A Regency Cottage in London, Transformed by Two Creatives

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The London home of artists James Russell and Hannah Plumb recently caught our eye—but by the time we caught up with them, they had decided, as they put it, “it was farm time” and sold their  mid-19th century cottage via Inigo. (The couple have since relocated to rural Shropshire with their toddler, Walter.) Luckily, they were still keen to share the story of their Stockwell home—a tale of slow discovery and happenstance. Let’s take a look around.

Photography by Mark Fox for Inigo.

jamesplumb stockwell green living room 0 Above: The former 19th-century home of James Russell and Hannah Plumb, founders of the creative studio Jamesplumb, which specializes in “objects and environments.”

The couple—who are work as well as life partners—bought the house on Stockwell Green in 2007 from a famous concert pianist who wasn’t shy of bold shades. (The front room, where he practiced at his baby grand, was painted cerise pink.) At the time, Hannah and James had just about managed to scrape together the deposit for the house. Very little was left over to address the long list of necessary repairs.

jamesplumb stockwell green exterior 1 Above: The Grade II-listed end of terrace forms part of a row of stuccoed Recency cottages. Behind is the Stockwell Congregational Church, which was built in 1798 and converted into a mosque in the 1980s.

Whilst their studio in nearby Camberwell became established, their home remained largely unchanged save for a few key structural alterations. The floor in the living room had an unhealthy sag (something to do with that piano, perhaps), so the boards were lifted and their supporting brick piers rebuilt. Outside, the render was hastily patched up and the coping stones replaced. “We knew less ourselves about old buildings at that time,” James reflects. “Although we always knew that a much deeper renovation needed to be done.”

That time came 13 years later, when they had accumulated both the funds and the knowledge necessary to start from scratch. The building was taken back to its bare bones and carefully rebuilt using breathable lime render. In the living room, the rotten ceilings were removed and not replaced. “That came down and we decided not to put it back up,” explains Hannah, who reveled in the process of discovery. “We liked having that little extra bit of height and exposing the ribcage of the building.”

jamesplumb stockwell green living room 2 Above: In the living room, the couple inserted additional noggins between the joists to strengthen the floors upstairs whilst creating visual interest above their heads.

Similarly, below their feet, the floorboards in the living room were replaced with reclaimed drying boards from a Staffordshire pottery. These didn’t always stretch to the required length, but again, the couple made a virtue of this quirk, laying the boards both vertically and horizontally along their brick supports. “They do feel as though they’ve always been there,” Hannah remarks. “They feel right, which is something that is often hard to explain.”

jamesplumb stockwell green living room 3 Above: An antique, faded landscape is painted on grain sacks and hangs above a Christopher Howe ‘Den’ sofa. “The living room is our luxury room,” says Hannah. “Everything else has been found along the way.” jamesplumb stockwell green cabinet 4 Above: To the left of the fireplace, a bespoke cabinet has been topped with a piece of stone the couple found lying around their studio. jamesplumb stockwell green exterior 5 Above: The entrance to their enclosed courtyard.

“Early on in the project, Hannah called me into one of the bedrooms to show me what she’d found at the back of a built-in cupboard,” James recalls. “Deep, deep in a cupboard, she’d found a putty color on the woodwork, and we essentially used that as our main palette.” Inside and out, the walls are painted in the same bespoke warm white (apart from the kitchen, which is a notch lighter). “We took a chip of the paint to Patrick Baty from Papers and Paints, and he gave us the magic recipe we needed, which we translated into lime paint. It’s such a great color to live with,” says Hannah.

jamesplumb stockwell green dining room 6 Above: The dining room with built-in seating.

On the wall above the dining bench, a spoon strapped to the end of a stick is delicately mounted to the wall. The couple found it discarded in a barn during their search for their next property. As James explains, they later found out that this peculiar object recalls a parable about heaven and hell: “You’re at the most incredible banquet you can imagine, but you’ve only been given these incredibly long forks, spoons, and knives, which makes it impossible to feed yourself. The only way to enjoy the food is to reach across the table and feed each other.” The stick-spoon is now Hannah’s most treasured possession.

jamesplumb stockwell green dining room 7 Above: Opposite the dining table is a vintage Norwegian Jotul stove which is “built like a car in that you can replace each part as needed.” A row of candlesticks stand along a weathered shelf found in their studio. jamesplumb stockwell green kitchen 8 Above: The free-standing kitchen.

The kitchen is freestanding and, in a sense, “made itself.” Everything slots neatly together, fitting almost to the millimeter. Like the Jotul, their 1950s oven (an eBay purchase) is built like an old car: “Beautiful, straightforward, easy to take apart and clean.” It has travelled with them to Milan Design Week so they could serve tea and cakes to those visiting their exhibition stand.

jamesplumb stockwell green bathroom 9 Above: In the bathroom, the couple managed to pack a lot into the small space. Behind the lead partition is a washing machine and tumble dryer. The exposed brick wall that separates their home from their neighbors’ was another raw feature they couldn’t bring themselves to cover up. jamesplumb stockwell green bedroom 10 Above: In the corner of a bedroom, a Calder-esque mobile has been fashioned from a vintage fishing rod, dried eucalyptus stems (from a bouquet celebrating Walter’s birth), and grass decorations made by the couples’ friend, William Waterhouse.

In the two bedrooms, clothes are stowed in the original built-in cupboards, the only surviving original feature of the house. The windows have been dressed with Japanese Boro textiles: “centuries-old mattress covers sourced from lovely Su Mason.” The “posh net curtains” are from de La Cuona.

jamesplumb stockwell green bedroom 11 Above: The second bedroom.

Throughout their (now former) home, a kind of archeological unearthing of happy coincidences and discoveries has conspired to create a sense of “rightness.” That’s not to say the process was effortless, James hastens to add. The couple are used to working on projects with clear briefs and immovable deadlines; this very personal project came with neither. “Sometimes we thought; ‘Oh my goodness, we just need to make some decisions!’” says James. It looks to us that they made all the right ones.

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