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Joanna & Oliver Maclennan on the search for inspiring interiors

Posted on 18 Apr 2019

Oliver Maclennan talks to co-author and sister, Joanna Maclennan about discovering inspiring interiors for 'The Foraged Home'.

Village House, Mindya, Bulgaria © 2019 Joanna Maclennan

Strictly speaking, foraging is the obtainment of food or provisions, the result of searching far and wide. Birds forage for seeds and insects, bears for honey and salmon. Meanwhile, across the globe, humans are foraging for curtain rails, and much, much else besides: dining tables; doors; limpet shells; nautical flags; garden taps; picture frames; seaweed; shipwrecked wood; suitcases; barbed wire; stinging nettles…the list goes on. It’s extraordinary what lies all around us, and yet we so easily dismiss and ignore it.

‘I’d always wanted to do an interiors book,’ says photographer Joanna Maclennan. ‘Foraging was just how I live with my husband Mike and daughter Poppy. I also have some friends who live this way, including Marc Nucera and Tim Clinch, who feature in the book. So the idea came from there, really, the home being full of nature and unusual finds, pushing against consumerism and buying things just for the sake of it.’

‘Foraging’ encompasses a range of different approaches – and landscapes. The book is divided into four sections: coastal, rural, wild, urban. Wherever you are, the opportunities for foraging are boundless: beaches, forests, dumps, flea markets, abandoned factories – to name just a handful. At its heart, foraging is an adventure, something to be enjoyed with friends or family.

Upturned Boat, Audierne, France © 2019 Joanna Maclennan

‘It’s going on trips, being curious about things,’ says Joanna. ‘Whether walking along the beach and picking up shells, or mudlarking on the Thames, it’s about having fun, getting away from the speed and noise of modern life.’

Her home in Provence is proof of this. Many objects have been found by the roadside – husband Mike having an uncanny ability to find such things. A carpenter’s workbench in the kitchen, for example, above which hangs a market board rescued from demolition. Elsewhere, the flowers and branches were foraged from near the house, which sits amid orchards of pear, almond and apple.

While some of those featured were discovered by word-of-mouth, it would be fair to say that this book could not exist without Instagram – or Deborah Beau, whose eye is unimpeachable, and research skills unparalleled.

Caravan in Provence, Lacoste, France © 2019 Joanna Maclennan

‘It developed over time,’ explains Joanna. (Much like foraging itself.) ‘Cloudfishing is a great example. We stumbled on them by chance. It was this little cabin which reflected their creative spirit as a family, bringing them together, which was important to me. It made them a strong part of the book.’

Howard and Laura were as surprised as anyone. However, after arriving at a remote spot on the Devonshire coast, it soon became apparent how special their home really was. Not only was there a cabin in their garden, but two foraged shelters on the beach, built by a couple of locals. It was like looking at the evolution of man: only for cabins. Those featured in the book were unfailingly kind and hospitable. It seemed to chime nicely with a general outlook of foraging: to slow things down and enjoy the moment.

Mas in Provence, Noves, France © 2019 Joanna Maclennan

‘I made some very close friendships,’ says Joanna, ‘such as Heidi Bjørnsdotter. We met in Oslo for a forest foraging story. She told me about her father’s woodsman’s hut in the fjords which sounded amazing. I returned the next year and we went on a road trip. The hut was incredible, so serene. I felt very privileged.’

Whatever the story is, Joanna has always trusted her gut. So much so that she high-tailed it to the US for three days based on a single photo of the Whale House. ‘I saw it on an Instagram page. It took a long time to track down. I eventually found the Dune Shack and made contact. I just had a feeling. In fact, I haven’t been anywhere I haven’t loved. I could have done two or three books, there are a lot of stories out there.’

Foragers are united by their creativity and ingenuity. Some are artists and designers, but just as many have ‘regular’ jobs – social worker, teacher, restaurant-owner – which demonstrates foraging’s broad appeal. Anyone can do it. It can define the house itself, or complement a grander scheme. It’s whatever you want it to be.

Words by Oliver Maclennan

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