. The windows are designed around the view. I’ll arrange pots outside so they frame the view and repeat the process inside with house plants. My pet hate has to be fake plants. Not only do they make no difference in terms of air quality in your house, they are actually bad for the environment as they are plastic. For a recent BBC Radio Cornwall feature, I actually counted the number of house plants we have – and I gave up around the 40 mark. I love watching them grow and having to repot them.
I do regular slots on BBC Radio Cornwall as their interiors guru and am always talking about the importance of making your house happy. I am a big believer in making your house a home, not treating it as an investment. We spent a lot of time in this house undoing all the ‘improvements’ that the previous owner had carried out, presumably to ‘add value’. But we bought the house despite them.
Our house also has the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen. I think that’s a real luxury. I grew up in a 1980s house where kitchens and bathrooms were really utilitarian and squeezed in as necessities to be used and not seen. Our bathroom is bigger than most bedrooms. And of course, it is filled with plants. It’s a total luxury to lie in the bath surrounded by sub-tropical vegetation (it makes them really easy to water too).
The high ceilings in the house are also a real luxury. I’m not very tall, but I love to have the head space. And it makes it easier to hang larger paintings. Big windows were also a big selling point. My very favourite room is probably the orangery. When we first moved in it was little more than utility room next to the kitchen, but we removed some badly made plywood cupboards and the washing machine and created a light-filled dining room that opens on to the deck. The room was named after a little orange tree I had bought for it and the colour theme has been continued. The orange dining chairs are Eiffel chairs by the Eames courtesy of Vitra; they are the real thing and we waited a long time to afford them. Our cats came courtesy of Cats Protection in Truro and were significantly cheaper. The orangery has also got a window seat to show off my vintage (orange) cushions.
The style of most rooms in the house began with a single item. In the kitchen it was the pan rack that hangs above the range. I also have the Kitchenaid which is as much about use as style. I use it every day (despite the flour shortages). And it does look great. I also took inspiration from the copper bottom saucepans to add in some copper splashbacks and a worktop cover. I love the way they change with time. You can use all kinds of weird things on them to keep them pristine. Coke among them. It’s too much like hard work though. No one every lay on their death bed wishing they had done more housework!
In my son’s room the single item was probably a Lego figure. When we moved in, he was five and we filled the picture rail with Lego figures which are now regularly used for target practice via a Nerf gun (it’s a great stress reliever). The Lego has been slowly replaced by musical instruments - he’s a keen drummer and guitarist.
All the rooms in the house is painted entirely white and we have added lots of art works. Many of them are mine and they are probably quite over whelming for many, but I studied art for seven years and it’s nice to be reminded of that on my own walls, even if it’s not in a gallery. The bedroom is pretty basic, just a bed and a (fake) Marcel Brauer chair in the window for the inevitable pile of clothes and a gloriously coloured pom-pom rug made up of little balls of coloured wool. It’s actually called a pinocchio rug – named after colourful Danish sweets. It shows that the Hygge look doesn’t have to be all be white linen and bleached wood.
I hate fitted kitchens. I’m the right height and the right level of clumsiness to hit my head on the overhead cupboards. And I always wonder what people are putting in all those drawers and cupboards. Our current kitchen is a mix of Ikea shelves, and the remains of the cheap nasty fitted kitchen inherited from the previous owners and slabs of wood (I’ve developed an addiction to bespoke chopping boards, they hide a retinue of design sins). The kitchen is a long way from finished... I am terrible for spending money on accessories rather than the basic maintenance. If it’s a choice between new fascia boards or something from the Conran Shop the order is already in my virtual shopping basket... u
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