We don’t want it to be precious so art works come and go, it’s constantly changing and that makes it exciting.
Artists Annie Morris and Idris Khan don’t do anything by halves. They moved in together just three weeks after meeting and bought their Georgian townhouse in Islington, North London, a year later. Two of Britain’s most collectible young artists, their home is testament to their extraordinary creativity.
The property had been squatted and then stripped back to its bare bones by the previous owner. “The house was built in 1760,” says Annie. “When we bought it, it had been reduced down to the raw bones with all the cornice and panelling stripped right back to the original wood, which we found incredibly beautiful.”
When Annie, best known for her obsessive clothes peg sculptures, fashion collaborations and illustrations for friend Sophie Dahl’s first book, and Idris, an artist who makes complex and sophisticated digital collages, first moved in, there was no electricity or heating and only enough hot water for one bath a day in the dingy basement bathroom. They set about completely renovating the house, restoring it floor by floor, sourcing reclaimed materials and using the famous Charleston Farmhouse as a point of reference. “We lived at the top of the house for months, which was freezing because there were holes in the roof and a ceiling was missing” Annie recalls.
Despite the challenges that lay ahead, the couple were undeterred. The majority of the work was carried out on the lower ground floor, which had been a cellar and bathroom and is now an inviting open plan kitchen, complete with reclaimed aga. A derelict coal vault underneath the garden patio was turned into two larders, a small guest loo was added and the staircase was carefully restored. After much debate, a vibrant yellow was decided upon, inspired by Monet’s house, which came from a small speck of paint that Annie’s mother, an interior designer, had kept from a previous project. The couple visited neighbouring houses to recreate the original cupboards and panelled detailing and the space has now been beautifully restored.
Upstairs, the couple have left the scraped back paint on the woodwork and architrave as it was when they took possession of the house, and have added vintage furniture and pieces of art, many by the couple themselves or given by artist friends. “My theory is that if you love something, it will all go together,” says Annie. “Everything has a story – we just buy what we love.”
The first floor sitting room and study are filled with items that reflect the couple’s personalities such as the freehand embroidery on the sofa, designed by Annie, the and the photography on the wall by Idris. On the first floor, a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom provides space for the couple to relax in, while the top floor has two further bedrooms, also filled with pieces of art and personal touches. “I don’t want it to be precious so art works come and go, it’s constantly changing and that makes it exciting… Although it’s nice to be settled,” says Annie. “We always laugh and say what on earth will be talk about, once the house is done?”