Well what a way to kick off the new season of Habitat Voyeur…a guided tour of none other than Jo Whiley’s gorgeous Northamptonshire home. Having pretty much grown-up to sound of Jo Whiley we, at the blog, couldn’t resist nabbing a few words with the lady herself.
How did you find this place?
The house? Bizarre how we ended up here really. My husband discovered it. He brought me to see it and I didn’t like it at all. He was trying to persuade me but I didn’t want to know. So someone else bought the house and then two years later it came on the market again and he dragged me here again and I just couldn’t work out why I didn’t like it in the first place. Maybe it’s that your habitat is right for you at a certain time in your life and this house eventually came to me at the right time. It couldn’t be more perfect now.
Do you love living in the countryside?
I love being in the countryside because I work in London all the time (and have done for years). We just decided to move out – I wanted a garden, I love gardening and more space for the family so it’s a natural place for us to be. I can get into London really quickly and I’ve got the best of both worlds. When you’re in London it’s so exciting, there’s so much to do but it can also feel quite claustrophobic and oppressive. But here it’s wide open spaces and you just feel an enormous sense of release – when I get on the train and leave London the weight just drops off your shoulders. It’s so calm here.
How did you go about making this house yours?
It’s really funny when you move into a house and there isn’t anything disastrously wrong with it but it’s just not you – it’s like wearing someone else’s clothes or an ill-fitting suit – and that’s how the house felt to us. So we painted the walls, replaced the wood burning stove, worked on the garden. It’s those little things which made the place us and reflected what the family is all about.
Taking a mental trip around the house, name some things which we should see and why?
The pink sofa – it’s my pride and joy. It’s always been important to be to have a comfortable sofa – it’s such an important piece for the whole family. I love the vibrancy and the bright colour.
The other thing would be the sound system. I feel like it’s one of the things in here which it truly mine – I use it all of the time.
The cooker as well – a relatively new addition to the house. I’m not a cook but this has really changed things for me.
Talk me around your desk.
My desk is my shrine – I am very protective and get very annoyed if people dump things on there! It’s all my favourite things – pictures of my grandparents on their wedding day, my kids when they were tiny, a picture of Jay-Z and me when he came to our house – all of these special moments.
I’m also quite obsessed with pens, ink and writing – I love writing cards and letters.
Do you curate your spaces?
Yes – I really do think about what’s around the house. I like to have all of the things that make me happy around me. There’s a collection of Gorillaz figures which I was given when I worked at Radio 1 by Gorillaz, a poster with Bono on it was a special gift from the Independent. There’s the Live Lounge light box – my most precious possession – Live Lounge was so important when I worked at Radio 1.
Where do you escape?
Refuge is probably my bedroom – I’m quite obsessive about bedlinen and pillows, the comfort of bed. My other refuge would be the garden – I love gardening. If I’m feeling particularly stressed then it’s the place I’ll go to clear my head and relax – it’s so meditational, you can just lose yourself. It you’re angry then pruning or weeding can get that aggression out.
What’s travelling here with you from your first house?
It’s actually something that my husband bought me – this pink panther and I HATE it. I’ve never grown to like it but it’s still in the house and is still with us!
What does the name ‘Habitat’ mean to you?
Growing up it was always the coolest place to go to. I’ve always shopped there and have had a real affection for it.
If we were to look in the house at any one time what would we see you doing?
Probably tidying up! I’m constantly tidying. The boys are just obsessed with Lego and it gets everywhere! Other than that, listening to music or the radio obviously!
What are you favourite memories of the house?
One of my favourite memories was my birthday this year. We had a barn dance so we decked the place out as a Wild West saloon – such a fun evening which went on until about 7 in the morning.
I’m quite obsessive about having really nice vases and really nice mugs and candles. My favourite time of the whole week is a Friday evening – I just go through this ritual of lighting candles, having fresh flowers in the right vases and then I feel as if the scene is set for the weekend of relaxation or partying – whatever it is. Those finer details just make me really happy. Unashamedly girly I know!
Thanks so much to Jo. And don’t you be going anywhere, Habitat Voyeur is just kicking off. We’ll have more snoops for you in the coming weeks.