A Beautifully Renovated English Terrace House

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Kitchen, with ethical goods from my homestore – www.aerende.co.uk (saving the world, one wooden spoon at a time) (Image credit: Anna & Tam)

Name: Emily, Jon and their two children Lola and Otis
Location: St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK
The basics: 2 years, owned — 1,400 square feet

Emily’s home is not just carefully designed, it’s consciously designed as well. Filled with mostly second hand and handmade items from her own store, the home is full of pieces that have had previous lives or traceable origin stories. All set against the background of their renovated Edwardian terrace house, their home is warm and totally unique.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I am a travel and lifestyle journalist turned social entrepreneur, who launched Aerende last year as a way of raising awareness about ethical interiors, and providing opportunities for marginalized makers. Our home is an Edwardian terrace in the historic market town of St Albans (about 20 minutes outside London). We bought it in 2014 and completely renovated it, extending the kitchen into the loft to create two extra bedrooms and a bathroom in the roof.

Because of budget and time constraints, my husband, Jon Wetherell, creative director at Net-a-Porter, stayed up late to create the building plans and layouts himself. One of the best bits about his design is the window seat underneath the bi-folding windows, created so loungers (like me) can lie in the sun in total privacy, clothes optional! And it is a dream to have a playroom that is separate from the kitchen so the kids can make a mess without people in the kitchen feeling over-run by toys. We’re still working on how to cover up the noise.

Many of the elements of the renovation were sourced on eBay, including the brilliant second-hand double sink in the bathroom (£38/$49) and gorgeous brass taps in the utility room (£23/$30). Most of our furniture is from eBay too. I like old-fashioned things and Jon’s taste is more modern, so finding mid-century items with clean lines but a previous life is our happy medium. Everything from the piano to the kitchen table is secondhand which has a triple benefit – cheap, ethical and not too perfect to worry about the impact of kids and their inevitable accidents. In fact the idea of a kitchen table that bears the marks of a lifetime is an idea that I love.

Tapping into this ethos of items with provenance and stories was part of the inspiration behind my interiors brand. I believe in buying less, buying better, so the styles and colors of our products are timeless and not driven by trends. Because they’re all made by hand, each item is slightly different, and we send out orders in compostable packaging with a tag stating the name of the maker to add to that sense of connection.

We feel very lucky to be able to live in such a lovely house, and to have the space to build a business and a welcoming family home for our two children Lola (age 8) and Otis (age 5) to grow up in.

What is your favorite room and why? The kitchen is the heart of our home. Even though quite a few things went wrong in its creation (the units were hung on the wonk, the concrete floor coating didn’t really work), it has just a really lovely light and atmosphere. It feels warm and cosy in winter thanks to rugs from Morocco and our Ian Mankin organic-fabric-covered window seat, and cool and light in the summer, when we can overlook the garden and listen to the birds over an evening glass of rosè on the deck.

We have our initials – JELO – carved into the floor of the room as I really want this place to be a place that bears the stamps and shape of us. Hopefully forever, or at least a very long time.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? I’d love to have a more defined space for guests. Because the spare room as been commandeered as Aerende’s HQ, visitors usually have to sleep on the floor. I’d love to expand the shop outside of the house and create a welcoming space for our family and friends to come and stay.

And, like many people, I sometimes get stuck in a Pinterest pit of money-spending possibility of new colors and styles and furniture. I geek out about having natural wool carpets, bespoke window blinds and Scandi bed linens, but working with makers who struggle to find work, or homes, or support, is a daily reminder of how lucky we are and a good force for practicing gratitude. And the idea of building a home slowly, over a lifetime, rather than perfecting it as a one-off and then wanting to change it later, really appeals.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The piano stool from eBay. I loved the olive velvet top and even though the stool was too tall for the piano, we just turned it upside down and sawed the legs off. We did this with the sideboard in the kitchen too. Buying secondhand means you have to be adaptable. And of course, I’m always adding new things from my own shop. It’s important to know how our products stand up to daily use and it makes me happy to see them become stalwarts of our family life. The chopping boards have proved to be a winner for cheese, bread and fruit, and I love the scent from our non-toxic soya wax candles.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? Pippi Longstocking – a non-conformist with a hint of activism and a collector of beautiful things. But the Moomins would be a close second. They’d bring their winsome Scandi style and undercurrent of political awareness to proceedings and show us all that kindness matters. But it’s nice if things look good too.

Emily’s words of wisdom: Don’t buy too much and don’t buy all at once. Live with the space, work out what you actually need (it’s always less than you think) and buy products, especially handmade ones, that you can connect to. Artisan products and furniture with provenance and stories may be on-trend right now, but with good reason. They’re the things you’ll treasure for ever.

Thanks, Emily !

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