aT HOmE WiTH:
AnnA BURNs

WORDS BY FLORA MACDONALD JOHNSTON

The house of spatial designer Anna Burns is exactly like Burns herself - full of surprises. Upon meeting Burns you’re struck by how incredibly down-to-earth she is, despite designing the immersive store for us at KOIBIRD and traveling the world to create windows and pop-ups for luxury fashion houses such as Moncler, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès (to name but a few). Wearing a Valentine Witmeur Lab knit, tracksuit, and trainers, she greets me warmly with tattoo-covered arms.

Burns’ home, which looks ordinary at the outset, is utterly transformed within. There are traditional Victorian architectural notes with fireplaces and large windows, and rooms are filled to the brim with paintings, books, cosy furniture, and a Gohonzon (a Buddhist prayer box which Burns received this year during a special ceremony), but make your way past the colourful clutter and suddenly the house opens into a contrasting industrial space. Metal grate stairs lead down into a concrete-walled open plan kitchen and living room.

The table is laid

“I redid this whole house in a year, you should have seen what it was like before.” No shocks here, Burns is constantly managing quite frankly impossible timelines - a life choice she appears to revel in. Do I spy a workaholic? “Absolutely,” she replies seriously, “I work a lot, but Christmas is when we all stop. It’s the only time when people don’t call me and it can be quiet. Usually, we go away for two weeks to a different country, but of course, this year is different.”

This neatly leads us on to her typical festive season which has a global and eclectic feel thanks to Burns’s extensive travels as a child and mixed heritage. Born to a Swedish mother and English father, Burns would spend each Christmas in new and exotic locations such as Goa and Thailand. Now, as an adult and mother, Burns has incorporated many elements of her Swiss heritage into her own festive traditions which she shares with her 9-year-old daughter Scout. One of which is making gingerbread houses (at this point Burns points to an icing and Smartie-adorned gingerbread house featuring a dangerously sagging roof), placing knitted figures passed down by her great-great grandmother on the tree or table, and eating the Christmas meal on Christmas eve. At this point, I have given up trying to predict Burns’s routine and ask straight out what this meal consists of; “It changes, but I am not into cooking that much, so last year Scout decided on the meal and we had steak and baked swede covered in honey.” And what about this year? “Probably popcorn while we watch movies.” This feels like a peak Burns manoeuvre.

Awaiting guests for arrival, the knitted figures that are a treasured family heirloom have been placed on Burn’s table alongside floral candles by Chefanie displayed in a magnificent seven-pronged candleholder from a traditional Swedish woodshop. White cubed candles by Andrej Urem, plates from Stories of Italy (complete with sweet cakes), green napkin rings from Von Gern home, and on her sofa, she has placed velvet shell cushions by Tamar Mogendorff (all available at KOIBIRD). The table setting feels innately modern but nostalgic - just how Burns likes it. “There’s definitely nostalgia to it,'' says Burns when questioned, “it has to have a nod to something of the past - a part of you or your home.”

For Burns, creating welcoming spaces like this is natural, but what if you’re both a tablescaping and dinner party novice? These are the rules to follow:

1. “Incorporate nostalgia but modernise it.” Never decorate your table with entirely new items and objects. Incorporate elements of you or from the past - this can be anything from a present gifted by your parents to your favourite 70s style Peppercorn grinder.

2. “Embrace silliness.” Hide little surprising elements across the table to provide entertaining twists for your guests. In today's case, Burns has laid the table with a pale pink table runner. On closer inspection, it has been covered in printed boobs.

3. Don’t waste time on cooking. Cook or prep something that enables you to be away from the stove so you can chat to guests.

4. Music is the answer. Always. In Burns’s case she has a collection of vinyl records from Barbara Streisand to 90s electro - if you end up dancing until 6am, so be it.

Aside from the living room raves, Burns is keenly looking ahead towards 2022. “Next year is an exciting time for me as I am planning an exhibition,” she says. The date has not been firmly set yet, but Burns has already prepped it (of course). “If I am given a show space with only two weeks’ notice, I will be ready. You can’t just plan, you need to be ready and jump in.” And what about New Year resolutions? “I really want to get better at BMX.” I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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