The owners, artist Rory and wife Claire, who co-run RoryDobner.com, and their two young sons, live in a pair of joined-up flats in a Victorian mansion block in north London.
The home they have created together is a magical warren where intrigue and whimsy peep from every corner, in arrangements as deftly drawn as the Rory originals on the walls.
The family dubbed their home Hamsterville because of its circuitous layout and disorientating shifts of level. Theres a run of bedrooms off a long corridor on the sleepy side, while Daddys side with its studio was created from what had been a cake-slice of courtyard.
Dining goes on in the adjoining room marked EAT, beneath a super-scaled pair of Sarah Stockbridge lips, and the downstairs bathroom is a dark affair, finished in black and verdigris-pitted brass.
Just as with Rorys Monocled Cat or Smoky Fish, these rooms are full of intriguing detail.
When you look at something in the singular, you can really see it properly, says Rory. Theres no background, but when you see a fish floating in a white circle, your brain fills in the gaps. You imagine him underwater or in a goldfish bowl. But when you start to wonder how hes smoking thats where the humour comes in
The original flats are now connected by a hallway that boasts a wrought iron bannister added by Rory and Claire. I like the way it looks like railings outside a London museum, says Rory. It brings the outside in, with a twist. The black gloss paint on stainless steel artwork is one of Rorys early works: I grew up loving the sculptural curves of Henry Moore and I try and capture flow and curvature in my drawings, he says.
The worktops and door front in the minimalist yet chic kitchen are made from old cherry wood chemistry lab worktops, complete with Bunsen burner holes. We cleaned them up a bit but not too much, says Rory. A skinny pantry room next to the kitchen means surfaces stay uncluttered. ‘You need less out on display than you think.
The dining table is made from a New Zealand wool press. We bought this sight unseen on a trip there, says Rory. It pitched up months later dismantled – and I had to work out how to reassemble a pile of planks and rusted bolts. The photograph of Sara Stockbridges mouth is an ex-display image from Vivienne Westwoods shop. It keeps Claires Westwood obsession topped up and the boys like the irony of a giant pair of lips hanging over them as they eat, he adds.
A wall of plates in the kitchen makes a decorative feature. The Smoky Fish idea [centre] came from seeing this guy every day outside his glass office, on his cigarette break, says Rory. He looked so fed up, all droopy, with a fag hanging out of his mouth. He reminded me of a goldfish, doing the same thing every day. But whos to say goldfish dont look out of their bowls at us and think, Oh, there they go, doing the same thing every day
Rory and Claires home is full of ‘booty’ thats been salvaged, customised or bartered. When Rory worked with The Rug Company, we did swaps as part payment, says Claire. The sofa and chairs are vintage Liberty, recovered in satin: So we got a unique set in exactly the right colour, for under a grand, she adds. A cabinet of curiosities in the corner is home to random objects of beauty or intrigue.
Rug and wall tapestry
The Rug Company
The study is where Rory used to work before he had a studio, and its where his earliest designs still hang in a decorative display, along with family mementoes. Lots of the drawings started as little joke doodles: an ant with a hammer, who is trying to break his way out of a tiny frame, or a frog eyeing up the fly trapped in the next frame along, he says.
Bedrooms feed off a long corridor, once a separate flat and which the owner’s sons now call the sleepy side of the house. The striking space has a fun monochrome scheme with a ‘humbug’ striped bed as the main focal point. A purple bedspread injects rich colour.
This bed is genius it looks like leather straps, but is made from iron, says Rory. The chandelier was bought in Amsterdam. Another thing that arrived dismantled in a jumble of pieces and had to be reassembled. I love jobs like that, he adds. As with Rory’s sons room a vibrant bedspread in this case acid yellow makes an eye popping addition to a dark and dramatic space.
And So To Bed
Maison de Vacances
By his decision to go dark in the bathroom, you may think that Rory was a teenage Goth. Far from it. I grew up on Hayling Island, so more ‘outdoorsy’, surfer dude, he says.