For this week's Knock-Knock (yes, I decided to keep Knock Knock, I didn't want to get sick of the word Tat, where would we be then), I have asked chef extraordinaire Mia Lillingston. One of the few people who, when they tell me we are having salad for lunch, I don't instantly look in my bag for a packet of Nik-Naks. She does something to them - they are beyond good. As well as being one hell of a chef, she is also one of the best-dressed people I know - culinary skills & clothing; I thought to myself, well, if that isn't a perfect recipe for a good 'Knock-Knock', then I don't know what is.
I've been a resident in Bethnal Green for just over two years now; I live in an old Victorian school that's been converted into flats. When I first walked in, I immediately fell in love with the tall ceiling in the sitting room and the big windows overlooking Lubetkin's futuristically designed Cranbrook Estate. Sometimes, I feel like I'm in one of my favourite films, Rear Window, peeking into the lives of people in my neighbouring estate. It's also very quiet, considering we are just off bustling Roman Road.
I live in the flat with a good friend, and after he brought a projector, we and decided to get rid of our tv to make room for two light pink velvet armchairs. In doing so, it has made the sitting room much more social rather than having the furniture pointing at a television. There happened to be a perfectly placed blind on the big main window for the projector, we watch a lot of movies, and sometimes, when we finally agree on one, we will get stuck into a good series. I inherited the chairs from a friend's mother who was getting rid of them (one had a leg missing that I prop up with books). That's how I have acquired a lot of the things in my flat.
The hot pink sofa and glass coffee table were the first big purchases I made, from a warehouse called Trade Secrets just outside of Oxford. I read about it somewhere - such a lucky find, it was the first thing I saw when I walked in- love at first sight! It's so comfy and brings the whole room together, plus it's big enough for my 6ft 7' flatmate and me to sprawl ourselves on, legs stretched out. They have lots of ex-display furniture and bargains galore- the best bit is you can pay off the items monthly, which suited me down to the ground!
My most prized possessions probably have to be the artwork that cover my walls. In particular, the psychedelic circus print that I found folded up in the back of my parents' attic. When I asked my mum what it was, she casually replied: "Oh that's when I did the light show for the circus with an all-male troupe." It is so beautifully detailed, and on closer inspection, I found that the renowned poster designer and illustrator Benjamin Baltimore signed it. After a bit of research, I found that he designed some of the most famous movies posters of the 80s and 90s. Mum had no idea!
On the opposite wall is a photograph I adore taken by a French friend of mine, Iris DellaRoca. She did a project in the favelas in Brazil where she took a dressing up box around with her and asked kids to dress up in what they wanted to be when they grew up. This beautiful girl dressed up as a ballerina and the photograph was taken at the very top of her favela. *Normally I wouldn't be able to afford a piece of art of this size but my friend had had an exhibition in London and had been storing the piece with a family. They moved away, and she had to have the photograph picked up immediately- needless to say, I came to the rescue, another happily inherited piece.
During lockdown, our drinks table turned into a little home office. Usually I'm a freelance chef, but as you can imagine, things went very quiet for me work-wise, so I have gone back to learning and signed up to a course on how to design websites, intending to create my own, something I have been putting off for years! I have also been learning the Science of Happiness, a free course offered online via Yale University which has been a real joy and insight, anyone with a few extra hours a week on their hands, I highly recommend it!
As I'm sure many people discovered during lockdown, our sitting room has become our living room- where I have spent most of the day. This little corner that catches the sun so perfectly at certain times of the day gets turned into my small home gym and has been one of the biggest helps to keep my mind from exploding during this crazy time.
The kitchen is probably my favourite room of the house just because I spend so much time cooking and coming up with recipes; its small but perfectly formed. An old Ikea kitchen, it's not the prettiest, but I've made it work and filled it with shelves to house all my herbs & spices and little hidden gems like a disco ball and the second-hand Smeg fridge I found on eBay. The kitchen table is the one piece of furniture that came with the flat and happened to go perfectly with the Charlotte Perriand chairs my French grandparents handed me down. She was the right-hand woman to designer Le Corbusier, so they are very special indeed.
My bedroom is teeny tiny, I searched and searched everywhere for a bedside table that would fit in the smallest of slithers between my bed and the door, good ol' eBay came through yet again. I love the big window that takes up the entire wall opposite my bed, and this completely makes up for the lack of space. I've had to be clever about fitting all my stuff in. I have quite a lot of it - haha! I didn't have space for a wardrobe, so instead my clothes hang on an open rail, the colours of my dresses add to the decor. I've been trying to invest in vintage pieces recently rather than shop from the high street, this yellow jacket with ceramic pastel flower buttons was sourced by Charlie Collins of Creative Wardrobe and has been bringing me a lot of joy!
This is my shrine to Frida Kahlo, my biggest inspiration. As you will probably notice, there are a lot of references to her around my flat. Mexico, her work and her life inform a lot of my work in the kitchen. I think she was just fantastic and powerful on so many levels.