At Home With: Fanny Rush

Working from home isn’t suited to everyone, but for this London-based portrait painter, a dual-function living/studio space makes a beautiful blend.

Photography by Chris Tubbs

Long before lockdown, before so many of us Londoners unexpectedly found ourselves working from home, Fanny Rush was already planning a large, contemporary light-filled abode that would seamlessly merge her painting and living spaces. To the internationally renowned artist, a property that supports both work and relaxation offers a wealth of benefits – not least painting in your pyjamas when the mood takes you. Her contemporary residence, which she shares with her Labrador/Welsh Shepherd cross, Bear, was three years in the making – a passion project that saw an ambitious renovation of two adjoining properties. Fanny’s uniquely styled home naturally places artwork and sculpture centre stage but there are some intriguing antiques and exotic travel finds to discover, too.

What inspired the move?
My last home was a small third floor flat in Chelsea where I had been for seventeen years, and my studio was a Victorian laboratory in Fulham. I was longing to live somewhere in which I could have some outside space to sit in the morning and drink coffee and watch all the wonderful flowers I’d planted come into bloom.

Talk me through the original footprint. It sounds complicated!
It’s a newly built property perched just behind the front of a 1930s pub – my part is where the pub car park used to be. When I bought it the front was a retail unit with a big storeroom below, and behind was a one-bed flat on two levels with a terrace. I kept the store-like windows at the front of the property because they provide excellent light in my studio. Good light is very important, and not just for my work.

And how did you create the space you wanted?
I knocked the flat and the retail unit through on both levels, took out two staircases and made a new one going down to the lower level from a light shaft in the floor of the retail unit. I kept my bedroom where the previous one was and built a large bathroom surrounded by storage cupboards and wardrobes over the hole left by the staircases, incorporating the previous bathroom. This runs between my bedroom and the retail unit, which is now my studio!

How do you strike the right balance between work and living space? Do you find you’re able to fully shut off from your work?
I paint in the afternoons, and often into the evening after walking Bear. Everything else is done in the morning. This routine fits much better here because I used to have a cold, lonely late night cycle home from my old studio. Now I just wash my brushes and go to bed.

There’s a big advantage to living and working in the same property. I can look at the work as I walk through the studio when I’m not painting, and often I can quickly see why something I’ve been struggling with is wrong and put it right then and there – sometimes in my pyjamas first thing in the morning, and sometimes in my glamorous clothes coming in from an evening out.

How would you describe your interiors style?
I think I can sum it up by saying it’s full of contrasts: a very modern building with some very old pieces in it. The contrast of reds and greens; the white walls keep it simple but are contrasted with rich tapestries. The renovations here took so much of my time and energy that I just decided to choose my favourite colour combinations: dark pinks, purples and greens throughout. I painted all the walls white, the whole floor with a soft purple gel paint, and I used dark wood in the building work. 

Can you talk me through some of your best loved artworks, objects and travel finds?
Without really realising it I’ve been amassing metal or gilded sculptures of animals for years; these are in the living room section of the open-plan room on the lower floor. The kitchen and dining area is very modern so I had some of my favourite photographs blown up to a very large size, printed and framed. I have a rule that I will not have anything in my environment that I don’t love, and that in itself is a theme that keeps everything working together. I don’t have favourite brands, just things that I can see will work, and everything has to be very well made. My brother, Joe Rush, is a sculptor and he made me the table, it’s made from car and tank parts.

One time when I was in Sydney, I was about to get into a taxi to the airport to come home. I didn’t really have time but I couldn’t resist nipping into an antiques market, where I spotted a nineteenth century metal articulated crayfish made in Japan. It was love at first sight. I have since been told that it is called a ‘masterpiece’, the piece an apprentice makes to qualify him to become a master.

Which room is your favourite?
My bedroom. One whole wall is floor-to-ceiling window and I bought the stained glass as a solution to gaining some privacy. It was very old and needed to be completely re-leaded and made into panels. Fortunately my nephew, Bob, was at a loose end so I sent him on a stained glass making course and he did a beautiful job. We put some of the extra pieces of glass into the French doors between the bedroom and the bathroom, which works beautifully.