Through the keyhole in Rochester
PUBLISHED: 15:47 28 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:47 28 January 2014
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When a Swedish photographer meets and marries a Chatham milliner and they both work from home, one of the essential requirements is great light – and this rented two-bedroom house in Rochester fits the bill perfectly.
Rikard and Zara Osterlund have lived here for a couple of years, Rikard using the second bedroom as a home office while Zara (who makes jewellery and sculptural pieces as well as hats) has a studio in the conservatory.
She also loves pottering around in the garden, invariably accompanied by their striking cat Babooshka.
“The light in this house is beautiful and the space, with such high ceilings, gives the rooms a real sense of openness,” says Zara.
“Our landlord used to live in the house and took really good care of it, so when we moved in we only had to decorate.
“We painted the walls in neutral colours as we have a large collection of artwork and bold colours or wallpapers tend to distract from the art.”
As Rikard’s stunning photos show, the couple have an eclectic taste that combines Arts & Crafts furniture with modern, simple Swedish design. The house is brimming with collections and oddities, but it has all been very carefully considered and placed.
Zara collects religious imagery, an interest that began in childhood when she was fascinated by a beautiful icon her mother keeps by her bed.
Dotted around the house, often in the most surprising places (check out the bathroom pictures overleaf) you’ll find all sorts of prints, paintings, crosses, votive candles, statues, ranging from the beautiful to the kitsch. There’s even a glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary.
“I also collect skulls, taxidermy and anatomical studies,” Zara adds. “Antique shops, flea markets and charity shops are my hunting grounds.
“Rikard has a sense of sleek Swedish minimal elegance, while I have a collector’s mind, surrounding myself with beautiful things (including him…).”
Zara likes to work with ‘found’ objects when adorning her hats and brooches, from taxidermied bird wings and feathers to broken jewellery and toys; nothing is ever wasted.
Persephone (the head in the dining-room cabinet) is a woman’s head and shoulders made from gathered birds’ wings, butterflies, snail shells, and other insects that took more than a year to make.
She is currently working on her latest sculptural piece, Icarus, a man’s head and shoulders made from birds’ wings dipped in beeswax. Another ongoing joint project with Rikard is a film about chronic illness and pain.
“Probably my favourite room in the house, the light streams into our bedroom in the morning to welcome the day. It’s my safe place, its feels calm and peaceful and the teal-painted wall gives it a sense of cosiness,” says Zara.
“My bedside table is an Arts & Crafts table my mother gave me when Rikard and I moved in together, it has the most gorgeous tiles. On the mantelpiece of the fireplace sits a painting of birds my father painted when I was a small girl.”
“What’s nicer than having a candlelit bath? And yes, I do have quite a few candles! They are part of my votive candle collection which ranges from saints and the Virgin Mary to Mexican Day Of The Dead and Dr Who images.”
“The living room is perhaps the room we spend most time in, its is dominated by an impressive portrait Rikard took of our friend and illustrator Mark Barnes for a series of work called A Storm Is Coming; all the people photographed in this project are Medway artists, designers and makers.
“On the wall we a have a ‘floating’ bookshelf which hold some of our most precious and influential books, from Susan Sontag’s On Photography to Mark Ryden’s Blood. We have piles of coffee table books everywhere in the house, especially in the front room, books that inspire both our work and lives, books we have read and books we have written or been a part of.
“Currently Persephone is on display in our dinning room, until she finds a new home in the next exhibition. The walls are full of artwork from Medway artists and friends, my favourite piece being the painting of my father and brother (I think my dad looked a bit like Frank Zappa when he was young). Darrell Hawkins painted it for a book of poetry I wrote called Chatham Girl.
“We are incredibly fortunate to know many talented artists and have received many artworks as presents over the years (most recently for our wedding last July).
“As we live in Medway, as do most of our artist friends, there are many references to this area in their work and ours.
“One of our favourite artists is Malcolm Attryde and we have a number of his works, we also have a beautiful watercolour by Billy Childish of my grandfather given to me as a birthday present from the artist.” n