‘House Proud’ is a series of videos created by the Telegraph which showcase some of Britain’s most idiosyncratic, unusual and unforgettable homes. A celebration of British eccentricity and imagination, in each film the owner gives us an intimate guided tour and tells us the story of their unique property.
In a Victorian townhouse in Stockwell, south London, there’s a hidden handmade haven. A vintage trunk overflows with scraps of floral patterned material. Upstairs, the bathroom tiles are individually hand-painted with illustrations of ladybirds, butterflies, botanicals, beetles and birds.
In the kitchen, previously unsightly units have been covered with shells, corks and broken china. Dried fruit, leaves and flowers from the nearby New Covent Garden Flower Market are strung across the fireplaces, and every room is scattered with cut-out paper shapes, origami birds, bunting and hand-drawn pictures.
This is the home of Maude Smith, a set designer, decorative painter and dressmaker. Smith grew up in rural Yorkshire, where her parents owned a brewery, and her work as a fashion and interiors stylist is driven by nostalgia for a vanished rural world and for the uninhibited creative freedom of childhood.
“I haven’t really grown up; in some ways I’m still a child,” says Smith. “I find children easier to relate to than grown-ups, [due to] their imagination and sense of adventure.”
This house, which she has lived in for seven years, is a pastoral haven which showcases her love of crafts, ingrained in by her Scottish grandmother’s “make and mend” philosophy. “I love collecting things and finding things,” she says. “Mending them and bringing them back to life, and surrounding myself with things I like. It’s important to me to have decoration in the everyday, beyond just pictures on the walls.”
While many of her murals and painted, mismatched furniture (much of which she has foraged and scrumped, in line with her anti-consumerism values) are inspired by the natural world, her designs also evoke folk traditions, and medieval art, such as milkmaids, peasants and fairies. She also gets her friends involved, getting them to paint tiles in the bathroom. As the contents of the house suggest, she is frequently found sketching, embroidering or illustrating.
Her dresses and sense of style are reminiscent of a Victorian nursery maid. It’s the antithesis of fast fashion: her delight in reclaimed furniture, Persian rugs and textiles to be treasured and passed down harks back to a time before industrialisation, mass production and disposable consumerism, and she prefers to dye fabric naturally with indigo and madder.
Her art celebrates the domestic, and no nook or cranny is left untouched by her impulse to transform quotidian objects and surfaces into something more fantastical; as William Morris – who she cites as an inspiration – advised: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.
Books have been jacketed with coloured paper, for reading on the squishy armchairs, and even the doors have been painted, one with joyful, dancing figures. Meanwhile, her appreciation of Vanessa Bell also informs her use of colour (the duck egg blue and rose madder red painted fireplace in one mustard yellow bedroom resembles one in Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury set in Sussex).
Pelmet-curtained French doors in the kitchen lead to the garden, where a leafy mural has been painted on a white brick wall. The kitchen and dining room are open plan, and the dining area is focused around a large oak table where she hangs an abundance of bunches of dried hops from the ceiling to dress the room. A cornflower blue dresser is packed with homemade jams and chutneys in assorted jars; one ledge is lined with period hats, and pictures in assorted frames fill the entirety of a gallery wall.
The wallpaper in the hall and stairway is a highlight: designed by Smith for her final year project at Edinburgh College of Art, and features illustrations of Alice in Wonderland-esque clocks, pots of paint brushes, lamps, bookcases framed pictures and vases of flowers.
It’s quite a lot for one house, but it suits her and her three housemates, two of whom are artists. “I’m sure it’s not to everyone’s taste,” she says. “A lot of people prefer a more minimalist style. But I don’t really mind what people think.”
‘House Proud’ videos will be published on telegraph.co.uk on Thursdays at 8am