For our first Hang With feature of 2021 we're stepping into the home of the freelance journalist Grace Cook, whose wonderful writing has been featured in the likes of the Financial Times, Vogue, Wallpaper*, The New York Times and more. Grace has been hugely supportive of Partnership Editions through the years, sharing our work through her writing as well as acquiring an impressive collection of artworks.
Here we get to see her unique curation in her beautiful South East London home as we chat about her dream artwork, prized possessions, and hacks for a happy home.
I live on... a lovely, leafy street in Brockley in South East London. I moved south of the river for the first time in January last year - I’d spent seven years in north London, and it was time for a change. It has huge windows and high ceilings, which give a real feeling of space, and there is lots of greenery around. In the beginning, I loved my last apartment in Finsbury Park - I was living on my own for the first time and although it was very small, it was mine.
I went through quite a difficult time while I lived there, but something that gave me focus was decorating as it was unfurnished. It sounds superficial, but there is something grounding about making your home your own when lots of other things in life feel quite unstable — I think the pandemic has proven that to more people this year, too. It was during this time that I actually started buying things to fill my walls with. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and quite cathartic. I pretty much finished my gallery wall and then moved out! I love where I live now.
How does your home suit your career... I’m freelance, so I am not used to working in an office every day anyway, but I do usually work in coffee shops so that was an adjustment. I like the atmosphere and background noise of cafes. I find it easier to write if I’m sharing tables with strangers for some reason, or am at least surrounded by them and their movements. And the brief conversation in cafes is nice - writing is a very insular process and constant deadlines can make life a bit solitary at times. But I recently bought a desk for my room, which has been invaluable as a dedicated working space and it means my living room has been reclaimed as a place for wine and dinner rather than deadlines.
My first art purchase was… I started off as everyone does with posters and prints and graduated up. I basically realised that if I stopped buying clothes I wouldn’t wear very often I could maybe — once in a while — buy nice things to keep forever… My first actual artwork was French House by Isabella Cotier. It’s this old guy who is a regular in the tiny, olde worlde Soho pub — I’ve seen him a few times in the corner wearing his flat cap and whiling away a few hours with an afternoon pint. He reminds me of Claude Greengrass from Heartbeat, a programme I used to watch with my mum when I was little. I love Isabel’s playful take on people and scenery. It’s imaginative yet grounded in reality. Part of me wants to tell him he’s hanging on my wall the next time I see him… but I’d be too embarrassed.
After that, I bought a Jonathan Schofield from his Call Me By Your Name series, inspired by the novel — it’s a beautiful read. This year, I got Christabel Blackburn’s socially distanced Hear Me print which hangs above my bed. It felt very appropriate for the times we are living in. I also bought Isabel’s Bergamo balcony print too, which donated funds to Italian hospitals fighting Covid — the charitable aspect totally justified the buy to me. And a Cecilia Reeve painting, which initially I didn’t like but it’s grown on me the more I’ve looked at it online. The barren landscape is a bit off, but I realised it sort of captured how I felt during lockdown when I found the concrete of London quite overwhelming and I wanted to look out and see nothing interrupting my eyeline. It makes me feel peaceful when I look at it.
French House Pub by Isabella Cotier
Call me By Your Name by Jonathan Schofield; Trastevere Rome Print by Isabella Cotier; Reclining Nude I by Venetia Berry
If I could hang any artwork in my collection it would be... Not one that already exists - it would be a commission that I’d love to do of Cumbria, which is where I’m from. I have this photograph of me that a mountain guide took after I’d climbed Scafell Pike for the first time - I’m coming down off the mountain and in front of me you can see two fells and Wastwater, England’s deepest lake. I’m a minor figure in the image, but I love the photo for how I remember feeling at the first time, having just been on top of the highest peak in England. I hiked for a story I wrote about Cumbria too, so it would feel quite meaningful. I’d want Christabel Blackburnto paint it. I love her use of colour and the social observation her paintings have.
Hear Me Print by Christabel Blackburn
A Dream of Submersion by Cecilia Reeve
My prized possession is… A teddy bear that my grandma knitted me when I was going to university. She’s called Betty and is very skinny and much-slept on by now. My grandma had to sew her head back on once as it was about to come off. I actually got her scanned into a 3D silver necklace by the Swedish jewellery label All Blues, which means she’s now technically immortal. It’s so special, it’s a direct replica shrunk down and attached to a pendant. Maybe that means I have two prized possessions.
When decorating my home I like to buy from... I like mid-century and vintage furniture, so Etsy and Ebay are really good for those. I’ve found some great things - a mid-century teak lamp with a curved base from Denmark, which now has a scalloped Matilda Goad rattan lampshade plonked on top. I have a great pleated linen lampshade from Denmark, too, that I got on Etsy. And I found some 1960s bamboo bedside tables from an antiques dealer in Toulouse - good bedside tables are surprisingly hard to find.
Artwork by Jessica Yolanda Kaye
My hacks for a happy home are... Good wine and a good table setting. I wouldn’t call it tablescaping but I love to lay the table for dinner every night and I do have a growing collection of napkins. It’s a habit I picked up from my grandma, who I don’t think has ever had a TV dinner in her entire life — I don’t watch much telly either so the whole sofa-dinner thing is lost on me. It’s quite antisocial. But there’s something nice about laying the table, even if it’s just for you.
I spend most of my time at home... Genuinely? Either hovering around my kettle or washing up. I’d like to offer something more exciting but it wouldn’t be truthful. I love snacking and I drink endless cups of coffee and tea… with biscuits. Bourbons would be my preference, they’re a bit of a pensioner choice but I stand by them. I also constantly have the radio on - either Classic FM or Radio 4. I have an old person's taste.
A Dream of Submersion
By Cecilia Reeve
I’ve currently got my eye on… Some cereal bowls from Kanain Hackney. They’re hand built and very rustic. I have lots of Ana’s ceramics - she’s my friend, but there’s also something so personal about pottery that isn’t made on the wheel. They often have the fingertips of the maker in. They’d make the kids cereal I often eat for breakfast feel a little more adult.
Sometimes I just wish I could… Live in an old converted barn with a big, wild garden, my own hens laying eggs for breakfast and a pet goat or two and baby chicks at Easter. And a washing line to dry my bedsheets outdoors. They’d always feel so crisp and clean. That would be pretty good.