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The Ellis kitchen: joyful colour

Kathryn & Robbie Collin’s colourful home in South London belies their mutual love of colour; on Robbie’s part, his eye for design is indelibly linked to his highly visual job as the film critic for the Telegraph.

Citing influences such as Pedro Almodóvar, Wes Anderson and Studio Ghibli, Robbie describes imagining interiors as though they are scenes for a film; Kathryn meanwhile suspects her love of colour may have come from spending time in colourful family kitchens as she grew up in North Yorkshire. The resulting kitchen is a colour addicts’ dream, proving joyful and uplifting in equal measure.

We sat down with Robbie and Kathryn to discuss using colour to create spaces with personality, banishing grey, and having the same taste in kitchens as Pedro Almodóvar.

Robbie: We met at university in St Andrews; I’m from Edinburgh and Kathryn is from North Yorkshire. We moved down here because I got on to a graduate training scheme at a newspaper, and I’ve been working in newspapers ever since.

Kathryn: I came down to London to follow Robbie. We were expecting this to be a short term plan, but we both fell in love with the city and we’ve been here ever since.

Robbie: We moved to South London initially as it was a good place to rent. When we were looking for somewhere to buy I think we wanted to find an old-ish house that we could do something interesting with.

Kathryn: We’ve been here just over 7 years but we waited a bit to do any major work because the kids were just toddlers. We have two young boys now, who are currently playing Minecraft in the background!

Robbie: We’d already done other bits and pieces to the house such as the living room and bedroom before starting on the kitchen. We did our bedroom up just before the pandemic – we put in a new fireplace and a nice dark wallpaper from House of Hackney. We’ve designed the two spaces quite differently; the bedroom is relaxing and calming, but the kitchen feels really upbeat and invigorating. It’s like a transition from Jean Pierre Jeunet to Pedro Almodóvar – it sets the mood really beautifully.

We started working on the kitchen extension in September 2020. The main purpose of the big serious refurb was to create this one big space at the back of the house where we could all be together, whether we were working at the table, cooking or watching TV – we could all still be in the same room.

We also wanted a space that was really light and airy; Edwardian houses aren’t necessarily the lightest. We also really got into cooking in the first lockdown. When you spend so much time in your kitchen, that’s when you realise what’s not working.

Kathryn: Before we moved here we’d done up a flat nearby. We had an IKEA kitchen at the old flat; we knew a lot of architects used them because the bones of the IKEA kitchens are really good. In terms of the units, it’s completely bespoke. I love the fact that you can just have a pantry cupboard or bookshelves with an IKEA hack – all these wonderful things that are incredibly cost-effective.

When we had use of the space again, it was quite extraordinary. My job can be quite full-on, but working in here is really uplifting. When I come in here to do team meetings, it gets a lot of compliments from people.

Robbie: It’s a much better hosting space than it ever was – it’s night and day in terms of difference. My visions of a poker night and mixing drinks from the island will happen eventually!

Kathryn: I started off my kitchen research on sites like Instagram and Pinterest, and that’s how we came across HØLTE. I wanted to go with someone a bit more interesting. We went and met Lisa, the designer,  and we said that we wanted to be bold and have some fun with colour.

Robbie: Obviously I watch a lot of films for my job, and there are a lot of great kitchens in cinema. The Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s interiors are amazing but the kitchens, in particular, are beautiful. They always have a real confidence with colour.

Funnily enough, in his new film, Parallel Mothers, Penelope Cruz has similar units to our top cabinets. The doors are maybe more red than orange, but it’s the same sliding doors. The film came out after we got our kitchen done but it felt like a real vote of confidence in our choices.

I’m also really inspired by Wes Anderson; he has created so many amazing interiors in his films. His colour palettes are always really beautiful and also very revealing about the characters and the environments in the film. Colour can be really personal.

 

Kathryn: I suppose there’s maybe something subconscious about my colour choice. The orange reminds me of my mum’s 80s kitchen. We really like 60s and 70s films and books too, which has probably also had an influence on our colour choice.

Robbie: And Kathryn’s aunt’s kitchen up in Yorkshire is an avocado and cream colour. It’s from the 70s and has been kept immaculately ever since – you could imagine it being used as a filming location for that period, but it still looks great now.

Robbie: I got some Jacques Tati posters a while back – for Mon Oncle and Jour de Fetes – which have a really bold orange background. I don’t think I consciously realised I loved the colour, but the posters will go so well in here.

Kathryn: Lisa at HØLTE could see that we were going for something a bit different. I think she spent a lot of time designing our kitchen which we’re really thankful for – probably much more than she ought to have spent! She came up with two amazing different designs and layouts with different colourways. We decided to go with the orange laminate, American elm and the dark Fenix, and it’s just fantastic.

Robbie: If someone had sat us down at the start of the process and asked would we like that combination, we probably would have said no, but we kind of reasoned our way to it step by step with Lisa.

Kathryn: And I think we even asked her to add more colour! One of my favourite things is definitely the wood grain. The orange grout is also really fun. It’s a really cost-effective way of getting a good look with just plain white tiles. It was a bit hair raising getting the colour right though!

Robbie: The marmoreal terrazzo counter on the island became the statement in the middle, and the rest of the worktop is Tristone which is just indestructible. The high cupboards are wonderful. Choosing the sliding door mechanism is inspired by our trips to Japan – it’s the same as the sliding screen doors that you get in traditional Japanese architecture. It’s a really elegant look.

Robbie: When people come round it’s a talking point. I wanted it to be like stepping into a scene, rather than just coming into a normal kitchen. The thing that puzzles me about houses that go up for sale is that everything is always grey. I think it’s an absolute waste of not having tried something – to make a space really characterful and that you really love spending time in. Colour gives it that pop of delight.

In the film industry, there are amazing production designers and costume designers – people who have incredible taste and who have access to all kinds of materials. If you see them doing something really well, it’s kind of crazy not to steal their ideas. When you see stuff being done well, it gives you the confidence to say ‘Yeah, we can do this too!’