Philip is a fashion designer who created pop art label The Rodnik Band. André Leon Talley, contributing editor of American Vogue, described him as “the godson of Andy Warhol”. Together, Charlotte and Philip form a pow-tastic couple with a knack for making cultural projects commercial and fun.
Poptastic: romantic nostalgia meets pop art in this Bethnal Green home
Poptastic: romantic nostalgia meets pop art in this Bethnal Green home
1/8 Wacky and wonderful
In fish-scale frock and Snoopy suit, Charlotte and Philip Colbert rock a strong and highly individual look, as does their home in Jesus Green, near Bethnal Green.
Pictures by Adrian Lourie
2/8 Prized piece
This bright blue figure by the late French sculptor and painter Niki de Saint Phalle is among the Colberts' most treasured artworks and sits perfectly among eye-catching pieces that reflect the eclecticism of their combined tastes.
3/8 Masterful mash-up
Mexican rugs, gramophones and antiques adorn the master bedroom while trinkets from the couple's travels fill shelves and walls. There are two more bedrooms and the Colberts created mezzanine levels with "sleepover" pods for after-parties, or to serve as reading nooks.
4/8 Sit on a prickly pair
Friends Alfred and Tess from furniture maker The London Workshop created many of the original pieces. Their cactus and lobster-shaped chairs (left), are a bit of fun, while the design for a paint palette table (right) was conceived from sketches made "while eating slices of toast at breakfast".
5/8 Favourite spot
The kitchen opens on to Charlotte's beloved conservatory, filled with beautiful plants and a dining table. Reclaimed floorboards have been used on the conservatory walls.
6/8 Stripped back
Peeling back layers of wallpaper revealed newspaper cuttings and colour - a kind of Thirties yellow. "We left the rest as apparent plaster." The walls shaped the colour scheme and provide the perfect backdrop to bold furnishings and artworks.
7/8 Outside space
Charlotte and Philip are huge fans of Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, recommending it as the go-to place for plants for their small walled garden (left) and the charming conservatory (right).
8/8 At the surreal seaside
Philip and Charlotte have kitted out their living room with a shark chair, designed by Philip, a yellow submarine-style sofa and a giant popcorn stand, in which the television set is hidden.
“We first met in a massive warehouse in Farringdon,” says Philip. “We had both studied philosophy and Charlotte was writing a script on Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, composer and poet, so luck was on my side when I took her to his house in Switzerland to impress her.”
They married at St Bartholomew the Great in east London. Philip wore a suit from his label decorated with lobsters — it is the same three-piece he pulled off at this year’s Vanity Fair Oscars bash, where Charlotte sported a gown inspired by a leg of ham.
Such eccentric ensembles aren’t reserved for weddings and red carpet occasions. At the couple’s Victorian terrace house in Jesus Green E2, Charlotte is kitted out in a dress parodying a tin of Campbell’s soup and Philip rocks a Snoopy suit. That’s just how they roll.
I am welcomed with open arms and a plate of biscuits by Charlotte, whose soft French accent - she grew up in France - complements her kookiness.
Now, home is “a strange Escher-type building near Bethnal Green that used to be a shop before the Second World War”. I am ushered to the bright yellow submarine-style sofa in the living room, which faces a shark armchair — one of Philip’s furniture designs, for sale on Made.com. Cactus and lobster-shaped seats are a fun touch and the TV is hidden away in a giant popcorn stand.
“When we got the space it was quite run-down and Charlotte did an art show called A Day at Home, where she took pictures of the house and staged scenes of imagined domestic life with the backdrop of crumbling walls,” says Philip.
Peeling off the paper
Once the show was complete, they enlisted the help of friend Patrick Williams, who runs architectural design practice Berdoulat. “We stripped back the property to what it would have been like before the Fifties décor. Peeling off the wallpaper, we discovered the history of the people that had lived there prior to us,” says Charlotte.
“The walls also shaped the overall colour scheme. There was an element of surprise as to what we would find under the peeled paper.” As well as revealing cuttings from old newspapers, they found colour, a sort of Thirties yellow. “We left the rest as apparent plaster. We kept the original floorboards upstairs, which we painted a grey/blue colour, and downstairs we used reclaimed boards.”
They describe the style as romantic nostalgia reminiscent of the French countryside merged with bold, surreal touches. “It is old-world vibe meets graphic humour,” adds Philip.
There are three storeys and three bedrooms. Making extra space, they knocked down and pushed back walls to form mezzanine levels that double up as reading nooks or sleepover pods for after-parties. The lower ground floor is Philip’s workspace, where he has hosted gigs for friends such as pop singer Kate Nash.
The ground-floor kitchen opens on to Charlotte’s favourite spot, a conservatory filled with beautiful plants and a dining table. The upstairs master bedroom is a mash-up of Mexican rugs, gramophones and antiques. Trinkets from their travels fill shelves and walls.
“We stayed one night in this small and legendary hotel in the South of France called La Colombe d’Or, where Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, César Baldaccini and Georges Braque would all go,” says Charlotte.
“It is filled with pieces they left there, often for payment for meals when they were poor, making it a living art house. We wanted to bring a bit of that magic back to our pad, so I made the stained-glass window above our front door with glass master Anthony Bristow. Philip designed the fox wallpaper in our bathroom with Katja Behre, who runs homeware brand Elli Popp.”
Loving those lobsters
Friends Alfred and Tess from furniture maker The London Workshop created many of the original pieces, such as a paint palette table, “from sketches drawn up while eating slices of toast at breakfast”. Prop-maker Tess Gammel also chipped in to paint some pieces.
Pottery shapes were created by art dealer and ex-Burberry model Harry Scrymgeour. “I’ve bought a kiln and we are planning on creating our own mini series called The Lobster Pottery,” says Philip. A colourful Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture and a Karel Appel painting are the couple’s most treasured art pieces.
Pendant lights hang from the ceilings — “we found a box-load of industrial shades at a flea market and thought they were quite amazing”. They are teamed with lamps from Dickinson’s Period House Shops.
The space is always evolving. In their spare time, the Colberts potter around Old Spitalfields Market and Golborne Road, or peruse Lassco in Vauxhall for antiques and salvage items. Petersham Nurseries is the go-to place for plants and Columbia Road Flower Market is conveniently round the corner from them.
Other highly recommended hangouts include The Gallery Café in Old Fort Road, a vegan café that supports charity projects, and Leila’s Shop, a community café in Arnold Circus.
“E Pellicci’s in Bethnal Green Road is a must,” says Charlotte. “Run by Nev and his sister Ana, it is a staple that makes everyone feel at home around a gorgeous dish of cannelloni cooked by their mum from the open kitchen.”
As we say goodbye, I am inspired to sample these hidden gems. But for all of east London’s hip haunts, something tells me that finding another space as surreal as Charlotte and Philip’s wacky, wonderful world will be no easy feat.