In a quiet conservation area just off the busy Old Kent Road sits a stunning Regency villa and in it live Neil Cunningham: shoot producer, fashion stylist and set designer, Rachel Fanconi: fashion stylist and Stanley: dog and part time model. The epitome of understated elegance, we spoke to Neil to find out how they got the look:
For the house in detail, see the picture gallery below.
Neil, please tell us about the area you live in.
We knew of and loved this road for years, finally at the end of 2003 we plucked up the courage to try and buy a house here. We are just off the busy Old Kent Road, but it feels like an independent state. We are in a conservation area and the houses are listed so nothing can change, which seems to draw people here, everyone stays put for a really long time. You don't really know much about a neighbourhood until after you've moved in, but this is full of fabulous people, some have been here all their lives. The two of us live here with Stanley our dog. We are both fashion stylists and Stan just works on his Facebook page. The house is full of props and furniture, which are sometimes out on shoots as often as we are. We've got one chair (a beaten up leather armchair) that's had to go into retirement, as it was featured everywhere with everyone from Jude Law to Atomic Kitten perched on it!
What kind of condition was the house in when you bought it and what work have you done to it?
The house was in pretty good condition for its age, I don't think we could do a full restoration project. Mostly we looked at the decor, ripping out carpets, stripping, staining or painting floors. After we had lived here a while we started to know what was needed. We put down York stone in a shady garden where the grass just wouldn't grow. Recently we have completely redone a bathroom with Fired Earth marble tiles. This took an unbelievable five months - we really aren't too experienced with project management! We are not too handy ourselves either, I just can't bring myself to hammer a nail into these walls, but Rachel has recently taken a decorating course at The Good Life Centre in Waterloo.
Did you have an overall vision for how the house would look when you set out or did you work on a room by room basis?
We spent a month stripping, painting, lighting and changing radiators before we moved in, we knew the function of all of the rooms. Nothing much has changed since we've been here.
Did you work with interior designers or is it all you?
I don't think any interior designers would be happy to accommodate our collections of taxidermy and religious tat.
Tell us about the colour palette in the house.
We started by taking everything to a neutral palette, now whenever we make a change, such as the blue and grey in the main bathroom, we get out the Farrow and Ball colour chart. The colours and feel are quite traditional and I feel happy when I look at it, which is I suppose the effect you want.
What words would you most like people to use when describing your home?
Clean and peaceful.
You have some fabulous furniture and decorative pieces in the house – where are your favourite places to shop for interiors?
Wherever we find ourselves in the world we will seek out flea markets. We have a paintings from Rome and Budapest (where we were stopped at customs by the fine art brigade, like the police Antiques Roadshow!), plaster statues from Paris and some finds from the braderie in Lille. We love an antiques fair and sometimes travel up to the massive one at Swinderby. For classic furniture it's usually Fritz Hansen, Knoll and Vitra and cushions and curtains from English Home. We have a good collection of homemade cushions made from the beautiful (and incredibly cheap) african fabrics that you can find in Peckham and East Street Market.
Is there anything you would change about the house?
Apart from the size of the mortgage there's not much to change, it's more about preservation. We would like to transport an old hunting lodge into the garden.
The house is a shoot location. Has it been used as a location for anything we might have seen?
We love having shoots in the house especially when it's friends working here - it's really fun sitting round the table for a good lunch!
In your opinion, no home should be without...what?
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