"Nothing in my life or line of work is stable, so to have a home that is mine is such a welcome luxury,” model Joanna Halpin explains of her East London home. For Joanna and her sister, Sarah, this old coach house turned industrial workshop turned residence provides so much more than a place for physical respite.
Lovingly referred to as ‘the stable house’ (“everyone always comments that the house smells like hay, which I personally can’t smell,” Joanna tells), the home's shape shifts in accordance with its inhabitants’ needs. It's a personal sanctuary at times, a workshop at others, a studio. And, always, a canvas for shared memories.
Joanna and Sarah were raised in Cornwall; an idyllic upbringing spent outdoors. Joanna (the eldest of the two) was the first to make the sea change to London. “I am quite impulsive, and when I decide I want something I do everything in my power to get it,” she explains. “It was the same with this house. I saw the listing online but was actually out of town the weekend they were doing viewings. I trusted my boyfriend at the time to view the property for me, and when he said I’d love it I trusted his judgment and put an offer in.”
“There’s been some noticeable and welcomed changes over the last few years … now a yoga studio, a florist and a (frequently visited) wine bar. We probably visit them in reverse order to this.”
– Sarah Halpin
A physical manifestation of the pair’s considered aesthetic eye (they are also founders of online creative platform What She Said), theirs is a space curated with meaningful items from years past. “Our most treasured pieces are those of sentiment and memory … which is slightly ironic. I wouldn’t describe either of us as sentimental people,” Sarah says, citing prints made by their mother and furniture inherited from their grandparents.
“There is very little storage in the house,” Joanna explains. “So everything is only displayed because there is nowhere to hide it, whether it is artful or not.” However, harnessing this openness has made for an eclectic menagerie, collected from their travels (a by-product of their nomadic professions) or passed down through generations. “Some are inherited, some are gifts. Some are found on the streets of places we visit and some are consciously saved-up for,” Sarah lists.
“Sarah and I always talk about all the ‘bits’ we have everywhere and enjoy ‘rearranging the bits’ every few weeks [when] we feel a little stressed. We find organising and tidying very therapeutic,” Joanna laughs.
Sharing a home can be a precarious endeavour. But when it works, it’s magic: all the benefits of a built-in companion with whom to share the joys and burdens of daily life. “Being away for work, or even just away for a day, and coming home to Sarah has been so great,” says Joanna. With the house serving as a welcome escape from the pair’s frenetic schedules and unpredictable work requirements, “Days that we were both in town and had off together would be spent at the table ‘working’ together all day, drinking coffee or wine depending on the time of day, listening to music and never running out of things to chat about.”
“There’s always been this sense of closeness, the sort of closeness that only exists with sisters,” Sarah adds. “No one knows me better.”
“Home should feel like somewhere that brings you security and happiness. And where you feel completely content just being there.” – Joanna Halpin
“I’m a firm believer that ‘good things take time’. And I gain so much satisfaction in deciding what and where things might exist within in space.” – Sarah Halpin