Interior Designer Francesca Gaskin

Francesca also recently launched jetsam Made, an interior design company specializing in a sustainable and responsible approach, and her home can be considered a manifesto for these ideas. From the kitchen-built around a powder-coated steel frame that is resistant and configurable as the home grows and changes-to the carefully selected materials, everything is guided by an awareness of the impact on the environment.

Here Francesca talks to us about renovating a house on her own, the inspiration she got from the places and objects that are important to her, and the importance of sustainability in design today.

Francesca: “I was born in London and I’ve always been a hardcore Londoner. But as a creative who has been renting all his mature life, I felt that I was paid the price of the city. When I heard that friends were moving to Bristol, I was asked to do the same.

“I was able to buy a house in a year. I knew I wanted to live in St Werburgh’s, Bristol’s most alternative area. It is only a 10 minute walk from the town centre but there is a very nice community as well as housing developments and a farm. You get to know your neighbors, which changes a lot in London.

“I knew I wanted a project. I had worked as a designer in a carpentry workshop before the recent times and planned to open my own workshop. Since I had not yet designed furniture for myself, I thought that the House could become a showroom for my creations.

“So I looked for the worst house in St Werburgh’s. in the end I bought a typical Victorian terrace from an elderly gentleman. He had lived there for about 40 years and it was very dated – there were vitrages and lots of pine trees-and he had to smoke about 20 cigarettes a day because the walls had turned yellow.

“I lived here for six months before I did anything, getting to know the space, understanding the light. Then everything was shut down and I suddenly had all this time. So I completely emptied the House. I actually started with a blank canvas.

“Structurally, I didn’t do much, except for French doors and a large bay window in the back. This has radically changed the kitchen, with this back wall almost all made of glass. There is so much more light, it feels like it has expanded.

“I have a collection of furniture and objects that I brought to the house, and for most rooms the style was determined by a certain element. The kitchen is based on a photo I took at the Burning Man festival, where I have been going for 10 years.

“I matched the color of the parquet boards to the color of the White Playa fabric that I brought back from the desert. The kitchen units are made of steel and have the same orange-pink color as a shipping container in the photo. I left the walls in bare plaster to represent the mountains that surround the playa, but the corners of the room and the cornices I painted blue to evoke the sky.

“Then the bay window, where I built a bench, is green and yellow and there are many cacti. It was inspired by driving through the desert to Burning Man: the cacti you see there, the green horizon, the yellow road markings.

“I made the sofa from vintage glass bricks and there are LEDs on the inside so it can light up. With the mirror ball on the ceiling, it creates a festival atmosphere at night.

“I lived in the house the whole time I did it, as did my roommate and their girlfriend who came from Berlin. It was quite a challenge to redo the bathroom while everyone was there, but they were very patient.

“Either I made all the furniture myself, like the sofa and the dining table, or I bought them over the years-nothing new. The bed comes from my parents, the dresser belonged to my grandmother, and I inherited all the art of the House. There are also some beautiful mid-century oak chairs that I bought on eBay. They were painted white, so I took them back to the forest, which took me about the same time to make the House.

“I think a good interior should make you happy. I think the space I’m in is very important to me – I noticed earlier, when I rented, that if I lived in a place that wasn’t visually stimulating, it really affected my mood.

“Here, for example, the kitchen gets the sun in the morning – it goes through the tree and cacti of my neighbor to cast shadows on the plastered wall. It becomes almost a living work of art and it is different every day. This is a special place.

“I’ve always designed at home – when I think about something, I just take my laptop or start drawing-but if I wasn’t in a nice environment, it would suffocate what I was doing. Now that I have this space that reflects my personality, I feel much more comfortable. I can really sit back and focus on my work.

“I think that in order to live in a modern way, you need to be in a place that reflects your personality, rather than following a passing trend. More than ever, when designing a home, you need to consider the impact on the environment. And the only way to guarantee the longevity of the space and the objects you introduce into it is to invest in timeless design and sustainably manufactured products.

“I have tried to integrate many of these ideas by designing interiors that are made to last, and it is especially satisfying to have done everything myself here. People really need to try it – it’s much more fun than asking someone else to do it, or having bought something from a catalog. Plus, it was probably a fraction of the price.

“I’m currently studying horticulture, so my next big project is the garden. At some point I would like to have a piece of land somewhere in the countryside to grow flowers and vegetables, and maybe build a workshop, but I don’t see myself moving anywhere else. I like living here too much.”

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