Still Life Stories - Emily Dennison

This is the first in our blog series entitled ‘Still Life Stories’ - an opportunity to take a look inside the creative homes of real people, who couple stylish with the everyday. We’re starting with photographer and friend Emily Dennison, who shares her gorgeous ‘2 up 2 down’ Manchester terrace with Vinny the cat.
Let’s start with a bit about Emily…
Em is predominantly a food & portrait photographer and has worked with us before at Still Life (notably on our iconic 2021 xmas table shoot). 
Ruby first met Em when they became neighbours in 2016. Em had just bought her first place on the street Ruby was renting on, and they bonded over mutual friends and work connections. Em had been living in house shares for over a decade before this point, and had worked hard to get onto the housing ladder. She was so full of energy and enthusiasm to make the most of this tiny piece of Earth that was now her own... She could be seen most days tackling DIY projects inside and outside the house; tiling the garden path, repainting the external woodwork and even creating a wildflower garden in the communal alleyway at the back. 
The communal back alley that Em organised cleaning up and turning into a wildflower garden for all residents to enjoy.
In a nutshell: this woman was determined, creative, hardworking, fiercely independent, and the kind of person who makes good things happen within communities!

So what’s her place like? 
3 words to describe Em’s place? She said ‘artistic, calm, welcoming’ and I’d wholeheartedly agree. Emily’s open-plan hosting & dining space forms the heart of her home. When asked where her favourite spot was in the house, she said it was at her dining table.
I’ve just got so many lovely memories in that space… like friends coming round for dinner and us ending up dancing on benches into the night’...’and just the light because it’s an open space downstairs, it’s lovely in the morning just to sit with your coffee and look down as the light comes through the bay…it just feels very calm and I’m ready to face the day’...’so it’s from those 2 associations I think… calm morning peace and evening fun’
When I asked her more about how each room made her feel, she described her bedroom as her calmest space, as her ‘cave’. You can certainly feel in Emily’s home that every area has been curated with such care and intrigue, it’s a safe and unique space that she can escape to. As I perused the items dotted around her house I too felt I was often transported, I couldn’t put my finger on where… but once Emily started to describe her love of Spain I began to see these influences present themselves. 
We began to talk about the role that colour and light plays in her home, and she described her love of blue, chartreuse and mustard, often together to create a clashing but harmonious balance. It led us onto a story about her favourite piece in the house, her stained glass window, which she said makes her happy everyday. 
‘I like the combination of the ambers with the blues and the greens, I think when you get a warm colour and a cool colour together it’s really pleasing to the eye’...’but this (stained glass) changes depending on the sunlight as well, so some colours are more intense at different times of day. Like on a winters day at this time the natural light goes quite blue, but it goes warmer towards the end of the day and the glass looks different’
Emily explained to me that she had the stained glass made especially for her bathroom window, and it was a collaboration between her and John Edgar at Knutsford Stained Glass. She went to him with a selection of art deco/geometric designs and he expanded on her examples, making it even better than she could’ve hoped. She also added…
‘He arranged the glass in a way that looks beautiful, but also protects my modesty so I’m not showing off my best china to the neighbours!’
During my visit I steadily built a picture of how the house looked when she first bought it - tales of woodchip horror stories and staircases that weren’t in very good nick. She explained all about the renovations she’s made to the house and about what she’d like to work on in the future…
‘I really want to paint the living room maybe not white, a slightly warmer neutral shade’...’and the ikea cupboards in the kitchen I’d like to do a deep olivey mustard colour’...’I’d also really like to convert the attic into a third bedroom with a little ensuite toilet in it’... ‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford it but we’ll see!’
One of the things that often comes up when making aesthetic interior decisions is how to keep the place looking nice when you lead a busy life. I asked Em about how she keeps her place looking great, but still so creative and full of life. She said it’s all about the storage…
‘Number one is storage that’s easily accessed. So once you’re finished with something, it’s easily put back in, lid on, or pushed away!’... ‘I also have a 24 hour washing the pots rule, because I have a postage stamp sized kitchen’

All throughout my visit, Em carried around a little portable speaker for us to enjoy her favourite tunes. It seemed right to end by asking her about the most important component when creating an atmosphere of a place: what is the soundtrack of her home?
‘My one true love is disco’… ‘but I listen a lot to Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy’s Balearic Breakfast on mixcloud, I love Cerys Matthews Sunday show on 6 Music as well, that’s always on every Sunday’...’I’m a bit of an old granny as well, in the mornings I like to not be too overfaced with noise so I always put radio 3 on’...’so it’s a combination really, it changes with the time of day'
We so enjoyed visiting Em’s home and getting an insight into what aspects of it have positively impacted her life. We hope it’s been a useful source of inspiration. Thank you Emily (and Vinny) for sharing!
Photo credit: Emily Dennison Photography