The Wind Down with Cat Sarsfield
A self-confessed homebody whose favourite activities include cooking, relaxing and finding new places to lie down in her flat, Cat is a writer and food lover who works for our good friends Sonder & Tell.
Having lived in some interesting spaces and places (a shed in Cornwall, a bridal suite in California, an old school building in India, a railway house in Sri Lanka – to name a few), Cat is now spending her time writing, cooking and reading in her London flat.
We spoke to Cat about what makes a home, why cooking is such a big part of her wind-down ritual, and what she does to drift off to sleep.
How many places have you called home over your life? Which places made the most impact on you?
I’ve been pretty lucky to have lived in a few spaces and places – mainly Cornwall, India, Sri Lanka, California and London. I think Cornwall had the biggest impact on what home means to me. I lived in a little wooden shed at the bottom of a friend’s garden and it’s definitely been a real identity marker for me. Chopping wood, cooking on a one-hob stove, gathering friends in small spaces (pre-2020 of course) and having all my belongings in one room.
But living on a winery in California was up there, as well as in slightly less luxurious (but just as fun) spaces in India and Sri Lanka. I think it’s shaped how my London flat is now – minimal, welcoming and calm.
Cat sleeps in Linen in Ink
How have you adjusted to working at home?
It’s been a weird one – we’ve been lucky to have a steady stream of work and it made lockdown a lot easier. What’s been hard is finding clear boundaries with my space – I live in a one bed flat, so there’s not a lot of space to change from work to play.
I either get out for a walk to mark the end of a day, or I get into the kitchen and start cooking, usually a martini in hand. It’s the upside of having a separate kitchen – you can get away from your work space and feel totally at ease.
What does a day working at home look like vs a Saturday? What’s different? What’s the same?
I usually get up and go for a walk early in the morning, sometimes meeting friends for a socially distanced coffee at our favourite ping pong table in London Fields. Then work starts with a team call at 9am, which I love. We always have a good giggle.
Sometimes I’ll find I don’t leave the flat until after dinner, which is the bad part of working from home. So on a weekend I try to get out of the house for a good few hours – walk to the grocery store, go to my local bookshop, cycle on the Quietways or escape to Hampstead Heath for some much needed time in nature. Then it’s back home to put on a big pot of something low and slow (usually beans!).
"If you were to look up homebody in a dictionary, my name would be there"
You write a newsletter called #SinceNoOneAsked which feels like a love letter to food – can you tell us about how food and the idea of home come together for you?
Food has always been a huge part of my home life – my mum is an incredible cook and we had home cooked meals every night. It’s every part of the process – the cooking, the smells in the kitchen, gathering everyone before the meal to have a drink or some snacks, sitting at the table, tucking in and then chatting with bottles of wine afterwards.
It’s all I’ve ever wanted in my own space. I did a lot of hosting in the shed and now at the flat, so when lockdown happened, I wanted to start a newsletter that paid homage to those moments of food joy that you can have at home.
What makes a home to you?
Anything that resembles a kitchen – a space to chop and somewhere to heat things up, whether it’s a stove, grill or woodburner. And a floor to eat on.
I could take or leave a sofa (although I’ve just bought my first real sofa and I feel so adultish), but beds are important. And buttery-soft sheets of course.
Would you call yourself a homebody? Has covid made you more or less of a homebody?
If you were to look up homebody in a dictionary, my name would be there. Friends joked about how lockdown was secretly my idea of heaven (not even a secret) because I love spending time at home so much.
I think this year has definitely made me appreciate my space, but it’s also made me realise that I like having the balance – or at least to feel in control of when I can leave my house. I always make my space feel really comfortable, and somewhere that really reflects my personality. Maybe it’s a little narcissistic that I love it so much…
What are some of your favourite things in your home? What about favourite places to be?
I got into a good habit of buying less things with more meaning. A lot of my cooking utensils and ceramics have been made by good friends down in Cornwall.
I have two wooden plates made by Heather Scott which have travelled around the world with me. I rarely eat off anything else. A bowl made by Ana Kerin of KANA (in collaboration with Copson) which has ‘touch me in the morning, and last thing at night’ inscribed – I absolutely love that. A painting made by a friend. My sofa, because it feels timeless (and also reminds me that I’ve come quite far since I lived in a shed).
I love all my rooms but the kitchen is where I feel most relaxed. Roasting a chicken, slow-scrambling eggs, making coffee, letting a pot of beans simmer… Clambering up onto the counter is my happy place.
How do you tell your brain that it’s time to stop working?
Usually when my stomach tells me it’s time to eat food.
What helps you really wind down well?
Honestly if my space is really messy, then I feel quite stressed. So usually doing a big clean and getting things in order helps me relax.
What three things do you do before bed?
- Take a super long, hot shower in the dark. Maybe with a candle burning. Always with a playlist.
- Stretch – sometimes on the mat, usually on my bed.
- Check in with friends and family.
What three tastes or smells signify sleep to you?
In past years, the smell of a woodburner. My shed wasn’t insulated, didn’t have heating and had many holes in the walls. Every evening I’d chop some more wood and keep a fire going until I went to sleep.
More recently, the smell of Anatome’s lavender Recovery + Sleep essential oil. And usually the lingering smell of what has probably been pasta for dinner.
Cat's Lie-In List
- Ordinary People – Diana Evans
- Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler
- Barbarian Days – William Finnegan
- Music: Arlo Parks, Loyle Carner, Tom Misch
- Podcasts: Slow Burn, Table Manners, Still Processing
- Movies: Almost Famous, The Farewell, The Souvenir
- TV Shows: Easy, Betty, The Capture