Can a home hold emotion? I don’t mean can it affect how you feel because we know that’s true, but can it actually hold emotion in its walls? If you’ve ever seen the work of sculptor Rachel Whiteread you’ll know this isn’t a completely ridiculous idea. Her sculpture ‘House’ along with many of her other artworks did just that. By taking casts ( in concrete, plaster, resin and other materials) of ‘negative’ space – forgotten spaces and spaces in between that we just don’t really think about, she makes those spaces visible and they certainly contain emotion.
This idea in itself can be difficult to get your head around until you experience one of her works and gosh they stir the soul. I found myself openly shedding a tear in front of the about-to-be-demolished (Ghost) ‘House’ that she created in East London 1993 and I swear it seemed to do the same in its resigned silence. In contrast, I remember the moment we first walked in to view the Victorian terraced house we are now living in. Although the decor was a bit dated and the lady who previously lived there had recently lost her husband, the house itself had good bones – it actually felt like it was happy!
What lies within the walls of a home or a building has always intrigued me. More than concrete, bricks or plasterboard, they absorb the lives of the people who have lived there through the years with all the ups and downs that life brings. If we could see inside, I imagine it would look like some kind of translucent glowing latticework of past events, emotions and activities some faded and some vibrant – a structural manuscript overwritten with layers of human experience.
This week’s Style Warrior is someone who has had a lot of life experience for her years and who has lived alongside the weighty human emotions that perhaps come from having visited the darkest space imaginable accessed through war. She’s a supportive wife and mother and an incredible photographic artist with a shrewd eye for poetry in detail ( you can buy her work exclusively at nickiekelly.com ).
It’s with all of the above in mind that I’m truly honoured to have the opportunity to show off the home of a very special person, to let her lightheartedly give away a little of herself and the life that’s being absorbed into its gorgeous walls.
Pati Robins (or to use her Sunday name and the one she “only uses to pay bills” – Patrycja Robins) has overcome many obstacles in life to create this home, not least her fear of power tools which is one reason she has the ‘Lionheart’ warrior title amongst many others. Single handedly she’s managed to turn a soulless ‘magnolia-painted’ house into one which oozes her signature style of deep black velvety walls, eye popping colours, patinated industrial details and creative upcycling projects that are evident in every room. All of this is even more astonishing as it’s been achieved on a truly modest budget. Pati has built up a mean ‘toolbelt’ of DIY skills and literally transformed its interior.
Stylish and glamorous as it is, it’s also a house that supports the physical disabilities and mental challenges of her husband Colin who served in the British army and one that provides a solid happy family home for their young daughter Olivia. By carefully considering how Colin could navigate the space with his disability aids and by using clever placement of bold colour and gritty expressive art, Pati has managed to disguise the uglier side of mechanical disability equipment such as stairlifts, by enticing the eye away and changing the natural sightlines. It’s a problem solving approach from a fabulous lady whose self deprecating humour belies her creative genius. Now with much excitement let me pass you over …
Hi I’m Pati I was born in Poland, lived there all my pre adult life , met my husband while visiting Wales and safe to say he swept me of my feet! I finished my studies (got a degree in Political science but I’m not running for a PM any time soon) , dropped everything and moved in with my future husband Colin and our rescue dog to our(not our) little home . Six months sleeping on the floor without a tv resulted in two things, 1. Pregnancy ; ) and 2. It made me determined to turn these four walls into a home that we could enjoy on a very tight budget. I have always loved DIY and craft and over the years I have tried different things from simple projects to mastering power tools! In my free time I also love taking photos -mostly of people – I love dark gritty photos as opposed to pretty and polished, this is why I’m no good as a family photographer ; )
1. How would you describe your interiors style and how has this changed over the years?
For the past few years my home has been eclectic rock glam – dark with bright colours loads of pattern and texture as well as mismatched furniture and accessories – we feel rested in it.
When I moved to the UK, all the walls were magnolia with a touch of nicotine staining – classy! The first thing I did was to go white and while I was hoarding my bargain finds in the attic we were living pretty minimalistic which was great just not for us. Then I went through the bling and glam stage – that was a big mistake and so not us! We looked out of place in the house, our friends and family loved it but that stage was like a bad nightmare that quickly passed when we realised that once again we felt like a guests in our own home and that we should just decorate how we like it and not for a mother-in-law to approve of ; )
2. What’s a snapshot ‘typical’ week in the life of Pati Robins?
I lead a pretty boring life – think groundhog day with occasional meltdowns ; ) I usually wake up at silly o clock – that’s if I slept the night before. It’s worth mentioning I’m not a night owl or a party girl, I actually love sleeping but sadly my husband suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time in the army, on top of few other physical and mental illnesses – so I’ve got to be up when he needs me or else I’m woken up from him having a night terror.
When I do eventually wake up or get woken up by my daughter looking for something she lost – the first thing I do is trip or step with my bare feet on the “lost” item and that my friends, wakes me up! Then I walk the dogs – if it’s dry then I’m fine if it’s wet, I usually trip and fall into the mud and do a walk (run) of shame. Straight after this, the school run , doctor appointments along with instagraming in between – keeps me sane!
Afternoons I usually check my emails, plan any charity events I take part in, photo shoots I might have or when I have a free time (which is rare), I take photos purely for pleasure and to relax and escape . I also love Instagram – besides constantly being inspired by other peoples pictures, the kindness and support people give each other is truly amazing.
After school picking my daughter from school I usually deal with tantrums and meltdowns and that’s just my husband ; ) When I’m not doing DIY or painting, I love cooking as well as eating ; ) – I think I am at my happiest when I am pottering about in the kitchen. Experimental cooking is a bit of hit and miss and smoke alarm as well as Pepto-Bismol comes in handy!
3. Can you describe for us what role art plays within your home
For me art plays a huge part in interior design – the choices we make purchasing art and placing it in our homes makes it more personal to us. Art also doesn’t have to be expensive you can mix and match your bargain finds with homemade prints – and create interesting gallery wall. I also use art as a form of distraction from the features in our home that we hate ( be it an artexed wall or my husband’s disability aid adaptations )
4. What’s your favourite piece of art in your home and why?
This might sounds very narcissistic of me – but the piece I love the most is one of my own photographs I took of my husband called “Once I was a soldier now I am a ghost” – it’s a candid photo of my husband tearing up when I found and traced the U.N beret that he wore when he was serving in the army while on tour in Bosnia ( he was in the regular army but when they were sent to Bosnia they “stuck UN berets on them ” – his words not mine).
This photograph also won me one of Canon photography competitions as well as onto the shortlist of ‘Faith Through Lens’ competition. I also auctioned an original piece for one of the poppy appeal fundraisers last year.
5. What particular things did you have to consider in decorating each space in your home to accommodate your husbands needs and how did you come up with creative solutions for these?
Having enough space for the wheelchair to pass over, as well as hiding some of the “ugliest” adaptations my husband uses on the daily basis – take the bed lift for a example – to camouflage it a little, when not in use, I throw a lot of cushions and pillows on my bed – out of sight out of mind ; ) I also use art and bright pieces to draw the eye where I want it – so although the pieces that cannot be hidden they don’t become an eyesore feature in the room .
6. Tell us about your favourite creative interiors project within your home…..and to make us all feel better, what was your biggest interiors mistake?
Its really hard to pick just one – but I think making my daughter a headboard out of our of bed slats was one of the cheapest and most effective projects I’ve done and seeing her face light up when she came home from school and saw it made my day.
Probably the time I went crazy with colour and failed was in 2006 when I sponged different shades of terracotta paint onto the bathroom wall – what was I thinking?! The best bit is – when I finished I thought to myself, wow looks so arty …. then woken up the next morning looked at the wall and hated every little bit of it!
7. Can you share your best DIY Style Warrior ‘secret’ tip from your creative projects?
To save money, as well as have more choices of shades – you can use wall paint on furniture – just make sure you give your piece a few coats of varnish and for few days be careful with it until the varnish cures properly.
8. Can you give any gems of advice for those looking to create an individual look in their homes?
Go with your gut feeling, don’t ask your friends for advice in what you are planning to do as sometimes it’s hard for others to imagine your vision. For more personal look mix and match old and new items.You’ve only got one life – live it for yourself and have fun with interiors as you would in your personal life , don’t be afraid to try new things – your home should be your play ground : )
9. If you threw the ultimate house party who would be your surprise star guest (dead or alive!) and what would you ask them to bring?
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow – don’t ask why I just like the way he walks ; )
10. What’s your best trait and worst vice that we should know about before we move in?
I am passionate about doing my bit to helping others, I believe that doing something to help a charity, neighbourhood or a person – not only a yearly or monthly donation – it’s getting up and doing your bit to help whenever you got a little time. This in my opinion will make a world a better place. I am also the most moody, impatient, socially awkward person you can meet – if you would move in with me I’d give you 24h before you voluntarily move out ; )
We don’t believe you for a minute Pati and we’re still moving in! Huge thanks for sharing a little insight into your daily life and some of your best home styling secrets!
This is a stunningly crafted home with art and creativity at its heart. Yet underneath the upbeat colour popping decor and humorous eccentric accessories, lies a defiant undertone of survival and stoicism -two essential human traits that make it possible to create a happy home despite the odds. When words can’t tell the real story and the emotional burden is too much for one person to bear, then it has to be shared, with each other to a point and then the rest, those difficult spaces in between, have to melt into the walls and life has to go on. These walls could tell that story but they’ll stay silent as walls do and instead the burden of carrying the past is made lighter by creating a joyful home full of art, fun, love and laughter – what better kind of home can there be?
If you want to see more of Pati’s home you can follow her on Instagram here . All photos in this post are courtesy of Pati Robins.