Hello and welcome to my show notes for the 4th episode of the eleventh season of the Great Indoors podcast. We have a real treat in store for you today but first, a big thank you to our sponsors Harlequin for their support and colour inspiration. As always you can listen to the full show here while enjoying the pics here.
So high levels of excitement for this episode, as Kate and I escape our duvet dens for a rather fabulous house tour! Earlier this year, the BBC referred to her as the woman from lock down kitchen disco, it is, of course, Sophie Ellis Bextor. For those of you who missed her legendary Friday night Instagram discos performed in head to toe sequins while tip toeing around tiny children in her kitchen, will surely know her for having a string of hits, seven albums under her belt, world tours and live performances and not to mention a dazzling stint on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Sophie lives with her husband, Richard Jones, music producer, songwriter, bass guitarist and founding member of the British band The Feeling and their five sons. It’s fair to say she is mightily outnumbered but we are happy to report that she is getting things back into balance with her home decor. We just had to kick off the show in the insta famous open-plan kitchen featuring the disco ball in the bay window, sequin bunting and disco lights, all of which Sophie was keen to tell us were already there before the discos took off. Complete with turntables and DJ deck – “as a family that’s how we like to let off steam, celebrate and spend time together.”
So how did the first disco come about?
Sophie says “…it was very much wing it. Right at the beginning of the first lockdown, we were at home a week before the rest of the country as one of the boys was sent home with a cough and I was feeling monumentally useless. The year ahead for my husband and I had gone from being full of events and tours to suddenly…..tumbleweed. I had so many clever friends who wanted to connect with people and doing amazing performances on Instagram, playing the piano and accompanying themselves – I stopped piano lessons when I was 14. Richard said, why don’t we just do a gig, we’ll do it live on Instagram and you can do a party set and there was just something about the sheer lunacy of it that appealed. So I found myself putting on my sequin catsuit, putting my rollers in, Mickey was just 14 months old at the time and he was crawling around the floor and there were wires everywhere and I thought this is just destined for disaster and if we do manage to broadcast it people will laugh at me for looking so ridiculous. Even before the feedback, it just made us feel good and it felt like we did a real gig. It became a huge tonic for us.”
I just loved watching these fabulous discos not only for a bit of escapism but for the relatability – the multitasking along with going slightly mad indoors, that so many of us parents have experienced.
Sophie said, “this wasn’t about my day job it was about what made me feel better when everything’s a little wonky outside these four walls.”
The play room walls are in Setting Plaster by Farrow & Ball which Sophie says is a ‘clever colour” as she also has it upstairs and looks completely different. “Downstairs it’s a neutral, these walls were white for so long and they used to bother me so much. I find doing my home up is constantly evolving, it’s like tending a bush to trying to make it flower in the right season.”
“We’ve lived here for twelve years and I’m a bit fearless when it comes to decorating and I think it’s getting a bit out of control, I think I need to tone down.” The house is a Grade II listed building so nothing can be changed structurally (without permission) so all changes have been cosmetic and the character of the house has remained since it was built in the Victorian era.
Even the downstairs loo is a little jewel box of kitschiness and collections, bursting full of mementoes and it reminded me of all the houses and flats I lived in before I met my husband – I absolutely love a bit of kitsch, but my husband Tom has an aversion to knick-knacks. I was in heaven in Sophie’s house, everywhere you look there is something twinkling or smiling at you!
From the kitchen to the L-shaped dining room where the family spend a lot of their time and you may recognise the fabulous wallpaper! I have the stronger pink version but the Artemis by House of Hackney looks equally as fabulous in the blush pink.
“I love this wallpaper as it’s one of the William Morris inspired designs and this house is part of the Arts and Craft movement so it tied into the history of the house. I think it’s so fun having it in a kitchen as it’s not one you would normally see in a kitchen, but so what, we spend a lot of time in here and I want to have excitement everywhere I look.”
As we make our way into the hallway we couldn’t help but notice the London Toile Wallpaper by Timorous Beasties. ‘What I like about it is that it looks very traditional from a distance but as you get closer there are rather unsettling images of urban life.
When Sophie moved into the house she felt a little intimidated by this living space and unsure what to do – with two large bay windows. She has created two separate spaces – a living room with a fabulous large pink sofa and a cute little snug sofa and a clever mix of eccentric accessories.
The dining area boasts a large dining table, with a family of seven I guess you need it. But it is more for entertaining, one thing, like all of us, Sophie has missed over the last year.
Sophie chose Pigeon by Farrow & Ball for the walls rather than more patterned wallpaper as she wanted all of the larger pieces and prized possessions to sing and not fight for the space. Sophie’s home reflects her mother’s style and growing up she says her house was full of life, fun and never too serious.
“I have five kids and I want them to feel every space, see things and the possibility of where they could lead, be stimulated by stuff, see silly things – it doesn’t have to be serious.”
This house certainly won’t be replicated as it tells Sophie and her family’s story, life and experiences and she says “I don’t feel defined by the things I own, I just enjoy them.”
The little laundry room, Sophie’s safe space, which was once the ensuite and it was Richard who suggested making this a space for the washing machine and tumble dryer instead. I just love that she has wallpapered in there, as she says “the door is often open so I just thought, why not.”
Every room you walk into you get a sense of fun but they are all very creative.
You can listen to Sophie’s podcast Spinning Plates and her autobiography, also called Spinning Plates will be launched in October.
It was such a treat to take a tour of a fellow colour and pattern lover and huge thanks to Sophie for being so welcoming. As always big thanks to Harlequin, our fab producer Kate Taylor from Feast Collective and of course our lovely listeners.