1 November 2013
Imagine your grandmother founded Habitat (hint: she’s the type to wear organic cotton draped over one shoulder, amber jewellery and make her own bread and lentil casseroles). Then imagine you went to visit her and one morning she popped out for a pint of milk, leaving you alone in her abode (hint: cool Habitat-founding grandmothers don’t have homes with Staffordshire dogs, floral curtains, or smell of musk). And there you have Kettle’s Yard. Okay, so why bother with the grandma metaphor at all if the house is chintz-free and there aren’t embarrassing photos of you as an awkward toothy eight year old scattered about? Kettle’s Yard has, for me at least, that sense of being almost home, but that better than home feeling, kind of like when you visit Grandma. Almost home because the eclecticism, the house-plants, the littering of chairs and the very much on-limits bathroom means there isn’t any intimidation or awe when drifting around Kettle’s Yard. Jim Ede is still very much here- the invigilators speak of him warmly as if he were just out for his lunch break- but he’s not on a pedestal. You don’t need to applaud his eye for the up-and-comer, or rush back home to Google an art collector you had never heard of and feel a complete ignoramus in the process. In fact, unlike most private houses-turned museums, Kettle’s Yard is refreshingly free of memorialisation. And Kettle’s Yard is better than home because, like Grandma’s, it’s both real and removed from reality. There is something totally soothing about its undulating floorboards, the seamless join between wall and ceiling, and the stillness that leads you to really focus on the lines and textures that in any other setting you would just rush by. And like Grandma, it takes a good deal of the menace out of deadlines, and dissertations, and to-dos. Kettle’s Yard invites you to stop, to breathe, and to ponder.
Florence Gildea is a third year student reading History at Pembroke College. She has longed to work surrounded by beautiful objects ever since she realised owning her own stately home was somewhat optimistic.
The house and permanent collection at Kettle’s Yard can now be enjoyed for longer hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12-5pm. Gallery opening hours remain Tuesday-Sunday 11.30am-5pm.