WHEN Kiss Her designer Bianca Hall found out she was pregnant with her second child, she and her husband Ed knew the only way was up. The couple bought their Victorian end-terrace house in London four years ago.
As Bianca explains, “We definitely bought this house with a view to going up and also out to the side. But we always thought we would go out to the side first and extend the kitchen, even though we wouldn’t gain much more space; it was more of a lifestyle thing. However, practicalities won out – you don’t get two more bedrooms doing a kitchen extension, and when we found out I was pregnant with Baxter we knew it was time to go up.
“We’ve recently completed what they call in this area a loft conversion. I actually think it’s quite a bizarre description as it involves taking the roof off your house and building a complete new level, so its not’s so much a conversion as an extension.”
The conversion took six weeks from start to finish, but was still a little more invasive than Bianca had anticipated. “For me it was quite stressful but I think that was because I was pregnant. I was really naïve about how it would impact on me working from home. I guess I thought because it was on top of the house it wouldn’t be that intrusive and it wouldn’t destroy the rest of the house. There was one day I was sitting on our bedroom floor putting my socks on and ten minutes later, in the exact same spot where I was sitting, a builder’s foot came through the ceiling along with lots of plaster – I should have bought a lottery ticket that day.”
The house is now spread over three storeys, with a kitchen/diner and an open-plan living and dining room on the ground floor, which also has access to the garden. “We have a 50ft garden, which is lovely. It’s a bit overgrown so we call it the secret garden – then, technically, I feel it’s meant to be overgrown. We’re very lucky in London to have a garden this size, and even though we’re overlooked it’s by an old school that has been converted into apartments, so it’s a beautiful building.”
The first floor is split-level with a bathroom and spare room on the first area and then the master bedroom and Edie’s bedroom on the second. In the loft conversion is Baxter’s room, Bianca’s studio and a second bathroom. “I designed the floor-plan for the conversion and I allowed for a large landing, where we’ve put a desk and it works as second office – it’s a really great space.
“Edie, who is eight, was in the attic initially but we didn’t think having a new baby next to her would be great at an age when she really needs her sleep. We have a habit of moving everyone’s bedrooms around. I think it’s something I inherited from my mother. I don’t think there’s a house I’ve lived in where I haven’t moved my bedroom several times, and it’s certainly the case here. It keeps everything interesting.”
Changing the sleeping quarters isn’t the only thing that keeps this house interesting; Bianca’s designs add real individuality to the property and pop up everywhere – although Edie’s bedroom is perhaps Bianca’s best showcase. As she explains, “Edie is my biggest fan, she has loads of stuff in her room and every time I do something new you hear, ‘Oh, Mummy, can I have one of those in my room?’ which is very sweet but usually it’s a sample that I have only one of.”
With screen prints, neon lights, cushions, tiles and accessories, Bianca’s talent for turning the normal into the unusual is a natural gift. “I studied art at school but I didn’t follow that route and worked in television production, although I was always the frustrated stylist. Ed and I used to juggle the childcare, but when we moved to London it was into the music side of production and it just didn’t really work with a small child. I took a bit of a break but realised I wasn’t happy so I did a screen printing course and started doing my own thing. I was really lucky to garner some great press and that gave me the confidence to move things forward. It was just prints initially but then I started doing ceramic tiles and cushions and I’m just about to launch my accessories range.”
Bianca’s inspiration comes from life in general but she does credit Ed too. “Ed had ‘Life would be rubbish without you’ engraved on my engagement ring, and that design was a direct borrow from him. I’m a firm believer that grown-up interiors don’t need to be boring and I like to keep humour in my designs. I like things to be slightly off-beat and not too obvious.”
The result is a family home that is stylish and fun and where everyone has input. “Ed and I have similar tastes but I certainly don’t have control over the house. He’s not one of those men who doesn’t care about interiors. He’s a television presenter and writer. I actually quite like the fact he cares and we do have our discussions, and of course it makes it our place rather than just mine.”
The couple are finished with renovations for the moment, but with Kiss Her on the up as much as the house, who knows? Once Baxter is a little older and the juggling act of work, life and family calms down, maybe that kitchen extension will come to fruition after all.
To see or buy Bianca’s work visit www.kissher.co.uk
Favourite place to shop?
Japanese food. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner easily.
Your idea of perfect relaxation?
Our last family holiday before Baxter was born – lazing by the pool in Ibiza.
Where else would you choose to have a home?
I would definitely have a home in New York, right in the heart of the city.
What would you save if you had a fire?
A photograph of my mum that my father took when she was modelling.
I have dreadful taste in films and most of the ones I see are children’s. However, not all kid’s films are bad, and my current favourite is The Muppets.
Favourite record to dance to?
Anything by Blondie.
What has been the best moment in your career so far?
I think when I started getting direct press enquiries – I knew it was serious then.
Favourite thing in your home?
I would usually say my Kartell lamp, but it has been bumped off the top spot by the beautiful woven Gwendolen cushions (Fluoro Tulip and Abstract Animal) that I recently treated myself to.
Any DIY disasters?
We didn’t really have any disasters but we did have a few incidents of complete madness, due to me being pregnant and madly nesting. I remember tiling almost in darkness (there was no electricity in the extension then) because we wrongly thought that the plumber was coming back the following day and we needed to have all the tiling finished before the sink, loo and radiator were plumbed in. That was not a good night.
What temptation can’t you resist?
Sugar – it’s dreadful.
You don’t want to me get me started. Probably when people get your and you’re mixed up.
Who has been your biggest influence?
My husband Ed. He’s the one who encouraged me to start Kiss Her in the first place, and he has also influenced lots of my designs.
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