Step into the museum-like home of artists Idris Khan and Annie Morris


Step into the museum-like home of artists Idris Khan and Annie Morris

Their home in London is full of bold colours, vintage memoirs and Indian fabrics

By Radhika Sanghani  March 9th, 2020

Walking into Idris Khan and Annie Morris’ London home is like walking into a museum of their life. The Islington townhouse, which was originally a 1760s Georgian terrace home, is filled with both artists’ work, fabrics they’ve picked up on their travels, sculptures and paintings that they have been gifted by fellow artists—and a whole lot of colour. 

“I’d call it eclectic,”says Morris, rearranging oversized jars in her bright yellow kitchen. “I like things not too clean, not too tidy. Everything almost has a memory to it.” Khan nods, and adds, “Some houses are stripped back to nothingness. This is just… everything.” The couple, who have been together since 2007, live in their four-floor home with their children Maude, 7, and Jago, 6. They invite me in for a tour and cup of tea, to talk about everything, from what influences their art, to their shared love of Indian fabrics, and how spending 24 hours a day together makes their marriage thrive. 

Radhika Sanghani: So tell me about the house. What made you buy it?

Annie Morris: We always loved this street. We saw a ‘for sale’ board outside, and just went for it. 

Idris Khan: We were lucky though because the old owner had left the beautiful woodwork without painting it. It’s actually a listed grade II property. We loved the rawness and life of the house. 

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Artists Idris Khan and Annie Morris with their kids Maude and Jago

RS: I can see your artwork all over the house, with Idris’ layered monochrome photographs, and Annie’s vibrant stack sculptures. Is that important for you both to display your own work? 

AM: It’s really nice to have things from different times. We have a lot of Idris’ art from his degree show here in the living room, which I love. Those flowers are on an old sculpture of his—it’s one element from Seven Times, which was on at the British Museum. 

IK: And now it’s a side-table. It’s like a gallery in here, with Annie’s early drawings over there. I have my OBE up on the desk here. It’s like a wall of history, with all our memories. Actually it can inspire new things, looking at your old work. 

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The sculpture is an enlarged 1950’s cake topper from their wedding

RS: In what way? 

IK: I think the whole view of artists suddenly having a crazy brainwave is not valid somehow. I’ve always felt that it’s these subtle shifts that make the best work. In exhibitions I always try to put one thing in that leads to the next. 

AM: Idris is really good at that. He’s told me there are times when your mind is blank. But the best thing to do is look back at your own work to generate ideas. I’ve learnt a lot from doing that.

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RS: There’s this eclectic mix of colour and style in the house. Is it a balance of both of your styles or does one of you dominate?

IK: If you look at our work, you’d say I’m more of a minimalist, an abstract expressionist or something like that. And Annie, if you look at the colours she works with, she definitely brings that into the home. It’s definitely affecting me now, because I’m starting to work in colour. But also, Annie you’re the energy behind the interiors. I love doing it, but I’m good with proportions and rooms and hanging. 

AM: I like strong colour. I’m less into pastel colours. I’m more into strong, bold prints. We both love India and recently we were in Jaipur where the block printing is amazing. We got them to do the covers of chairs; we have tons of different ones.

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RS: How do the kids feel about the house? 

AM: They’re so well-trained those two. When their friends come over, they say, “don’t touch the art”. They’re not clumsy. They have their tiny toy room they love, which used to be our pantry.

IK: They really do love it here. We’ve talked about moving and getting a slightly bigger place, and they threw a tantrum: we don’t want to ever leave this house.

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RS: I love how artistic their bedrooms are too, like Maude’s hand-painted bed. Are they both quite into art?

AM: Maude and I painted her bed together; we got it in an antique market. She really wants to be an artist. Jago wants to be a detective artist. Somehow it’s so part of their childhood. They’ve been with us on every exhibition, which means they’ve travelled all over the world.

IK: I didn’t grow up going to markets, but Annie did. We’re kind of doing it with the kids now. 

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RS: It sounds like you both spend a lot of time together, sharing a studio together as well as the home. Is that quite intense for you both as a married couple?

IK: We’re together 24 hours a day. Probably since 2007. If you think about it, we’ve probably been married for 50 years in terms of the amount of hours we spend together compared to a normal couple. 

AM: It’s fun. I remember someone telling me the best thing is to be with someone you have a lot in common with. That’s a real help.

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RS: Do you mix work and pleasure at home, or do you save it all for the studio?

IK: There’s been times when we have worked at home, but I think you do need that separation. Otherwise Annie would never stop working.

AM: The house is so different to the studio. It’s a massive, old toy factory so it’s very open-plan with lots of lateral space. There’s something so comforting about coming to this tiny space in juxtaposition to that.. It’s so cosy. And houses seem to get better as you live in them, as you perfect them in some way. This house is a bit like that; it’s the best it’s been. 

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A vintage mirror that belonged to Morris’ mother
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Maude and Jago using blankets picked up from Jaisalmer
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Artwork by Tal R and rug from the Atlas mountains
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Photographs: Vikram Kushwah; Make-up: Flo Lee; Hairstylist:Tilly Penn; Sitting Editor: Stavroula Zoe