A natural sense of style and love of classic design helped Karen Proctor craft a home that doubles as a salon
A LOVE of history and vintage clothing led fashion enthusiast and stylist Karen Proctor to create both a home and business to suit her enduring passions.
A former personal stylist for Liberty of London, Karen set up her vintage fashion company, Albertine Burdett, in 2006. She now has a client list from the world of television and entertainment, including actress Amanda Holden, cook Gizzi Erskine and presenter Lorraine Kelly, who are all fans of her vintage-inspired dresses.
Karen, 38, sources antique and modern fabrics for the 1950s-inspired dresses she makes. Everything is made to measure and she uses the drawing room of her house as her salon.
Home is a two-storey, three-bedroom Victorian house in Kensal Rise, north London. This is her second property in the area, which she moved to eight years ago, with her then two-year-old daughter Lilly Rose.
“I had an old school friend living there and loved the mix of cultures,” she says. “Nearby Portobello Market always attracted me to the area. I grew up in Blackheath in south-east London and I always wanted to live somewhere that was a bit more characterful.
“When I looked at this house, I knew immediately that I loved it. It had a wonderful, spacious kitchen diner and double reception room with bay window, which I adored.”
Karen has used the house as an extension of her own style and loves the fact that she can also use it as a work space. “My own style is retro meets Victoriana with splashes of vintage Parisienne chic. I loved the idea of giving the kitchen a parlour/bistro feel and making the living room a cosy salon,” she explains.
“I wanted to connect the outside with the inside as much as possible, so put in skylights wherever I could, and patio doors.” It has had the desired effect and makes the house feel bigger and brighter.
Karen came across the work of interior designer Jo Berryman of Matrushka in a magazine and was keen to ask her advice.” I had seen her kitchen and thought, I would really love something like that in my own house.
“I was delighted that she agreed to consult for me. She has worked on so many huge projects and with many celebrities so I didn’t know if she would take on my small project, but she did and with a real passion. She really works with your own style and ideas to create a kind of magic. She sourced materials and wallpapers for me, and helped create the look I was after.”
The kitchen was designed by Matrushka and built by Aldous Lamont based on Karen’s requirements for surface space, easily accessible cupboards and a vintage feel. The bright green chairs in the kitchen are Xavier Pauchard Tolix chairs, while the chandeliers are all from The Facade Antiques (www.erasofstyle.com). There is a splash of colour in the bathroom in the shape of Serpentine Blue retro metro crackle glazed tiles from Fired Earth.
Creativity runs in Karen’s family - many of the paintings in her home are by her artist mother, Helen Proctor. In the living room she has a beautiful navy blue velour sofa that she bought online, while she also found the pink chesterfield sofa on the internet for £1,800. Other pieces in sitting room include a large mirror from French Finds and a lamp from Niche on Chamberlayne Road.
Throughout the ground floor she has used tiling to create the look of an old parlour space. “I found the tiles in Miracolour, which makes cement tiles,” she says.
The master bedroom and Lilly Rose’s room are upstairs. A lovely turquoise paint, called Florida, is used in Lilly Rose’s room.
The renovations took about six months. “Everything had to be rewired. It took a long time – and it is still a work in progress,” Karen explains. “Lilly Rose and I managed somehow, but it wasn’t easy,” she says of the renovation process. Karen also reinstated old radiators and as many of the orginal features as she could.
After working for Liberty for several years Karen hoped starting her own business would let her spend more time with her daughter.
“I started working at Liberty after my PhD in Jamaican Cultures, when my daughter was 18 months old,” she says. “My sister had suggested I should become a personal shopper as people always asked me where I got things from and how I put outfits together. I began as the PA to the Head of Personal Shopping and went on to become a stylist myself. It was a fantastic opportunity and I loved working at Liberty. We had the most magnificent oak-panelled office, which had been Arthur Liberty’s. I had always loved Liberty, and as a child even did a school project on it, so I really found my home there.”
Although Karen has not studied fashion, she has a great knowledge of music, which led to her PhD.
“I wanted to find out about Jamaican cultures once I began listening to the music – it is heartfelt, soulful and wise music.
“To me it was quite magical and reassuring. Of course, being a white middle-class girl growing up in Blackheath it started with Bob Marley who is so often the gateway into the music. I wanted to find out why this music from such a small island managed to make a global impact. I was very lucky and got a government scholarship to study for a PhD on its impact on British identities at UCL.”
Karen’s next task at home is to get all her reggae posters framed. “It is an ongoing passion for me to have my house as near perfect as I can. For now I am happy, but not until I have got all my Bob Marley posters up too.”