A bit like a UK version of cult sitcom Friends, some Londoners are discovering that sharing a place as grown-ups is fun. That’s certainly the case with chef and blogger Anna Barnett, who lives in an old converted pub in Hackney with a group of pals.
Barnett’s successful food blog has led to a cookery book, a pop-up restaurant and a starring role in Habitat Voyeur, short videos created by the retailer that offer a sneak peek into the lifestyles of creative people.
Barnett, 30, shares her home with fiancé Thom Archer, 34, and their Kerry Blue terrier, Ted, plus the building’s owner, Dan Gillespie Sells of pop group The Feeling, as well as an actress who is often away filming. Just like Friends, Barnett’s favourite room — the kitchen — is the heart of the home.
Take a tour: at home with Anna Barnett, chef and food blogger
Take a tour: at home with Anna Barnett, chef and food blogger
1/8 Heart of the home
Barnett’s favourite room is the kitchen. The cookery writer and blogger loves having a terrific space, complete with Rayburn stove, to rustle up big dinners, and much of her recent cookery book was photographed in the house, using her vintage collection of crockery. The kitchen is by Plain English.
Images: Adrian Lourie
Anna Barnett with fiancé Thom Archer, their Kerry Blue terrier, Ted, plus the building’s owner, Dan Gillespie Sells of pop group The Feeling, and Kris Shiel. They also share the atmospheric converted pub with an actress who is often away filming.
3/8 Eclectic furnishings
Barnett and her friends often crash out in the drawing room to watch movies. The big, sunny room is furnished quirkily from top to bottom, from its working jukebox to a G Plan sideboard, green sofas from sofa.com and a rug from Heal's.
4/8 Aladdin’s cave
The pub had been developed, then carved up into lots of rooms to let, so Gillespie Sells opened it up and when he goes on the road, he fills the band’s tour bus with buys from flea markets for the house. “I like living with people,” he says. “To have a house this size and not share it would be a bit grotesque.”
5/8 Kitchen whizz
Sociable by nature, Barnett has always loved cooking for people. In 2011, she lived in a warehouse in Dalston, surrounded by arty friends. “I’d often make dinner for 40,” she says. Try wallsandfloors.co.uk for crackle-glaze metro tiles to get the look of her Hackney kitchen.
6/8 Little treasures
Barnett’s prized chinaware and cookery books are on display in the kitchen. Beautiful Moroccan and South African jugs, collectable Hornsea and Poole pottery and Fifties cocktail glasses sit alongside her grandmother’s tea set.
7/8 Working it
Barnett's cookery book is called Eat The Week, and the veggie cooking blog she started when she met her fiance has led to pop-up restaurant stints. She began work as a talent booker for MTV but her passion for food took over.
8/8 Vintage finds
Barnett is a keen collector of vintage china and glass and her growing stash of kitchenware certainly makes this particular kitchen the heart of a very special home. While she raids car boot sales and eBay for some pieces, her enamelware is from labourandwait.co.uk.
The house has been carefully restored by Gillespie Sells, who has an eye for style on a budget and furnished it with a mix of items from his travels, car boot sales, antique shops, Paris flea markets and eBay, as well as inheriting some.
Barnett joins in as a keen collector of vintage china and glass. She loves the friendly lifestyle of their home and having a terrific kitchen to cook in. Much of her recent cookery book was photographed in the house, using her vintage collection of crockery.
When she left school, Barnett took up an internship at MTV. She ended up as a talent booker with the company — which is how, in 2007, she met “the boys” in The Feeling, who were then up-and-comers. After MTV, she worked for TV companies and did PR for Kelly Osbourne.
Sociable by nature, Barnett has always loved cooking for people. In 2011, she lived in a warehouse in Dalston, surrounded by arty friends. “I’d often make dinner for 40,” she says. Travelling a lot for her job enabled her to add to her vintage crockery collection, which is now on show in the kitchen.
Pretty, practical pieces
Beautiful Moroccan and South African jugs, collectable Hornsea and Poole pottery and Fifties cocktail glasses sit alongside her grandmother’s tea set. But Barnett also sampled many cuisines.
When she and Archer, a vegetarian, first got together, she made meals for him, and her blog was born. Meanwhile, Gillespie Sells, another sociable personality, had bought the old pub nearby. “I like living with people,” he says, dropping into the kitchen for a coffee. “To have a house this size and not share it would be a bit grotesque.”
The pub had been developed, then carved up into lots of rooms to let, so he opened it up. A Rayburn replaced the ugly boiler in the now old-style, grey-green, Plain English kitchen. The floor was restored with traditional encaustic tiles, while four antique copper industrial lamps, an old dresser and crackle-glaze tiles in the hearth accessorise the room.
The big, sunny drawing room is furnished quirkily from top to bottom, from its working jukebox to a G Plan sideboard that featured in the 1967 film Carry on Doctor.
When Gillespie Sells asked Barnett to move in, her father did not take to the idea. “My dad grew up in Stepney,” she laughs. “He said, ‘you’re not moving to Hackney!’” But she did.
Now, when they’re all in together, they eat meals cooked by Barnett and cosy up on the green velvet sofa to watch films. Every time Gillespie Sells goes on the road, he fills the band’s tour bus with buys from flea markets. “So I just daren’t go car-booting at the moment,” Barnett says, looking around at her growing collection of kitchenware that certainly makes this particular kitchen the heart of a very special home.
- Anna Barnett will star in the Habitat Voyeur project
- She’s cooking pop-up, three-course lunches in King’s Road Habitat Nov 7-8, £35 a head, bring your own alcoholic drinks. To book a place, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Her cookery book, Eat the Week, is published by Murdoch Books, £17.99
Get the look
- Hague Blue paint in kitchen and snug from Farrow & Ball
- Kitchen from Plain English
- Rayburn cooker
- Crackle-glaze metro tiles from companies such as www.wallsandfloors.co.uk
- Encaustic floor tiles from companies including Fired Earth
- Barnett’s enamelware from Labour and Wait
- Barnett’s Gluggle jugs, Hornsea ware and Wade pottery from eBay, car boot sales and elsewhere
- Green sofas in drawing room from Sofa.com
- Chandelier and G Plan sideboard from eBay
- Rug in drawing room from Heal's
- Extra finds from Paris flea market Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
- Architectural salvage from LASSCO, Architectural Forum, and others