This artist’s country home may be quirky and eclectic, but it is also a lesson in tranquillity, informed by the natural world
If you had to imagine, based on her work, the kind of home Kelly has, you’d likely picture a quirky abode filled with found treasures and nature-inspired curiosities, and you would not be wrong. But there’s quirky interiors, and then there’s quirky architecture. “The house is really quite unusual,” she admits. “From the front you can see straight away that something’s different because it looks a little like a bungalow with a second storey turret and a sunken garage. In fact, the house is built on a hill and so you enter onto the first floor and don’t realise there’s a floor underneath until you’re inside. Most of the rooms are hexagonal at one end, and the kitchen/diner, main bedroom and living room are double height ceilings. And then we have the conservatory, which is triple height in the middle of the house.”
Kelly has always painted but it wasn’t until the age of 46 that her hobby became a full-time pursuit. A prolific artist, she has created literally thousands of works, some of which now feature in film and TV, and can be seen in some of the world’s finest homes and hotels, thanks to her affiliation with top interior designers. Working under her studio name, FabFunky, she sells lampshades and cushions, alongside a truly comprehensive collection of art prints, all of which are delightfully whimsical, featuring bold botanicals and eccentric animalia. I wonder if Kelly’s immediate surrounds in rural Devon inspire her fantastical imagery? “Oh yes!” She says. “Where we live, we have nature on our doorstep. Every morning we sit on the balcony with a coffee and watch the bunnies and pheasants in the field behind us. We have a couple of squirrels who use our back fence like a motorway and are backwards and forwards all day long, collecting hazelnuts and heading off and hiding them. We also regularly see deer, hares, and the occasional fox. Plus, a huge number of birds, from tiny wrens to big buzzards. Every night an army of owls seems to descend into every tree around us, and bats whizz around the house at dusk. We’ve even seen an otter in the field behind our house.” Kelly shares the property with her husband Gordon and their two “lovely geriatric girl dogs”. She says, “living with animals lets you see how different they all are to each other and how they all have their own quirks and personalities. One of our girls is like a delicate little prima donna, whereas the other is like a large shaggy tank who just steams into obstacles rather than walk around them.”
Kelly describes her interiors style as “eclectic with a capital E”. And while there may be obstacles for elderly dogs around, the maximalist look is countered with a sense of open space and serenity. The property’s showpiece, the magnificent triple-height conservatory, is filled with an abundance of houseplants and features a striking natural wood staircase, while the imposing internal wall in Farrow & Ball’s Calke Green (“the only colour I would consider”), provides a nature-inspired backdrop for Kelly’s artwork. “The conservatory is smack bang in the centre of the house,” she says. “When you walk through the front door you can see there’s an unusual room straight in front of you, and so people tend to gravitate towards it. It’s a beautiful room, enhanced with a lot of plants and a few statement pieces.” The artist goes on to explain her furniture choices here: for storage, only a design your- own modular shelving unit from Tylko would do for such a lofty and unconventionally shaped room, while the bright f oral sofa was a hand-me-down from Kelly’s mum, before she had it reupholstered in Josef Frank’s vibrant Gröna Fåglar fabric. “It’s now a stunning mid-century design masterpiece,” she says. “It’s something that everyone who comes into the house comments on because it’s so very unusual. I’ll admit I’m so in love with it that after we put it in the conservatory, I had all the glass treated so that the sun wouldn’t fade it.” As much as Kelly’s décor and furniture choices are an eclectic mix (quirky additions include a beloved wooden birdcage in the shape of Sacré Coeur, of all things), what goes in, and what goes where, is carefully considered. “I love stuff,” she declares, “well, my stuff anyway, and I like to see it. I have a lovely pine console table that I found on the side of the road; a beautiful large trunk that I picked up for £5 years ago; two Romanian wardrobes that I got from Etsy; a large display cupboard that I had shipped in from Denmark… It really is a mix. My most recent purchase is a beautiful kitchen table that I got from The Farmhouse Table Company in Dartington.” Stand-out permanent fixtures include a sculptural V&A freestanding bath, complete with a ‘carpet’ of mosaic tiles that runs from the floor to the ceiling, as well as a bespoke doggy shower for muddy pooches. “When we moved in, the laundry room was a blank canvas with just a sink and one cupboard,” explains Kelly, “so we had that fitted out completely, along with a wonderful dog shower that’s the envy of all my dog owner friends. It’s just like a glass panelled human shower but half height.” The shower is just one example of how Kelly and her husband have successfully moulded the house to suit their bucolic lifestyle.
Naturally, you’d assume the conservatory would be Kelly’s very favourite spot in the house, but, instead, she chooses the balcony. “The view is absolutely beautiful,” she tells me. “We have the pleasure of watching the seasons change day by day, and there’s usually some wildlife snuffling around somewhere. We get to watch the tractors in the fields, and we can see and hear sheep on the hill opposite us and cows in the valley to the left. We start every day with a coffee out here, and sometimes we get so lost in the view that we realise we’ve been up two or three hours already and we’re still sitting in our PJs and dressing gowns! It’s a slow start to every day here, but a wonderfully relaxing way to start.”
It sounds nothing short of idyllic.