Times Magazine features « Vinny Lee @ work


The unusual upside down home of  sweet maker extraordinaire Chantal Coady of  Rococo chocolates was a fun place to shoot with a surfeit of chocolate on hand to make the day go on a sugar high! The tall thin house has a kitchen in the converted attic and a zig zag format of bedrooms and bathrooms on descending landings.

Full article, reproduced with kind permission:

Make no mistake – it’s the rooftop kitchen you want to head for first in Chantal Coady’s tall and narrow South London home. After all, it was in this house 28 years ago that she formulated plans for her luxury chocolate company, Rococo, and in this room that she keeps plentiful supplies of her delicious wares.

The kitchen is bright and sunny, made even more so by the dark climb up the stairs. The distinctive pattern of Rococo’s packaging adorns the upholstery of the Gustavian sofa and chair in the comer of the room, and a healthy crop of cocoa plants is growing in pots on a vintage Formica-topped table.

Coady has lived here since she graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in 1981. “The houses and the square they sit on were built in the 1880s for managers working for the London and South Western Railway, and the area was rather smart. However, by the time I came to live here, lots of the properties were squats. They were later owned by a housing co-operative, so I rented for many years. Then, in 2000, the house came up for sale and we bought it.”

The upper storeys were opened up to create the double-height kitchen and a mezzanine study above. Shower rooms were added to the children’s rooms and a fantastical Moorish bathroom adjoined to the master bedroom.

“While the works were in progress, we rented a flat next door. To avoid trips up and down the numerous stairs, the builders rigged up a walkway across the scaffolding so we could go direct from one house to the other. I used to have a fear of heights, but that cured me.”

The couple’s next task was the decorating.

In the main bedroom, a large section of original Twenties painted waxcloth found under the carpet was carefully removed and mounted on the walls. The deep red of its Turkish carpet design was picked up in cranberry-coloured paintwork and Laura Ashley “Silk Road” blinds, and the chimney breast was highlighted in silver leaf. The en suite bathroom’s lustrous rebuilt in a different alignment, rear windows were enlarged into doorways and a chute was installed so clothes needing to be washed could be dropped from the upper floors into the ground-floor utility room. In a house with six half-landings, that is a very practical feature.

‘The houses on our square were built in the 1880s. By the time I came to live here. Lots of the properties were squats’

The “we” are Coady’s husband, James Booth, and their children, Fergus, 14, and Millie, ll. “Once we owned the house, we felt we could carry out some serious alterations and, as the children were growing up, we wanted to reorganise the space to make it more usable. Although we took some advice from an architect, we worked mainly with a designer/builder and a structural engineer. It was when the architect said we should start by getting rid of some of our possessions that I knew our relationship wasn’t going to work,” she says with a grin.

The building works were radical. The roof came off and the staircase was taken out and green handmade tiles came from Dar Interiors and a carved screen was made to measure. Continuing the colourful theme, the first-floor landing was painted yellow to set off James’s collection of Wisden cricketing guides.

Even the children had a hand in the project.

Millie got the up-cycling bug and revamped an inherited chest of drawers in a rainbow of shades, while Fergus’s room benefited from a batch of wood that was recycled from a skip and used to panel the walls around his bed, creating a nook reminiscent of a ship’s cabin.

On the top floor, carpenter Luke Pearson – brother of TV gardener Dan – built a wall’s length of bench seats with storage beneath. Over them is a row of cupboards concealed behind mirrored doors that reflect the daylight from the ceiling windows, making the room bright enough for the cocoa plants to thrive.

Coady foresaw the trend for quality chocolate with identifiable provenance by a good 20 years. Perhaps soon she’ll be ready for another first – producing a Rococo range from home-grown beans.
via Times Magazine features « Vinny Lee @ work.

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