New Huxley | LPOL x seventy + mochi

Reclaim Magazine: All Things Considered


 

In search of a change of pace and a more meaningful lifestyle John and Katy Maskell Bell left London in favour of a characterful Victorian house in rural East Sussex – a beautifully crafted home curated with antique and vintage finds.

Deciding to leave the capital and head back to their roots on the East Sussex/Kent borders, creatives John and Katy Maskell Bell moved both home and business, Lost Property of London (LPOL), to an 1883-built house with Gothic Revival details on the edge of the Eridge Park Estate near Royal Tunbridge Wells. Casting a wide net over the area and viewing several ‘done-up’ houses, they eventually decided to focus their attention on finding a place they could slowly renovate and make their mark. ‘We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend money on ripping stuff out to start again, so what we needed was a shell, a simple honest canvas to create with,’ explains Katy. First viewing the house in February 2020, they fell in love with the place; however, lockdown hit, and they, along with their young son Wilfred, had to wait until October to move in. The attraction of the house, aside from being surrounded by beautiful countryside, vineyards and farms yet not a million miles away from civilisation, was how the previous owners had kept it in good order using quality, period appropriate design and materials. ’It wasn’t overdone at all and was kept simple with few items of furniture. So, it was clear for us to start visioning a warm, relaxed, lived-in home, recalls Katy. Undertaking fundamental work to the central heating system and electrics, they moved onto converting the first floor of the garage into a home studio and workspace from which to run their business, an independent British design brand specialising in made-to-last leather and upcycled handbags, totes, rucksacks, work bags and accessories.

In 2023, the ground floor kitchen and dining room was knocked through to create a flowing open-plan space. ‘This part of the project has been very successful, and we love the multiple aspect and natural light it gives, not to mention the discovery of smaller architectural details,’ says John. Describing herself as ‘a hunter-gatherer of second-hand and antique furniture, furnishings, and art,’ and feeling connected to things that have history and a life lived, Katy’s, and indeed John’s, ‘collected’ interior style embraces furniture from multiple eras, either sourced by themselves or passed down through family. ‘It’s important to us that the pieces we bring into the house have both a story and provenance,’ says Katy. She adds, ‘there are very few items that we’ve bought new; the majority are second-hand, recycled, upcycled, and restored.’ Katy comes from a creative family, and growing up, she was always surrounded by antique and vintage furniture and furnishings, so it’s in her DNA to think creatively and choose old over new. ‘By choosing to buy largely preloved, we are also able to keep our carbon footprint down and hopefully model and inspire a responsible attitude for future generations.’ Looking around John and Katy’s home, it’s clear that great consideration has been given to its aesthetic. Natural colours and materials and time-worn treasures work in perfect harmony to create both a feeling of comfort and familiarity. It also seems to cleverly nod towards both town and country homes of the Victorian era, perhaps suggesting that a little of their previous city life has been brought with them. 

Decorative Themes 

Considered Change

When planning what changes to make to the house, John and Katy’s main vision was to draw out more of the character and soul of the building. Over the years, while nothing has been insensitively destroyed or taken away, several areas had been boarded, plastered, and painted over. The goal was to rediscover its architectural bones, turning them into features that both tell its story and history while also being decorative and pleasing to the eye. The main work was the creation of an open-plan kitchen and dining space. ‘This was a great opportunity to strip back to the bare bones and then make decisions on what should be exposed and celebrated,’ explains John. Katy adds, ‘we took the plasterboard off the ceiling to uncover the big nine-inch pine joists. They’re not beautiful beams, but we quite liked the gnarly bits.’ The long wall in the kitchen was also stripped back, which, in their mind’s eye, was going to reveal a perfectly formed brick wall. ‘The reality was anything but perfect! There were lots of scars and then a doorway and a big old hole which we think might have been a bread oven appeared,’ recalls Katy. Gaps were patched up with bricks from an adjoining wall that was knocked down, creating a circular process. ‘We love the depth of texture this has created,’ says John. Now that the house is finished, Katy describes it as having ‘a sense of calm and understatement,’ and says, ‘I think this has a lot to do with the simple, laid-back architecture and our collected approach to the interior which helps grounds us in the space.’

Crafting Creative Space

Working from their home office and studio, a space designed to facilitate design work, leatherwork, prototyping, and admin, revolves around a seven-meter-long desk which Katy and John can move up and down depending on what task they’re tackling at the time. Inspired by a recent visit to writer Nigel Nicolson’s waterside writing gazebo in Sissinghurst, Katy has also recently created a workspace in a bay window overlooking the valley. ‘This is now hot property as it has the best view,’ says John. Having met while at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London – Katy studying Textile Design and Business Studies and John Graphic Design & Advertising – the couple have always had a creative alignment, so running a business together was a natural step. It was also a joint plan to address issues around wastefulness and fill a gap in the market for responsibly sourced accessories with full transparency. ‘I hate waste, and I didn’t enjoy designing to a corporate template in my previous work; products were being designed at breakneck speed, with little care and attention over the design and material used,’ says Katy. Having always been one to salvage vintage fabrics – her great-grandfather upcycled wool blankets into military uniforms – Katy says, ‘many of my school and college projects were focused on an upcycling philosophy, which really was the conceptual underpinning for the Lost Property of London (LPOL) brand.’ Also coming out of this creative hub as a side-hustle, Katy Bell (katybell.co.uk), are lampshades hand-painted in a Bloomsbury-esque style.

Old Friends

Drawn to Victorian and Georgian furniture for their craftsmanship, architectural proportions and details, Katy and John also have a soft spot for timeless oddities that don’t fit a particular era. Above all, though, they like pieces to have character, charm, and history, each one telling a story. ‘Bringing older items into the home definitely adds narrative and soul,’ remarks Katy. When tracking down antiques and vintage pieces, Katy has her go-to second-hand shops, as well as frequenting fairs such as Ardingly International Antiques & Collectors Fair and Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park She notes, ‘there are some good local charity shops near us too, which produce some real gems every now and then.’ Alongside pieces that have been bought ready to use or needed a bit of work, John and Katy’s house is furnished with much-cherished inherited items. A Victorian refectory table and a brass bed given by Katy’s parents, a Georgian mahogany linen press acquired from an aunt and uncle, and a Missoni-covered piano stool previously belonging to her grandmother being fine examples. What’s more, these special made to last pieces have the potential to be handed down again, generation after generation. As an extension of her love for all things old and interesting, Katy has recently launched ‘The Collected’ at katybell.co.uk, selling a small curation of intriguing second-hand finds.

Add a sense of familiarity to your interior by using time-worn furnishings and pieces handed down through the generations

John & Katy’s Sourcebook

Ardingly International Antiques & Collectors Fair For a large selection of antiques sold by dealers from the UK and Europe (iacf.co.uk).

Authentic Reclamation Traditional reclaimed building materials (authentic-reclamation.co.uk).

Haines Collection Surplus fabrics and accessories from leading industry names (hainescollection.co.uk).

Lewes Antiques Centre A warren of treasures, from art and kitchenalia to rustic furniture and decorative items (20 Cliffe High St, Lewes).

Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park Cool inspiring finds for the home and garden (sunburyantiques.com).

Tarn London Beautiful, old classic artwork, furnishings and lampshades to make a beautiful home (tarnlondon.com).

Tat London Run by Charlie Porter, an online jumble shop with a blog attached (tat-london.co.uk).

Find John and Katy at lpol.co.uk and katybell.co.uk



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