Cressida Bell on her colourful interiors and favourite collections
The artist, designer and granddaughter of Vanessa Bell finds powerful colours uplifting and decorative pottery irresistible
The house I live in was first bought by my parents in the 1970s. They wanted a pied-à-terre in London and, as my mother was a north Londoner, Islington seemed a good place. It passed down to me after my brother and sister lived there, so the house is part of my life. The first piece of furniture that I bought was a 1960s extendable dining table, which I spent ages painting in an elaborate pattern. It eventually wore out after too many dinners!
The oldest thing in my home is a 15th-century manuscript inherited from my grandfather, who was the Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. The manuscript is small but very precious. The entire basement of my home is new as it was flooded by a burst water main just before Christmas two years ago. Everything had to be stripped back to the brick and redone. I didn’t change much though – it was all replaced as it had been, but brand new.
At the top of my wishlist is a new stair carpet, but it’s such a hassle having four storeys re-carpeted that I’m avoiding it. My home in one word is colourful. My kitchen is turquoise, royal blue, terracotta and cream, and my sitting room has greyish-purple walls and a burnt orange carpet. Colours such as these lift the mood; I find them life enhancing.
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I collect far too many things: pottery, wooden spoons, penknives and jewellery. When my belongings were taken out of storage after the flood, I found I had 67 boxes to go in the kitchen alone – most of which was pottery. I vowed not to buy any more, but I find it irresistible. I’m mostly drawn to decorative pieces from Turkey, Italy, Spain and Mexico. My favourite room is the kitchen-cum-dining room. I love to cook and entertain, so it’s the heart of the house.
My favourite museum to visit is the V&A – it has been a formative influence on my life. The Royal College of Art (which I attended in the 80s) was set up close by so that students could use it as a design source. I spent many days there, sketching and taking pictures.
The only decorations that I put up for Christmas are a gaudy wreath on my pink front door, and some light-up holly leaves in the kitchen. We usually spend Christmas with family in Sussex, but this year we’re going to Crete! As a family we have lots of Christmas traditions. We don’t have a big lunch on Christmas Day, but instead have champagne and canapés while playing silly games. The big meal comes in the evening. We also have fillet of beef on Christmas Eve, and smoked gammon, black beans and cornbread on Boxing Day, cooked by me and my sister [the writer Virginia Nicholson].