A 1920s home in South London
Gigi Eligoloff has filled her 1920s home in Barnes with vintage, second-hand and upcycled pieces – all with a tale to tell. Photographs Darren Chung
‘I’m quite old-fashioned at heart,’ says Gigi Eligoloff when asked to describe her decorating style. ‘I’ve always loved pieces from the Victorian and art deco periods, and would much rather buy something old with a story than something modern.’ Given that hanging on her kitchen wall is an illuminated Coca-Cola sign (‘probably from a chip shop in the 1980s’) and on a yellow side table sits an Abigail Ahern hare lamp, her answer is somewhat unexpected.
But look closer and dotted around her 1920s house in Barnes you’ll find, among other gems, a 1920s glass table lamp (inherited from her grandparents), an antique piano stool and a Georgian window frame repurposed into wall art. In fact, there’s remarkably little in the house that isn’t old, something that Gigi puts down to having a family that’s always worked in the antiques business. ‘My grandfather had a junk shop and my mum has been dealing in vintage pieces since the 1970s, when she had a market stall in Portobello,’ she says. ‘The shop, and the pieces that made their way back to our home played a big part in my childhood.’
So dedicated is Gigi to buying second-hand that not even her kitchen units or sofas are new. ‘As well as finding many pieces on eBay and Gumtree I also like to shop from charity shops and boot sales. It’s much less scary to experiment with quirky pieces if they aren’t too expensive.’ This thrifty approach often results in an interesting tale or two. The second-hand Heal’s sofa in the TV room (£50 from Gumtree) was delivered one evening and spent the night on the front lawn covered in bin bags. ‘It wouldn’t fit through the front door,’ says Gigi. ‘First thing the next morning I watched YouTube videos showing me how to take the arms off.’
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The kitchen, too, was a lucky find. Having failed to find anything she fell in love with in the shops, Gigi took to Gumtree. Within minutes she stumbled across her industrial-looking units, which came complete with a Rangemaster stove. ‘As soon as I saw the advert, I phoned a friend who’s a handyman and carpenter and asked if he’d be able to repurpose it to fit our kitchen. He said yes, so I bundled the children into the car and sped down the A3 to Surrey to collect it.’
The units add warmth to the bright white walls of the kitchen and the wall cabinets have been cleverly adapted into a kitchen island – topped with a piece of pine, picked up from a salvage yard and crafted into a countertop.
Fortune was also smiling on Gigi two years ago when she was hunting for her current home. Although the house dates from one of her favourite eras and is located in leafy Barnes, two factors combined to keep it within budget: it’s an ex-council house and hadn’t been touched for 20 years. ‘As soon as I walked into it I thought, “This is the one.” The sun was streaming in and it had a really lovely feel,’ she says.
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At the time, the house had just two bedrooms and the kitchen was tiny so, before putting in an offer, Gigi called in the builders to see if it might be possible to extend. She was told that she could almost double its footprint by extending the kitchen into the garden and converting the loft into a bedroom, which is exactly what she did.
For someone who admits that before moving here she hadn’t even repainted a house, taking on a renovation project was rather ambitious. The property was taken back to its bones so Gigi was effectively starting from scratch. Aside from the major structural work – which has given the family an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area with French doors opening on to the garden – new wooden floors were laid and walls were painted in light-reflecting white and cheerful pastels. ‘I was inspired by South Beach in Miami. We don’t quite have the weather here but I love how the 1920s pastel colours work together,’ she says.
Gigi’s two children, Kit and Delphi, understandably adore their ice cream-hued home. ‘They love that there’s a Coca-Cola sign in our kitchen that lights up. It’s an uplifting, happy and bright home,’ says Gigi. And the best thing about it? ‘Everything has a funny little story behind it. We’ve never lived somewhere where everything is so personal to us before.’
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