For artist and Instagram sensation, Philippa Stanton, aka @5ftinf, her Brighton house is a work space, gallery, studio and family home. Here, she guides us through her creative space and reveals the joys of her constantly evolving home
IMAGE (MIDDLE): ALUN CALLENDER
Brighton-based artist Philippa Stanton started painting 15 years ago to utilise her synaesthesia – a merging of the senses meaning that when experiencing sounds, tastes or smells, her brain stimulates corresponding visuals. A wonderfully creative blog and Instagram feed followed, under the guise of @5ftinf (her height combined with an old nickname) which has earned her legions of fans around the world, intrigued and delighted by her dynamic artworks – many of which feature everyday curiosities arranged on her dining table. Philippa now creates visual projects for brands, runs creative workshops, curates exhibitions and has recently launched her first book Conscious Creativity – a beautiful toolbox of tips, techniques and exercises to ignite your inner creative. For her, home has a complex identity; a work space, a studio, and a gallery of sorts, as well as a cosy family retreat for her son and partner. Here, Philippa guides us through her constantly evolving home and the stories of the everyday items that fuel her creativity.
What does your home represent to you?
As a kid you build a den, make it nice, crawl in and it feels magical and cosy. I feel like my house is my den and my friend. It’s also like an installation a lot of the time; it’s not static, it’s a living thing. I’m forever moving bits and pieces around. In the summer, I wanted the front room to be white, so I did it and thought, if it looks rubbish I’ll just paint over it. There is this holy grail that you get your room ‘right’ and it stays like that, but that’s not me and I don’t think it’s massively creative. I had a big tidy up yesterday because I had an open house and I’d been running my workshops, so stuff had been going in and out all month. So I was trying to reclaim it. I looked around and thought, ‘Argh, I’ve got so much stuff.’ But this is my living and working space, so this is how it is. And I’m inspired by all sorts of things, so I don’t just want an empty space.
My house is my den and my friend. It’s also like an installation a lot of the time; it’s not static, it’s a living thing. I’m forever moving bits and pieces around.”
Was it a house that immediately pulled at your heartstrings?
I remember it was January, I’d just had my son and I knew the moment we walked in. I just thought, this is it, I want to live here! It’s a small Victorian terrace and I loved the fact that it had been knocked through and I loved the garden. A guy had been living here for a couple of years after buying it from an old lady who’d lived here for years and years and had died. He was a bit of a mad person, apparently, but I didn’t get any sense that a mad person had been here, I just had a sense of the old lady. Then, weirdly, when I had my open house last year a woman came and said she used to live here; the old woman was her mum. That was quite extraordinary because I’ve always felt a connection to the lady who’d lived here, like she had handed the baton on to us to respect the house.
Your Table, and the beautiful compositions you create on it, has almost become your trademark. Why does it make such a brilliant canvas?
We found it in a vintage antiques emporium in Lewes and as soon as we put it in the back room, my ex-husband and I both felt like it had been here before; it just fitted. It was weird, actually, we used to think, ‘What if it really has been here before?’ For a long time it was in the middle of the room because we had a little vintage desk and chair in the window for my son who loved looking out of the window – his first word, apart from the normal things, was garden. The room has changed over the years and we eventually moved it under the window. I was sat at it having a cup of tea one day with a load of leaves and sticks from the garden – I didn’t have any money so I couldn’t go to the florist all the time, so I used to make arrangements out of things from the garden – and the light captured a corner of the table really beautifully. It grew organically, it’s more like a meditative place now where I can create something and then brush it away. It is where I eat and where life happens. Sometimes you’ll see a weird stain that has appeared, or scratches from my son’s childhood and that’s all part of it; there are the stories of my life on my table.
My table is where I eat and where life happens. Sometimes you’ll see a weird stain that has appeared, or scratches from my son’s childhood and that’s all part of it; there are the stories of my life on my table.”
Describe your childhood home…
Before the age of 10, we lived in a house that I loved. It was cosy, we had a lovely garden and that’s always the house in my mind that I think back to as a child. Then, my parents bought a hotel which they ran, so we moved there. I barely saw my parents for three years because they were working the whole time. Everything from our lovely cosy house was in the loft and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t like this,’ and that feeling never really went away. We had three rooms on the top floor of the hotel – my parents, my brother’s and mine and then the loft – and that’s where our old house was. I would go in there on Saturdays, open up a box and get everything out. I’d feel so sad, like we hadn’t got a home. So that’s basically when I first started trying to make my bedroom into a home. We only stayed there for three years and then we moved around quite a lot, so throughout the rest of my childhood wherever we lived there were always boxes, which I hated. As soon as I left home, I worked in the theatre and I’d get digs where I”d stay for eight weeks at a time, and I was always making that space cosy and safe.
You open your house each year as part of Artists Open Houses Festival with a curated exhibition of crafts. What made you get involved and does it feel odd having strangers in your home?
Because my parents had a hotel, that was like an open house 24/7. So this just feels like I’m playing shop for a weekend and sharing my love of artists and makers and showcasing their work in a nice environment. I’ve been doing the Artists Open Houses Festival in Brighton for 16 years now, so I’m used to it and I know how to deal with certain situations. So if a slightly peculiar person comes in – which is very unusual, but it can happen – I’m not intimidated to say ‘Don’t do that’, or ‘I think you should leave,’ if I have to. I have such respect for the amazing women who open their houses in Brighton twice a year; my god, they work hard.
You have a wonderful garden shed which doubles as a painting/studio space. Talk us through some of the objects in there you really treasure…
There is a small oak barrel which was my grandparents’ and I remember it being in their hall and being fascinated by it as a little girl. It was like a little chair, it was the perfect size and I used to pretend I was on a ship, it would set my imagination going. When granny died, I’d given up a studio in the countryside and I was going to buy a shed on my credit card and my dad said to me, rather than do that, why doesn’t Granny buy you the shed? So that was my legacy from my granny. She’d had her own shed in the garden that my grandfather had built for her, so it was this nice connection. I also have her enamel top table, which was in her shed. The wooden bits of the table are painted in a shade of green which was all over her house, and anything I see now in that green colour I associate with her. It’s completing a circle.
Tell us about your new book, Conscious Creativity…
I wanted to make it accessible, I didn’t want it to be intimidating in an arty way, as I really believe that everyone has the potential for creativity. People say, ‘I can’t draw,’ and, yes, it’s a skill but you can learn and a lot of that is about looking at stuff. So the book is saying that in order to create something beautiful that isn’t empty and soulless, you just have to look at everything. I didn’t just want to do a coffee table book; I kept feeling I’ve got more to say than just being a flatlay person who does pretty photographs. My whole thing has always been about process, about constantly experimenting. Life seems to be very fast in a digital world and the book is about simple stuff that you may think you don’t have time for, but is important in so many ways.
Feeling inspired by Philippa? Share this article with friends, family and followers using the share buttons at the top of the page.