Taking one step inside the home of Mary Maddocks is like being transported to a cottage in the Welsh countryside and leaving the South East London location behind the shut door. The cosy, warm and joyful feeling embraces you as you enter this Victorian house. The fire crackles and the smell of wood, mixed with the soft tones from sandal wood candles. The muted tones in soft kelim rugs, wicker baskets and the colourful, upcycled furniture grabs your attention and senses. There is no doubt that Mary and her husband are creative, down to earth, who care a lot about their home. You can see it and you can feel it.
“It feels like our home doesn’t fit in the urban life, we forget that we’re in London”
The nature has a presence inside these walls, in the details of wreaths, dried flowers, sea shells, driftwood brought back home as memories from many walks along the coast, camping trips and outdoors adventures. The link between these places and Mary and Raoul is present and strong, these memories are the grounding roots of this home. The traces of the sea, woods and open fields are forming an atmosphere where you feel shielded and connected to your elemental self. “It feels like our home doesn’t fit in the urban life, we forget that we’re in London”.
The house Mary grew up in was warm, cosy, comfortable, family oriented and colourful. Mary’s mum is house proud but not a perfectionist about her home. It was a haven for my sisters and me, she tells me. Mary’s home today bears a resemblance to her childhood home in many ways.
‘In my family home we had a lot of art on the walls’
The home is becoming much more than just a shelter and a place to restore. It’s now often our workspace, our shared space, a hotel or a restaurant. For Mary her home has definitely been the creative outlet she wanted and her way to express all of that creativity that wasn’t part of her day job.
Already from the beginning when Mary stepped into this house, which had lost its original features and not been looked after by anyone in a long time, she saw the potential and could envision what they could turn it into. This was the start of a year long project to transform this house into what it is today. The couple’s social life had to be put on hold, every weekend was filled with work at the house and staying with the in-laws eventually got tiresome, as you can imagine.
‘It was tough and afterwards I said never again, but maybe one day’
However Mary and Raul never gave up on their dream, despite lots of DIY challenges. Numerous Youtube tutorials helped them figure out how to do everything from sanding the floors to laying a path in their garden. The attic is now a mini B&Q, filled with all the tools you need for a major home make over. On the question, would you ever considering taking on another project like this, Mary hesitates but continues: ‘It was tough and afterwards I said never again, but maybe one day’.
One of my happiest memories is finding these tiles underneath a carpet cover.
Bringing nature home
Every house is filled with memories and stories of people and big events and mundane moments made into something special. This house holds the memories of a young married couple celebrating their joint 30th birthday with all their close friends, introducing two new furry family members to their home and celebrating Christmas for the first time away from their childhood homes.
‘I think it’s more about the process, rather than creating the perfect, finished product.’
Christmas traditions were simplified and a bit stripped and this allowed for a refreshed perspective of what it really should be about – spending time with the ones you love.‘I think it’s more about the process, rather than creating the perfect, finished product.’
This is a family home that is open and welcoming to everyone from Mary’s youngest sister in need of a home to start her teaching career in London, second sister coming over at least once week, family visiting from Wales and many friends living close by coming over for dinner.
If you’ve been following Mary’s Instagram account @fleaandbear and blog www.fleaandbear.co.uk like I have for over a year you know that she shares inspirational pictures from her home and life. When I entered Mary’s home I was blown away because it was like coming into the world I’ve been following. It was like entering the world of @fleaandbear.
In their garden you find a little shed which is normally a place where you store garden tools but Mary has turned this into a studio for herself. Here she is taking her inspiration from landscapes she has seen and portraying them with metres of yarn.
Just recently she took the decision to leave the certainty of being a lawyer to do something completely new. The road ahead is open. She is following her passion.