We first met Tess Redburn through the Dulwich Artists’ Open House, her bold and colourful prints having caught our interest. Alongside creating her own work, Tess is also an Illustration Agent. With an intuitive creative eye, we took a tour of her East Dulwich home, which she shares with her boyfriend Joe, to see how illustration takes shape in her interiors.
Tess and Joe’s home forms part of a purpose built apartment block designed by John Smart Architects. For this reason the general layout of both the flat itself and the communal areas is well considered. Although compact the flat is split over two levels, giving it a homey feeling. Tess says this is a big factor in her use of the space “It's nice being able to go upstairs to bed and come down in the morning.” Not surprisingly the makeup of every room exudes style and quality “What's really special about the space is the details; wooden panelling on the walls makes the space feel warm and textural, with a lovely mid-century feel and you see little flashes of concrete in the ceiling and the stairwell. "I think they've used materials in a wonderfully playful way.” Tess says, however the design isn’t always that practical “The only downside is that a lot of fittings are quite bespoke or unusual and therefore tricky to replace when they break, luckily there's usually a neighbour who has had the same problem at some point so we all help each other out.”
Tess continues to explain that there’s a good sense of community in the building “We're really very lucky, I think because it's quite an unusual and well designed space, it seems to be filled with relatively like-minded residents, there are a lot of creative people living here.” Tess goes on to say how this is mirrored by the areas openness “London has a reputation of being lonely and unfriendly, but South East London increasingly feels like a village. We've got lots of friends nearby and things like the Dulwich Artists’ Open House weekend, is a great opportunity to chat to people in the local area. I think most are keen to feel a sense of community, it just requires a bit of a catalyst sometimes.”
Tess’s work is influenced by 20th Century painters and modern design movements, the latter of which is apparent throughout the property. Surprisingly however Tess has very little art on the walls “Working as an illustration agent I am constantly surrounded by imagery and it's hard to know what is special enough to put on my wall.” Sentimental objects on the other hand are to be found in every room, which does include a series of paintings Tess’s Mum bought in Haiti during the 1980s. “We used to have them on the wall in my home as a child. I came across them in a cupboard at home and it struck me how much these paintings must have influenced my own style in terms of bold colours and graphic shapes, and I hadn't even realised it!”
Tess’s work often portrays landscapes and architecture from around the world. Having recently been to Berlin, I wondered whether travel played a part in influencing her work “I actually find that living in London I have so much inspiration on my doorstep - we have some of the best museums and galleries in the world in this city.” The Barbican being amongst one of the most influential “It is always a source of inspiration to me, whether it's in the buildings themselves, or the art, theatre and music happening within, and I'm so lucky that it's only a 20 minute walk from my office.” When abroad Tess says she is more aware of her surroundings however “In your own city it's easy to walk past things without giving a second thought, but if I'm in a foreign city I'll be noticing architectural details and social differences, usually with my camera in hand.”
Much of Tess’s furniture is vintage, which she says has mainly been an organic accumulation from family members but has also been driven by the gradual need to be more sustainable “I think when you first start living independently as a student you just have to buy the cheapest things you possibly can to fulfil your needs and you soon come to realise they fall apart easily and end up as waste. Having a little more disposable income these days means you can invest in better quality products which will hopefully last a lifetime.” She also approaches her work in an environmentally mindful way "I actually use very few resources, I don't have a studio so I just paint on the kitchen table which means my work tends to be no bigger than A2 in size in order to keep it manageable, this inherently means that I don't create a lot of waste.” All the more reason to check out Tess’s beautiful work for yourself.
Words and photography by Joseph Walker