Vintage calling: Katy Harris’ East Dulwich home
First, a confession: we initially met props stylist and artist Katy Harris two years ago at the annual Artists’ Open House event in East Dulwich and have been waiting for the right moment to pay her a return visit ever since. Together with her husband Matt, a wine bar owner, and two daughters Maisie, 12 and Molly, 9, she lives in a four-bedroom terraced house just off Lordship Lane – the hub of the area, full of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
When Katy opens the door to greet us on a cold December morning though, the first thing we see is a fleeting glimpse of Purdy, the British Shorthair cat hightailing it upstairs and Cassius, the friendly whippet who comes up to say hello. The second is plenty of gorgeous Christmas greenery, from the berries that are wound prettily around the black painted staircase to the huge tree in the centre of the living room which stands in a wooden sleigh, and a leafy display on the mantelpiece above the log fire. With a coffee and a mince pie at the ready, we settled down in the cosy kitchen for a chat.
We weren’t feeling especially festive until we walked into your home but now we’re definitely ready for crackers and carolling…
I did go slightly overboard with the decorations because I knew you were coming but in general, I do like my home to look different to everyone else’s. I don’t tend to follow interior design trends and really like dark colours. I pick up bits and pieces whenever I go to collectors fairs at Kempton or Ardingly.
Looking round, we can see that you have a lot of vintage furniture. Are you drawn to any period in particular?
I like vintage French pieces from the 1920s to the 1940s. I’ve been quite good in the run up to Christmas and haven’t bought much although I do have a new light for above the green marble kitchen table, which is from Hopmarket, an antiques shop in Honor Oak Park. I would also like to make the living room look a bit more mid-century so I am hoping to get a Danish leather chair in there at some point.
You mentioned that you also sell antiques. Tell us about this and the other aspects of your work…
I have sold furniture at the So Last Century fair at Beckenham Place Park, which is a beautiful old mansion not far from here. I also do nature-based artworks – antler pencil drawings, miniature watercolours of suns and moons in gold mourning lockets and vintage picture frames – and props styling, which can be anything from food to jewellery. And I recently did some calligraphy for an event at Tiffany & Co to launch a new fragrance.
It all sounds very creative. And you’re responsible for the interiors of the wine bars too, is that right?
Yes exactly. I leave the wine side of things to Matt – apart from drinking it, obviously.
Sounds very sensible to us! How did Matt get into wine?
When I met him, he was the manager of a wine shop called La Reserve in Fulham – I lived opposite, that’s how we met – then he went to work in another wine shop in Soho. About 13 years ago, he and a friend decided to do their own thing and that was how it started. Now we own four wine bars in the city and Holborn: three are called Planet of the Grapes, and one is called Fox because it’s in a Grade II-listed building that once used to be Fox Umbrellas.
We’ll have to pop in for a glass next time we’re in the area. Speaking of London postcodes, how did you end up in East Dulwich?
We were renting in Clapham but couldn’t afford to buy there and a friend suggested we look in East Dulwich. We bought a flat which we lived in with Maisie but when I got pregnant with Molly we begged, stole and borrowed to get this place. We knew we wanted to stay in East Dulwich; it has a real village feel, lovely independent shops and a sense of community. We had a street party in our road for the first time this summer and it was really sweet. It sounds cheesy but it really bought everyone together and last week a group of us went to The Great Exhibition, a local pub for Christmas drinks. We also have a street Whatsapp group.
We would love to live in such a friendly street, you’re very lucky. What’s a typical weekend for you?
We might go out with friends for dinner locally; we do like a good curry. On Saturday the girls have got clubs such as cycling and then we’ll take Cassius for a walk, perhaps to Sydenham Woods, Peckham Rye Common or Dulwich Park. Whippets are such good city dogs because they like a short burst of exercise then they chill out for the rest of the day. He is a massive thief though, he knows a toddler will always have biscuits and he tries to steal them from underneath prams. We’ve had to buy people gingerbread before as a replacement!
We also love Vintage Sundays at the Dulwich Picturehouse cinema – this time last year I took the kids to see ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ which was brilliant – and playing board games such as Rapido or Pictionary as a family.
You can’t beat an old-fashioned board game! Do you also watch television as a family?
The girls and I love programmes like Bake Off, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and Amazing Hotels of the World. My eldest is starting to show a real interest in interiors. She’s always saying that she would decorate her own house with more modern furniture than I do. We’re moving her into the top room in January and she has said that she would like it all white. I think we’ll get a wall of really nice wallpaper from Silken Favours and some built-in wardrobes and leave the rest to her.
Where do you holiday together?
We’ve got a camper van so we go away a lot in that in the summer, although it was so hot this year that I don’t think anyone got much sleep. It’s nice because the girls are still young enough to enjoy it. They are our favourite holidays because they are really simple: you just pack a car full of stuff and go. We head to Dorset quite a lot but we have also been to France, Italy and Spain in the van.
Do you ever see yourself leaving this house and East Dulwich?
I would rather extend the side return of the house and go up into the loft to really maximise the space that we’ve got, rather than move. At one point we did toy with the idea of moving to Brighton but now my daughter is at secondary school with all her friends that ship has sailed. I wouldn’t want to move her.
Finally, we can’t leave without asking what your plans are for the festive season?
We’re having a chilled out Christmas Day here and family over for Boxing Day. I think New Year’s Eve is a bit of a faff. The last few years we have met friends for a cocktail in the pub, gone for a curry and then come back here to drink wine, play cards with the children in front of the fire before and watch Jools Holland’s Hootenanny on the television. That’s my perfect New Year’s Eve.
It sounds pretty perfect to us too. With thoughts of the festive season swirling in our minds, we finish our mince pies and leave feeling ready for the big Christmas countdown. To see some of Katy’s work on instagram visit, @katy.hart.harris or hartharrisinteriors.com