Updated: Nov 6
I remember unpacking a box on a House & Garden shoot, with every piece I unpacked I was getting more excited. I want to say I politely enquired as to where they were from, but I can clearly remember shouting 'WHERE ARE THESE FROM?!' until someone answered me. There my love for parna was born.
When I did a pop-up shop in Pentreath & Hall sometime later, I sold some of Kath's unique Hungarian cushions. They flew off the shelves, not before I bought some for my own.
A month or two after on a cold November evening, I decided 2020 was going to be my year of exploration, go to those places that I'd dreamt of visiting. First stop (only stop) Budapest! I emailed Kath to see if she would be keen to meet, thank god she was as without her I would have only seen the tourist attractions and not delved into lesser-well known nooks and crannies that Budapest has to offer.
I feel in love with pretty much every room I walked into, but what stole the show for me was Kath's apartment. Wow. I won't say much more about it, but it was Kath's place which made me so keen to do Knock Knock, and I am so proud that she agreed to feature it on Tat.
I started parna ( which means pillow in Hungarian) after falling in love with Transylvania having spent some time living in a village where a friend was making a feature film. We spent evenings in the garden, eating cheese from the shepherd, eggs from one neighbour, tomatoes from another, honey from another, wine from another etc. People didn't go to the local shop; almost everything was made locally and bought from neighbours. We visited sheepfolds and remote houses in the mountains. We saw people spinning weaving and making textiles, coming from London and working for a city law firm it felt like going back in time to a simpler and more grounded way of life.
I love travelling, old things and flea markets.
My love for flea markets started when I was a student nurse living in Borough, London Bridge and visiting Brick lane whenever I could on a Sunday. I find the Balkans and Eastern Europe fascinating, and along with ethnographic museums, I always seek out a local flea market to capture something about a place. I became a frequent visitor to Transylvania, taking the overnight minibus from Budapest and eventually parna was born.
I came backwards and forwards from Budapest for a few years before settling here. I now live with my husband Rupert in a leafy area romantically called Rose Hill. Our flat is in a large secessionist Villa. It is a large space with a roofed balcony, ( that probably has a word!) it would be even larger, but the communists cut a piece out of it to make another flat, When we bought it, it felt a bit lopsided. It was half grand and half utilitarian. We had a wall splitting a window and a kitchen with no window. We removed the partition walls and did the best we could; we compromised with a small bathroom.
The flat has been used in a variety of feature films as locations in pre-war Paris and Vienna. We have internal stained glass doors, high ceilings, parquet floors and a grand old fireplace ( we hide Rupert's extensive DVD collection in there). The most unusual and in some ways, the most beautiful room. With tiled walls, the original art deco plasterwork and a floor to ceiling window is the "winter garden" we thought about making it into a bathroom (too expensive) I had thought about making it into a studio. The wall to ceiling windows means that it is boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter although it gets the sun and one day perhaps will be full of plants.
When we moved in, I emptied a lock up and Ruperts a flat in Clapham. We have inherited a random mix of stuff; a chaise longue that was handed down to me from my Grandmother. It is the most comfortable thing to sit down and somehow feels right in the slightly grand surroundings. Rupert inherited a 17th-century painting of one of his great ancestors. I am not sure how much we like it, but it tells a story. I love folk stuff, and there is loads of it in our flat; reverse glass painted pictures from Transylvania, Hungarian miners bottles, decorated with plastic-coated wire using a basket weaving technique and of course textiles.
We are blessed to have a large roofed balcony. With Transylvanian style cut woodwork Last year we grew flowers, this year we have used it to grow herbs. It was a complete blessing to have this space during lockdown.
Our kitchen is standard Ikea and rather nasty, we were in a hurry. The cement worktop that we had commissioned ended up looking like sand in resin. However, we have some beautiful floor tiles from a Company in Budapest that make excellent tiles using traditional moulds ( Budapest apartment blocks are full of wonderful old tiles). You choose the colours and the patterns (from a catalogue).
Less coordinated, but always there is my linen. It finds its way into every bit of the flat. In recent times I have been working out of the flat. I love my work, even if much of it is mundane washing, labelling, folding etc. Even if it is in huge piles, it is a joy to be around bits of cloth that have been created with so much care.
Huge thanks to Kath!