Home tour | A corner of Africa in Clifton

August 22, 2014

This is one of the most striking family homes I’ve ever visited. Spanning the lower floors of two elegant 18th-century houses, it’s owned by wildlife filmmaker Jo Scofield and freelance sound recordist and cameraman Andrew Yarme, who live here with their teenage children, Jasper and Luca, and a friendly cocker spaniel named Ernie.

The property was near-derelict when the couple purchased it in 2010 and required a complete overhaul. After replacing the outdated wiring and installing heating and insulation, they set about transforming the cavernous interior into a relaxed, creative space that’s filled with colour and texture – certainly not what I expected to find amid the grand Georgian terraces of Clifton Village.

Perhaps most striking are the many African influences – the result of Jo and Andrew’s shared love of the continent. It’s a passion which Jo has also turned into a business, setting up From the Tribe, which sells handmade products from Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere, in 2011. “There’s such a rich artisan tradition in Africa, and I wanted to share it with a wider audience,” she explains. “The craftsmanship is truly beautiful, and bringing it to a larger market helps to empower the communities involved.”

Most of the items she sources are on display in the flat, including beaded chairs from the West African Yoruba tribe and photo frames made from scrap timber by a collective of homeless people in a South African township. Even the walls are adorned with tribal pieces, in the form of ornate Sudanese necklaces and carved Swahili candle holders. “All the products are bespoke,” adds Jo. “Every item reminds me of a place we’ve visited, an adventure we’ve had, or people we’ve met on our travels.”

This exoticism is skilfully combined with industrial touches: an island unit on wheels, black-painted floors, walls stripped back to reveal layers of mottled, centuries-old paintwork. Jo and Andrew have an eye for salvaged furniture, too – the dining table was snapped up from a Devon flea market, and an old window acts as a display cabinet for glassware.

The couple’s favourite room is the kitchen. “It’s the heart of the house,” says Jo. “I love all the wood, which makes me feel like I’m in an old boat, and the undulating floorboards.” Like the rest of the flat, it’s a striking juxtaposition, with warm cherry-wood units topped by grey concrete counters. Above, open shelves are stacked with cookbooks, jars of homemade preserves, hand-carved Kenyan bowls (“so worn and round and delicious!”) and mugs covered in intricate Zulu beading.

From the kitchen, doors lead through to the lounge, stylishly furnished with a Victorian chaise-longue and a contemporary L-shaped sofa piled with cushions made from old rice sacks. Beyond is the study, which is crammed with sketches and fabric samples from Jo’s suppliers.  There are also three bedrooms, plus a bathroom where brass fittings and a rough concrete wall sit alongside a fabulously battered zinc tub bought on eBay for £200.

But the biggest surprise lies outside, where the garden (so vast that Jo and Andrew have carved it up into allotments for friends and neighbours) tumbles down towards the Avon Gorge. Here, hidden among the greenery, is the family’s den: a cabin named Kibanda (‘hut’ in Swahili), inspired in part by African game lodges and in part by English country barns. Built by local designer Ryan Broom, its green-oak frame and sedum roof mean it has little impact on the view or the environment, and it’s almost invisible from above.

Inside, the cabin is just as artistic and innovative as the flat: a double bed, a sitting area and a dining table formed from an antique sewing-machine base face a wall of glass windows, and the kitchen was created from salvaged wood, with an old ladder put to good use as storage for mugs and glassware. There’s also a shower and toilet, a stove to keep things cosy even on the chilliest of winter days and, far below, an expansive wooden deck wrapped around an apple tree.

“This is our escape from the city,” says Jo. “The kids use it for sleepovers, and we come down here whenever we can. Friends stay over too, and the deck is perfect for lazy barbecues with candles and guitars. It’s a little slice of wilderness in the middle of Bristol.”

An African-influenced home in Clifton, Bristol

Photography by Abi Dare & Andrew Yarme

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