LPOL Founders Katy & John caught up with Sussex Life Magazine editor Faye Bartle to discuss their new home project in East Sussex. Read below for the full article, published in June 2021.
Flair for design
Design duo John and Katy Maskell Bell invite us into their Victorian home in Eridge where their passion for considered design and sustainability is reflected in their eclectic interiors.
Words: Faye Bartle
Photos: Michael at Saltwick Media
As their three-year-old son Wilf flies through the air on the rope swing suspended from the ancient oak tree in the back garden, the Maskell Bells are a picture of happy family life in the East Sussex countryside.
It’s exactly the sentiment that drove them to swap their two-bedroom flat in Camden for the stunning period property in Eridge, near Crowborough, in October 2020.
‘I was raised in Groombridge and John in Kent, and we both wanted Wilf to have a similar experience growing up, with plenty of opportunity to climb trees and have adventures in the great outdoors,’ says Katy. ‘Being closer to family was also another big motivating factor for us, and the pandemic really just cemented our decision.’
They were especially keen to find a Victorian property.
‘I’ve never forgotten my grandfather, who was a well- regarded architect, telling me that you can’t beat Victorian houses in terms of their solidity – they’re always built from robust materials – and their proportions,’ says Katy. ‘This house just grabbed us from the first moment we saw it. It was built of red brick in 1883 as the original home for the farm manager of the Nevill Estate.
‘Parts of the estate – including Eridge Castle, which was demolished and rebuilt in the 1930s – was influenced by elements of the Gothic Revival, which is why you’ll find quirky details like arched windows, patchwork brick and a pinnacle roof on our house.’
The property is surrounded by rolling countryside which, of course, equals amazing views.
‘The wildlife on our doorstep is captivating – we often see sheep, deer and even peacocks roaming around.
‘The sense of community here is really strong – our village WhatsApp group is thriving,’ she adds. ‘Wilf loves his local nursery where he’s made friends and can play outside a lot.
‘In practical terms, we don’t have to do anything major to the house so it’s a case of adding to it rather than ripping anything out. So that’s one less thing to worry about while running a business and running round after a three- year-old.’
Being in the countryside is a welcome change of pace for the couple, who met as students at London’s Central Martins College of Art & Design. Katy, a textile designer with a passion for salvaging and upcycling material, launched LPOL (formerly Lost Property of London, see lpol.co.uk) in 2009 – an independent design brand specialising in handcrafted bags and accessories. They married in 2014 and John took on a formal role at the company in 2017, bringing his advertising and copywriting prowess to the table so Katy could concentrate on the creative side.
Katy and John have developed a former storage space in the garage into a studio where the duo design and create smaller items in the collection, such as journals and objects made using waste and surplus material. The rest of the home has been styled into a sophisticated space with mostly secondhand finds, antiques and inherited pieces.
‘There are only three pieces of furniture in the house that we bought new – the master bed, the Muller Van Severen chair in the bedroom and the Hans J Wegner Wishbone Chairs in the dining room,’ says Katy, who has spent the best part of the past eight months painting walls, sourcing fabrics and making trips to a handful of local antique fairs – as well as having the occasional peek into a skip for furniture to repurpose.
‘Older pieces are brimming with memories and have an attachment to people and places,’ says John. ‘We are drawn to modern and period pieces that are handmade, with great attention to detail and longevity – this really echoes and inspires our own design ethos.’
‘From the very beginning, the business has been about recycling and sustainability – reusing something beautiful to create something useful and we take a similar approach to our home style,’ elaborates Katy.
‘In the future, we might knock down the wall that separates the kitchen and dining room to create one large space – simply as the way we live today means a separate dining space isn’t really a priority.
‘But for now, we are happy with the British-Scandi style family home we have created and the life we are building here in Sussex. It was definitely a dream move for us.’