In Conversation with Elisabeth Ciarrocchi from Spratts Factory

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Rob – “Today I have the fabulous Elisabeth Ciarrocchi from Spratts Factory and Encore Reclamation with me. How are you today?”

Elisabeth – “I’m very well thank you, had a really great day filming with you guys.”

Rob – “Thanks so much, as did we, you have such an incredible space here! Speaking on that, what exactly inspired you to buy a disused warehouse/ factory?” 

Elisabeth – “So, we had previously lived in a flat about a mile away from here; I was pregnant with our second daughter, so we needed a bigger space. We went around looking at all these other properties in the area, but couldn’t find anything that we really loved. This was actually on the market the entire time, so we after a while, we were like ‘oh, well it’s still for sale, we may as well go and check it out’. We came to see it and fell in love immediately.”

“Not just for this huge indoor space, but it also has the massive space at the back and we just thought this is great for kids; we thought we were so lucky to be able to have such a huge space inside and this big rear space as well, it was kind of love at first sight. It really was definitely just a purchase from the heart. There was a lot of work that needed to be done, but we saw it and just had to go for it.”

Rob – “That’s amazing! So, can you talk to me a little bit about the challenges you faced in creating the space that we now have, from where it was when you bought it?”

Elisabeth – “We actually lived here for six years before we renovated. So, by the time it came to demolition and renovation, we kind of knew exactly how we wanted the space to look. We worked with our architect to reimagine it as close to its original form as we could. An industrial, utilitarian and practical space that was also brought into proportion with the original parts of the building – the windows and the double height ceilings etc.” 

“It wasn’t actually that difficult to figure out how we wanted to use the space – like I said on the video walkthrough, once we had torn everything out, we were just looking at this shell of building, essentially just four walls. You might think that would be daunting, but you actually end up getting more creative and coming up with more ideas. It’s far less scary and gives you more inspiration than would think.”

Rob – “Awesome, so would you say that utilitarian is your design style?”

Elisabeth – “I think so. I would definitely say I’m a minimalist – I don’t like things that are over fussy, I much prefer things that can be easily cleaned and organised. I like to know where things are. Even though it sounds really morbid, I really like the idea of Swedish Death Cleaning. It’s basically about only having things around you that (if you were to die) your loved ones would either be able to use or would find valuable. So, it’s kind of like a form of decluttering, but with a thought for your loved ones, rather than just being neat and tidy. You have to think, if something were to happen to me, would my family want to keep that? Just keeping those really special things around you.” 

“I’m also really obsessed with Ricardo Bofill’s cement factory, La Fábrica – a former cement factory in Spain that he turned into a home and a centre of architecture, Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA). It’s this vast brutal space with huge windows that he’s turned into this amazing home. He brought all of this greenery inside, and even though it’s very brutal, he blurred the lines between nature and construction. Anyone who lives in a warehouse or loft space purposely would reference the cement factory as an inspiration and an aspiration. It’s such an incredible space. We’re nothing like it, but I just love looking at pictures of it and thinking how I can incorporate ideas from there into here.”

Rob – “My next question was going to ask about your inspirations in design. Would you say you have any others?”

Elisabeth – “I wouldn’t say that that I have many specific influences – Ricardo Bofill and his cement factory is one for sure that I would reference, but I love looking at home magazines; I am totally obsessed with Architectural Digest and their YouTube home tours of Celebrity homes – ‘Open Door’. It’s like fancy cribs to me. Whenever we have interior shoots here, I also pay close attention to what the stylist has done with the space. A lot of the things you see in front of you is in fact actually just the way a stylist has set the space up and I’ve just left it that way. But I don’t really have anything specific.”

“When you are a location home, you have to be organised; you can’t have things stuffed into one cupboard and other things stuffed into another. You have to know where your stuff is because clients can move things around – the aim after a shoot is to, without even thinking, click things back into place. I don’t have much stuff, so it’s definitely, definitely minimalism.”

Rob – “Minimalism definitely works for being a shoot location. And most of your pieces here are reclaimed aren’t they.”

Elisabeth – “For sure, everything here is either from eBay or from our own line of work.”

Rob – “Amazing! So, what’s your favourite area or element within your home? Does that translate to a shoot or is it just for relaxing with your family?”

Elisabeth – “I guess it would have to be the room we’re sat in right now, the family room; it’s comfortable, it’s upstairs, so in winter it’s warm, it’s relaxed and it just has all the stuff that we as a family enjoy. So, there’s games, there’s toys and there’s a tv – just all the stuff a modern family needs. It’s much more of a personal room, with family photos and stuff, whereas downstairs, although we do have personal items there, I don’t keep pictures of my family there. It’s mostly a space for clients to do with as they please and the family room is ours.”

Rob – “Love that. So, why did you become a shoot location owner in the first place?”

Elisabeth – “We kind of fell into it. So, when we bought this place, we got ourselves registered with a few location agencies, but the place did not look like this at all. We still got shoots as the space was big and it had brick walls, big windows etc. It still had some attractive elements to it, so it did get booked. We really liked doing it, thought it was fun, so at the start, we didn’t turn anything down. Over time we started whittling down the kind of shoots that weren’t appropriate for us. We had to think about neighbours and how some larger shoots impacted the outside area of our property. We actually have the most fun with the larger shoots, but we don’t do so much of them anymore. Nevertheless, overall we really enjoyed it; we got along with the crews, we weren’t precious about our possessions and we just let the crews make the space their own. My kids loved it, we loved it, and over time we just started developing relationships with location agencies. We still always just want people to feel as comfortable here as possible.”

“When we renovated in 2016, we just went from there – we had already built these great relationships with the agencies, so then we had this completely redone and renovated space to offer and that’s when we got really popular. From there it became a real business and not just a hobby.”

Rob – “How did you find out about 1st Option?”

Elisabeth – “It would have been just reaching out to the larger agencies when we first started, way back in 2011. I’ve been working with you guys for a long time now.”

Rob – “Great, so last two questions and I’ll be out of your hair. Why do you think Spratts Factory makes such a great shoot location?”

Elisabeth – “We’re on the ground floor, we have double wide entrances and we’re really nice.”

Rob – “Perfect! And finally, what’s you craziest or best shoot story to date?

Elisabeth – “Ooo great question, I actually don’t know – I mean we’ve probably had over 1000 shoots here. But looking back, there’s probably a couple of standout stories that I think are interesting in terms of the people who have been inside my house. So, we’ve had Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Willem Defoe, Idris Elba, Lily Allen, Marcus Rashford, Tom Daley, Sean Bean, loads of celebrities. It’s seeing these people in person that is really cool, you know? And everybody has been really nice as well, they have their own personalities, but they’ve all been so respectful. I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten to know any of them, because we’re not really here for shoots, but we help them get settled, show them where stuff is and then leave.”

“But as I said, they’ve all been super nice. It’s really funny when you go onto their Instagram accounts and you see them posting things from around your house – I find that really cool.” But one of the coolest things we ever had here was this BT advert, where they cut out a part of the banister and put in a tubular slide that was here for a whole week. The thing we were more excited about than anything, however, was that we had Asim Chaudhry from ‘People Just Do Nothing’ here, along with Willem Defoe. It’s my favourite show ever, so we cared more about him being here than the great Willem Defoe – Chubuddy G was in my house! We were so excited. Anyway, the slide was for him, he was supposed to be working in an ad agency, pitching ads. His ad was to make this great entrance and come flying down this slide before starting his speech.”

“So, we had that filmed here – Oscar winner, Willem Defoe, with the Mayor of Hounslow, Chubuddy G. And then it never aired. When you think about the amount of money that went into it; they had a trailer here for Willem Defoe and between prep, strike and shoot days, it was probably a week-long shoot, this huge production, that we never saw aired.”

“What I will say though is, they were shooting all day and left in the evenings. For insurance purposes, they told us not to use any of the props they had set up. They even said, we don’t know what you guys get up to at night, but just be careful with everything. Every single night, my kids were flying down it. It wasn’t your regulation slanted slide, it was built to fit it into this space, so it basically went straight down and my kids were on it every single night – it was very cool and fun for them.”

“It’s actually so funny, because around two years ago, my husband and I were at this pub/ restaurant down the road and Asim was randomly there too. My husband always has thing where he’ll say hello to a celebrity when they come into the house, but if the crew asks if he wants to properly meet them, he politely declines, as he’d rather wait till he ever runs into them in the street, as he has the inroad – he can then be like ‘ah, you shot in my house that time’.  So, we were in this restaurant and we spotted him with his mum and his sister. I was so excited to see him as I’m such a huge fan of ‘People Just Do Nothing’. My husband told me that we were going to do it there and then. So, he went over to the table told him that he shot in our house for an advert for BT. He completely remembered it, and spoke about how it never got aired. He was really funny because he was going on about how gutting it was that he’s not able to put on his CV that he worked with Willem Defoe.”

“For me it’s just funny because you have these huge names in your house and then suddenly you may see them out and about in the real world and you can be like ‘oh, you shot The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ in my house. So, for me it’s the people, the celebrities who come and shoot here. It’s so fun to say to my friends that Idris Elba for example is in my house; it’s cool, it’s fun.”

Rob – “It’s very cool, I completely get it. I’d be absolutely the same! Okay, that’s everything from me, thank you so much for your time today, Elisabeth, has been a thoroughly enjoyable day. We’ll see you all in the next one.”