December 27th, 2020
Bridie Hall, artist-designer and co-founder of the amazing shop and homestore, Pentreath and Hall, was born in New Zealand and ran away to seek her fortune in London twenty years ago, on finishing art school. She bought this terraced stucco-fronted north London house in 2017 and her friend and business partner the architectural designer Ben Pentreath helped her with its renovation.
In one back corner of the ‘sitting’ room is the little ‘drawing’ room, a new dedicated space for working and messing around with ideas: some ‘Egyptomania’ and a drawing made from an enlarged photograph of Bridie’s classical intaglios are pinned to the back of its door
Bridie’s cut paper collage of oak leaves, for inspiration.
Bridie was sent to England by a family friend, the pop musician Alanna Currie who had made the same journey of discovery herself in 1977. Bridie’s first job was in the tiny branch of the parfumier Penhaligon in Brook Street – ‘I never got sick of the smells.’ Alanna had told her to keep open-minded – don’t second guess anyone, you never know who’s going to walk through the door. Next she apprenticed herself to Roberta Gordon-Smith and by 2001-2 she was doing decorative finishes, ‘drag-rolling Kensington houses from basement to attic in oatmeal colour.’ She set up on her own by 2003, and got a job with Maisie Rowe and Thomas Heatherwick, hand-brush-painting the Georgian house they were restoring in Kings Cross from top to bottom. For Thomas’s 35th birthday party she had cast him a little waxed ebonised plinth. And someone came in and said, ‘Who made this!?’ I said, ‘I did!’ And we went outside for a cigarette. [This was the Heatherwick’s friend Ben Pentreath, newly arrived back from a stint working in New York.] And we kept in touch, he called in at my house in Columbia Road and always wanted to see what I was making there. One day I was painting Will Smalley’s Rugby Street bathroom silver – which it still is – and Ben came in and said – ‘I’ve got this SHOP! Do you want to run it?”
Most of the drawing room’s cubby-hole space is taken up by this birch-ply drawing table, designed by her old friend the architect William Smalley, his calculated tribute to Modernist designer Donald Judd.
Reams of virgin drawing paper sit waiting in the purpose-designed space beneath its table-top
table-top view of another pile of drawings and pictorial sources
and some more
‘My grandmother Janet was English, from Sunderland, one of seven siblings, her five brothers were riveters working at the docks. Then the war cane and my grandmother joined the W.A.F. She spent 18 months living under canvas in Grovsenor Square in London, the staff at Selfridges would donate them gloves and they were given the use of the washrooms at Claridge’s Hotel… she dated lots of soldiers and then she met my grandfather Atholl who was serving in the R.N.Z.A.F.
There’s a saying in New Zealand – because we’re so far away from the world but wanting to be at the centre of it – ‘You can make anything out of a piece of 4 by 2 wood and a bit of no. 8 wire.’ There were no imports, you had to engineer it yourself. My father built our house and made all our furniture. he was a glazier, so he figured out how to make mirror balls – and he died installing the mirror ball at our local skating rink. My dad had a copy of the ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers, by John Seymour, published in 1976. I’ve got a copy too.’
Experimental decoupage rope designs on the wall. Gio Ponti is another inspiration and she acknowledges some ‘Fornasetti rip-offs,’ too. Atop the pillar made by Stevensons of Norwich is the fake-Wedgwood planter by Dialene Better-Maid, Bridie’s new discovery made while hunting for genuine Wedgwood pieces – ‘practical and beautiful.’
The sculptural oak-leaf candle sconce was made by Swedish designer Malin Appelgren. The smiley face ‘riot-shield’ is no 2 in an edition of 20 by artist-musician Jimmy Cauty of the pop band the KLF – whose wife Alanna Currie (singer in the 80s band the Thompson Twins) was the family friend who’d bought Bridie her running-away ticket to London when she was 23.
Bridie’s newly-covered Victorian button-back chair used to belong to Maisie Rowe; she decided to start collecting these gouache Volcano paintings made for Neapolitan tourists in the C19th that hang behind it some years ago after seeing a similar set belonging to Isabel and Julian Bannerman.
Pediment mirror in a brown Spanish lacquer finish, designed by Bridie
And those cushions! A scrap of antique Aubusson from a Petworth antiques shop and a faux-malachite woolwork lavender-stuffed pillow, the gift of her friend the Mayfair gallery owner Lyndsey Ingram, her new hobby, stitched during the beastly 2020 lockdown.
This the ‘New Zealand’ shelf, with a pair of early C20th tourist souvenir Maori figures made from Kauri gum, and on the shelf below, Bridie’s ‘10,000 Love Letters’ stamp-collection-on-a-string, minerals, shells and keepsakes.
Saddle leather sling chair after a design by Ecuadorian Angel Pazmino, Rainbow cushion made by, and sold for, the UK prisoners charity set up for male lifers, Fine Cell Work, to a design by Pentreath and Hall, who have been working in partnership with the charity for fourteen years now
The dolly face was an impulse souvenir bought in New York’s Chinatown. Bridie fashions her coral branches from pear tree twigs and follows a recipe invented by Nicky Haslam for the red lacquer coat.
Modernist Dunlop tyre poster found in a Beaminster antique shop on Bridie’s birthday. The yellow decoupage gemstone planter is a unique prototype trial piece by Bridie
The homemade ‘Egyptomania’ textile hanging was bought at her local Criterion auction house in Essex Road, it dates from around the 1920s and Howard Carter’s opening of the almost-intact Tomb of the Pharaoh King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings, an event that electrified the Western world and inspired hundreds of amateur craft works like these.
The Victorian Welsh slate chimneypiece was marblised by Ian Harper the specialist decorative painter who also supplies Pentreath and Hall with marble papers. Painting by Michael Stubbs (who also teaches at the Glasgow School of Art)
Framed 1960s screen prints by Robin Denny from Cross Street Gallery in N1 down the other end of the sitting room
Bridie’s deerskin-effect stair carpet
Back bedroom view over her two year old roof garden
Dressing room cum spare room
Dressing room basin inserted into the little French commode that Bridie found in Criterion auctions, an antique sample print for a French lace design hangs above
Bedroom. Ebonised four poster from Marianna Kennedy, oil painting by Mary Fedden
Applique Egyptian frieze from Criterion auctions, the bedspread is an embroidered Suzani from Pentreath and Hall
Bridie’s prototype obelisks and polyhedrons made from card, gesso and wax
The hot water bottle cover made from an old blanket embroidered with a map of Bridie’s homeland in NZ was a present from her mother, the Malachite-effect tapestry lavender cushion is another gift made by Lyndsey Ingram. Ben Pentreath designed the red bedside table as a possible prototype for the eponymous shop he founded with Bridie, (although it never went into production).
The Shop in a Box was the gift of a young artist who showed in the exhibition Bridie curated for Spitalfields Life in 2012, the ebonized c19th chair with a Chinese yellow seat came from Maisie Rowe
Red lacquer pediment mirror by Bridie for Pentreath and Hall
Staircase leading to the basement kitchen and eating room, the 2 elongated-portrait-shaped Orientalist prints are by Bridie, dating from her art school days as a student at Unitec in NZ, c.1997-2000.
Basement front room
Bridie and her faithful curly poodle Max
The hanging lamp withits scarlet rim is a 1950s Murano glass antique from Tarquin Bilgen
the full length tablecloth was recently made for Bride by Gemma Drain of East London Cloth, the framed print is by Robin Denny and the overmantle print is by Eric Ravilious,
‘Colour – in any shape or form – is my absolute joy and love. All the wall of my house are white and I almost feel like a minimalist. But I always get such a RUSH – when I come into this house! I want to stop people in their tracks and show them something they’ve never seen before, make them dive in. You look at one thing and it leads you on to another thing and tells you a story. When my brother first visited me here from NZ, he stepped into my sitting room and said, I feel as if my eyes are swimming!
In the shop, I want the people who come in to look from object to object, eyes constantly in motion, like a butterfly alighting on flower after flower, never at rest.’
Her jolly green glass Duck decanter is by Gio Ponti
Bridie grew these chrysanthemums on her roof terrace
the Soaneian chest of drawers came from Criterion auctions ‘ages ago.’
the ethnographic print is of indigenous people of New Zealand
The Kitchen! Bridie is a skilled and generous cook and baker.
The tile pattern flooring is by Marmoleum. The Aga is 40 years old and came with the house. At the far left end of the mantelpiece are the Grecian urn faux-Wedgwood salt and pepper shakers made by Dialene that I gave her for a modest birthday present; I am proud that they’ve made the cut!
Bridie’s ‘overflow’ pantry with its new under-shelf gingham skirt by East London Cloth; Max’s dog bowl
Chutney made from the apples grown on her roof terrace.
John Rocque’s 1746 giant map of London reprinted from ’70s litho plates hangs above a Bloomsbury sofa covered in simple striped ticking and scratched by Bridie’s cat, both from Pentreath and Hall.
Very grateful thanks and tons of love to the talented Bridie Hall.
Bridie’s designs are for sale at Pentreath and Hall, Goods and Furnishings
& Bridie Hall At Home
All photographs copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts may be used as long as clear links are supplied back to the original authors and content.