My Modern House: restaurateur Clare Lattin on finding a slower pace of life in the city at her converted factory apartment in Hackney
“I’ve spent the last year finding a slower pace of life in the city. Life in London comes with a strange sense that we always need to be participating in something or seeing people because we fear missing out. But, we’re actually missing out on the freedom, the happiness, that comes with slowing down!
“As a restaurateur, cooking has naturally been a big part of that. Maybe I am biased, but food is the epicentre of life. Traditionally, we would go out to work and then come home to eat – our circadian rhythm would be synced to wake, work, eat, sleep.
“We don’t really need much more than that. Food allows you to return to that rhythm if you allow it.
“Of course, cooking takes a long time to master, so the best thing to do is slow down and think, ‘it’s ok not to be brilliant at everything, I just need to do a couple of things really well.’
“A basic love for simple ingredients is a great place to start: a lovely salad with good olive oil, a bowl of pasta with herbs from the garden and Parmesan, or a well-roasted, good-quality chicken – it’s the simplest things that are the most delicious.
“This place, one of several apartments in a former factory, where I have been for seven years, really enables me to slow down.
“I was living in De Beauvoir in a traditional townhouse before. I came to one of the spaces here for a party hosted by some artists I know. My now next-door neighbour is an architect who had worked on my old house and has done all the concrete work at the restaurants, so I also knew he lived here.
“It’s a lovely little community of mostly creative people, most of whom have known each other for a long time. We have a shared table outside and we all cook for each other. On Sundays, we all have dinner together – we’ll just lay the table and whoever comes, comes. It’s very sweet.
“At the weekends I can just shut the door and cook endlessly. With so many emails, phone calls and meetings during the week for my restaurant consultancy firm, I miss the craft of cooking.
“I usually pick up ingredients from one of my restaurants – Ducksoup, Little Duck, The Picklery and Raw Duck – on Friday and then just cook all weekend, often for no one in mind. Then I’ll just pile it on the table outside and the neighbours come to eat whatever I have made.
“Making plans with people doesn’t feel very impromptu and can be quite stressful. If you’ve made plans weeks or even months in advanced you can wake up and think, ‘oh god, I don’t want to do that today’.
“I think Italian culture has it right. There, much more emphasis is placed on family, or people exist in smaller communities. It feels much more natural.
“This space feels very different to my last house. I like the fact that it has very tall ceilings, feels airy and there is a large open-plan living area that encompasses the kitchen, dining table and living space.
“It’s become really full-up since I’ve been here, mostly through objects that I have found, or things I have picked up on my travels.
“I’m obsessed with baskets and ceramics, and probably need to stop collecting them. Some of the baskets are from places like Damascus, others from jumble sales and antique shops.
“The dining table is one of my favourite pieces of furniture. I found it in an antique shop near Edgware Road and had to essentially build it into my old house. Luckily, I found someone who was able to take it apart and put it back together here.
“It would have been a tragedy to have left it behind because of the memories it has fostered – the parties, food and people it has hosted bring enrichment to my life.”
Clare, how do you define modern living?
“For me, modern living is about taking some time to make conscious choices, understanding the impact of my place on the planet and trying to do what I can to offset what I take from it.
“It’s about considering what I need versus what I want, employing the thought process of making do, and, as importantly, it’s about rethinking the mundane, the art of maintenance and looking after things.
“It’s about looking inwards not out, being local, not global, and doing what I can in my tiny corner of the planet – be that composting my kitchen waste for the yard’s pots or growing herbs and flowers to help wildlife where I can.
“We’ve become so disconnected from nature that now modern living has to be about reconnecting to it, touching it, living with it. I admire those who leave the city to reconnect with nature and work with the land in a positive way – that’s modern living.”
If you were to move, what would be the first thing you’d take with you?
“My kitchen table – always.”
Is there a home on The Modern House website that has caught your eye?
“The house on Landsdowne Cresent – it’s a beautiful, warm space, creatively and sympathetically put together using warm wood and fabrics. It’s unique, unusual and really cosy. I could be very happy there.”