Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kitsch, but classy: Vintage-clothing seller Holly Pickering has given her 1950s memorabilia a sophisticated home

Interview by Rhiannon Harries
Sunday, 7 December 2008

I approach my house the same way I approach the way I dress. A lot of people expect me to wear head-to-toe vintage but I've always found it more interesting to mix retro and contemporary than to go for historical fidelity. It leaves more room for personality and means that every last detail doesn't have to be completely perfect.

This is the room that sold this house in north London to me – there's lots of light but it's soft and peaceful. It's our main living space so it isn't a considered, put-together room at all, but I'm pleased with the way that it has evolved slowly. My boyfriend is really keen on 1950s kitsch, whereas I try to keep things a little more understated. I think we have the balance right – the wackier objects are offset by the calm colour scheme and the natural wooden floor. It's lively, but hopefully it's also quite sophisticated.

We've both been really lucky in that we have inherited lots of wonderful things from our families. The old Japanese pachinko machine on the wall is from the 1950s and was given to us by my boyfriend's father, who found it at Camden Market. The chicken perching on top is a reissue of a 1950s game – you shoot at it and it lays an egg. Most of the time it's just decorative but when we have kids – or men, in fact – round to visit it's the instant entertainment corner.

The wooden chair belonged to my grandmother and when she passed away I wanted to keep one thing to remind me of her house. It looks different here, though – as if it was made to be tucked into a bay window. It goes well with the 1940s Japanese picnic hamper, which my grandfather brought back from Japan, where he spent his childhood.

The animal skulls on the shelf belong to my boyfriend. He collects them because he likes their sculptural quality. They are all animals that have died of natural causes and he gets them from a company that supplies them as props for TV and film. The fish is a piranha from the Amazon and was a present – it's been preserved and sealed but it still seems to drive our cat wild, which is worrying.

The glassware is all 50p charity-shop finds that I pick up when I am back home in the north-east. There, I think people are put off by anything that reminds them of their grandparents' houses, but I think if you put it in a modern context you can transform a piece and make it feel relevant again. So while they are all chucking this stuff out, I am there buying it all up.

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