How does your work influence your home?
Ramy: There have been artists in our family for generations and I’ve always been involved in design. I was born in Israeland my family came to England in the late 60s. I eventually went into the family business and got into the Biscuit Factory by accident.
Marilyn: I am originally from Belgium and I was always very interested in art and collecting bits and pieces. I think having an art gallery was never really on our minds as such, the first idea was a house gallery. However, we don’t want to live in a museum – our home is a home. It’s a mixture of Georgian and Victorian but we like to put our own stamp on it.
Beautiful houses like this lend themselves to allowing you to express yourself. The beauty about our house is that it’s so spacious with such beautiful features that you can fill it with contrasts. We don’t stick to one particular style, we buy what we like and we make everything else fit around it.
How do your eclectic artistic preferences reflect upon your house?
Ramy: It’s a house of contrasts. A bit of ying and yang, not quite diametrically opposed but there are extremes that blend quite nicely into each other. When we first bought the house the backyard was very shabby and the kitchen was tiny, so we covered the backyard and extended the kitchen – it was just an idea I had at the time and you couldn’t really make it traditional, which is my personal taste. I could only afford a simple kitchen at the time so it became quite contemporary.
Marilyn: Opposites definitely attract! I like modern abstract art. But our house is not one style, each room is different. Some rooms are more traditional even though there is a lot of modern art displayed. Whereas the front garden has modern glass and metal sculptured pieces, as well as a Victorian sundial, so our eclectic tastes stretches right throughout the house. The rooms in the house dictate what you can do with it.
Tell us about your home’s personality?
Ramy: It is a Georgian house built in the 1820s and developed further by the Victorians, so there is a bit of a mish-mash of fireplaces from the different eras. If our house was a person he would be very much like Worzel Gummidge.
Marilyn: Yes – a very happy person! He would have a good sense of humour and be a bit shabby around the corners. Somebody who likes the good things in life – and a good glass of wine!
How heavy an influence does art have on your home?
Marilyn: Art is an important part of our lives, professionally as well as personally. Art is beautiful. It isn’t unheard of that we fall for a new painting at the Biscuit Factory and then a whole room in our house changes to accommodate the new addition. Once we were inThailandand found two beautiful paintings which we brought back and hung up in the bathroom. That then dictated the style of the room, giving it a Far Eastern twinge. Everything has a story behind it and that is the way I like to go about it.
Ramy: Everything in our home represents a memory. We get pleasure out of art, it gives us contentment. We meet all sorts of artists through the gallery and we get to pick up some beautiful pieces from them. Furniture provokes the same emotional response – it is just another expression of art except it is functional. It’s got to be quirky and aesthetically pleasing though.
So then, who has the best taste?
Marilyn: It is very difficult to say! Our tastes have remained vastly different. Ramy still has a basic traditional taste whereas I will always prefer modern styles. If I could build a new house now, it would be large with very high, white walls so that you could still see three or four floors up. I would put one big abstract in the middle with lots of space for sculpture – not minimalistic, but white.
Ramy: I would go for a more avant-garde tradition but we’re also continuing to evolve. Once I was focused purely on traditional art but now I get more of a thrill out of contrasting things that shouldn’t go together but somehow work.
How have your different geographical backgrounds influenced your choice and decorating styles in your house?
Ramy: I was born inIsraelbut I never lived there. I grew up in Gosforth in a terraced house. Now I am just two miles down the road in a slightly bigger terraced house.
Marilyn: I grew up in a railway station until I was 15. It was a beautiful house in a small village inBelgiumwith very high ceilings, beautiful big windows and lots of garden around it – a bit like this house. I think that’s where my love of space comes from. I couldn’t live in a cottage with low ceilings and small windows. I love light, that’s why this house is so ideal because you get natural light shining in all day.
How are you evolving your home’s historical elements?
Ramy: We try to keep everything the way it is as long as we’re comfortable. We view our house as a three dimensional album of our lives. It’s a work in progress – if our tastes change it will evolve in a different direction. Like when our daughter Emmelene moved out, our style of living slightly changed and we had access to rooms that we never had access to before – we can actually watch television in the main living room now that we’re not interrupted as much!
If someone wanted to steal your style what hints and tips would you give them?
Ramy: When it comes to shopping and finding things for the house, serendipity is our secret. We don’t usually go shopping for things specifically; we browse and usually stumble upon something. We don’t just wake up in the morning and think ‘I must go buy a dining room table!’
Marilyn: I am an avid reader of interior magazines which I love looking at for ideas and inspiration. Also, as long as you’re tidy everything stems from that. Surround yourself with objects you love, those which represent a memory and reflect a time that you were happy.
Were you influenced by your parents’ aesthetic appreciation? And in turn have your children been influenced by your styles and tastes?
Ramy: Definitely. My parents took us to art galleries from a very early age. And my father certainly taught me the ins and outs of art. I just kind of grew up with it. Our children are each their own person so their style will evolve in their own way as well as from us.
Marilyn: Parents and school both influenced me. Teachers were very excited about new artists and emerging art and I think I got interested in it from quite a young age. Our son Simeon still lives at home but our daughter has got her own style. She has a flat up in Edinburghand everything has got a place. It is definitely her flat. If you’re brought up in a house with lots of nice objects and people who put a personal stamp on it with furniture and art, you automatically just inherit that and then develop your own style.