Helen Osgerby, owner of new online handcrafted products shop Simple Shape, shares her home with husband Jay Osgerby, co-founder with Edward Barber of the BarberOsgerby industrial design studio, which gave us the 2012 Olympic Torch.
Jay and I live in Brockley, south-east London with our children, Eva, 13, Sophia, 10, and Felix, seven, in a Victorian terrace house with good bones. We have a planning application in to open up the basement and convert it into a big, bright, open-plan kitchen leading out to the garden. From the top floor you can see the outline of the Shard, and the City. It’s mesmerising at night.
My favourite part of the house is the kitchen fireplace, especially in winter when it’s always lit for Sunday lunch. The original surrounding tiles are black and white with images of storks and blossom. On the mantlepiece is our collection of vases, jugs, candles, a tiny wooden comb that Jay brought home, and a prototype vase by ceramist Jono Smart for a collaborative collection he and I are working on for Simple Shape.
We’ve been collecting furniture, objects and treasures for years. Our mismatched, lovely chairs include a Bertoia chair from Portobello Market, a Gio Ponti Supperleggera and several bentwood “214” Thonet bistro chairs that we discovered in local second hand shops. They are all perfect examples of enduring, simple, classic design. We have a huge old hewn wood, artisan-made bread-making dough trough on our landing that we bought at the roadside in Puglia, Italy.
When Jay and I married, my grandmother gave me a tiny pair of silver scissors. She was a seamstress at Liberty before the war. We had them framed with the note she wrote to me held in the back of the frame. It is priceless to me.
WHY I LOVE BROCKLEY
I love Brockley’s green spaces, its sense of community and the creative feel that comes from all the talented designer-makers based here because of Goldsmiths, University of London. Cockpit Arts [designer-makers’ collective] is here, as well as Camberwell College of Arts. Vanguard Court just over the road has workshops and studios, and lots of makers occupy small spaces in the railway arches.
TOP FIVE LOCAL TALENTS
Eleanor Pritchard, textile designer, samples her designs on a huge loom in her studio. The walls are full of shelves of the coloured woollen yarn she uses in upholstery, blankets and cushions; Eleanor Lakelin makes sensational bowls and vessels, turning, carving and sculpting wood felled in south London and around the UK; Elliott Denny is the ceramicist behind Elliott Ceramics. His design-led pastel porcelain collection is simple and beautiful; glassblower Michael Ruh’s tableware, vases and vessels are extremely special; The City Works turns intricate illustrations of London into a lovely stationery and souvenirs range called Lost in London.
BEST LOCAL DESIGN HOTSPOT
Crystal Palace Antiques in Jasper Road, SE19, is made up of 20 dealers whose antiques and mid-century pieces change continuously. We recently bought a William Morris chair which needs repairing but it has such a history and the spindles are unusual.
IF MONEY WAS NO OBJECT?
I saw the Agnes Martin [US abstract painter] exhibition at Tate Modern last summer. I love the simplicity of her work, which disguises the rigour of her process. A piece by her would be very calming. In the garden, I would love a Richard Serra steel sculpture.
Deptford Market in Douglas Way on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. If you’re lucky you might find original Ercol furniture, London Routemaster bus blinds or beautiful vintage cut crystal glassware. But you have to get there at 6.30am and be brave. A friend of mine wears a head torch in winter, to search in the darkness.
MY SECRET ESCAPE
Nunhead Cemetery, a spookily atmospheric Victorian cemetery, is wonderful all year round. At its highest point, a gap in the trees frames a view of St Paul’s. I love being alone and quiet there, yet still reminded of the city.