Tucked away in a secret courtyard in the heart of bustling Cambridge, is a tranquil sanctuary: Kettle’s Yard. You can easily miss the entrance – it’s a simple door, with a bell pull that you have to pull, but no instruction telling you to do so. This feels like a sort of test – that only the most curious and adventurous souls will pass…

kettles yard ellie tennant highlights‘The Louvre of the Pebble’ is, in fact, a humble house, very long and thin – three ancient cottages cobbled together with an airy 1970s extension on one end. The floorboards are bare, the walls are white and the ambience throughout is heavenly.

kettles yard in cambridge louvre of the pebbleBetween 1958 and 1973, this was the home of Jim and Helen Ede. In the 1920s and 1930s, Jim was a curator at the Tate Gallery in London and accumulated an impressive collection of art including paintings by Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood, and sculptures by the likes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. In 1966, he generously gave the house and its entire contents to the University of Cambridge and, today, every afternoon (except for Mondays) visitors can still ring the bell and look around for free.

cambridge kettles yardThis calming, soothing space has been carefully-curated with artworks and beautiful ‘stray objects’ found in nature, such as stones, shells, feathers, pieces of coral and driftwood. The rooms today are exactly as he left them, with subtle patterns, rhythms and hidden meanings at every turn. Here, you glimpse the scalloped edge of a crystal vase which echoes a shape in a painting; opposite, a spiral of pebbles seems to mirror the unfathomably-perfect shells in a bowl, conjuring thoughts of golden spirals, Fibonacci, the ebb and flow of the entire mysterious universe and the harmony and unity that is there to be found, if we seek it.

Kettle’s Yard wasn’t intended to be an art gallery or a museum but rather, in Jim’s words, ‘…a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.’

It’s hard to explain such a powerful interior in words, as so much of the experience relies upon your own interpretation of the space and there are so many variables – the angle of the sunlight streaming in through the windows, your mood, the time of day, the season – but it’s by far the most interesting and peaceful home I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring. One huge white wall is framed, like a stage in a theatre, with curtain-like creeping plants at one end and an enormous hand-woven rug at the other. With man-made artisanal beauty to your right and mother nature’s ever-evolving art to your left, you stand, centre stage, with a blank canvas before you – like life itself – stretching ahead, filled with infinite possibility. You are the artist. What you fill it with is up to you…

kettles yard


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  1. Jordan says:

    This is so beautifully written – sounds like a great place to visit

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