Inside A Forest Hill Home

Inside A Forest Hill Home

How long have you lived in your Forest Hill home?
We've lived in this house for just over eighteen months, but this is our third property in Forest Hill - we’ve lived here for nine years in total!

How did you come across your house and what state was it when you finally got the keys?
We had just finished an eighteen month build and renovation project on our second home in Forest Hill.  It was a two bed Victorian end of terrace and we had turned it into a 4 bed property, we did everything to it and intended to live here for a long time - just as we finally moved in, we bumped into the estate agent we had become friendly with on our previous move and she told us that there was a new property on the market around the corner and we just had to see it.  We said no at first because we didn't intend to move, but curiosity got the better of us and we went for a viewing. It was love at first sight! It's a handsome looking house, like the sort of house you drawer as a child, a big square shape with a triangle roof on top.  The entrance hall sold the house to us almost immediately and there is a big bay in the front sitting room that can fit a large Christmas tree - we didn't need to see any more because we knew we were hooked! At first we told ourselves it was not possible and then the agent said there were several other offers, they gave us seven days to sell our house and if we couldn't they would go with another buyer.  We were on holiday at the time so we came back to London and got the house ready and managed to find a buyer within the seven days - it was a tense week but it was meant to be and we couldn't love the house more. 

Did you have a grand plan for its renovation and design from the get go or did you live with it a while?
For us the house was bought as a home, a studio and also our design muse, from the moment we moved in we knew that it was going to be a big influence on our design work and our aesthetic. The progression of our business has been forever changed by the house - it’s now a showcase property for all of our product designs and our interior style.  We have a very busy working life with lots of private design projects on the go, so finding time to do our own house was hard at first, we are now content with it being a slow process and letting it evolve organically.  

The house was an ice box when we moved in with rotten single glazed sash windows, no heating, a leaky roof and ancient wiring that had to be ripped out immediately as it wasn't safe. It was an interesting 6 months when we first moved in, rather like camping, but we got through it and now we are finally getting to the fun parts. 

What were the main inspirations for your home?
The house itself had lots of hidden gems that gave us major inspiration - we found a box of old design magazines in the attic from 1959 that were full of old G-plan and ercol adverts.  The previous owner had obviously re-decorated in the fifties and sixties because many of the finishes were straight out of these magazines.  As we peeled back the layers on spare evenings and weekends, we found so much inspiration in the old textures and floral patterns, the house has become our Design House.  We've also been able to begin indulging our passion for Italian design in some of the details, whilst staying true to the Victorian bones.  We were lucky enough to be invited to Graham and Brown's wallpaper factory in Blackburn where they asked us to go into their extensive archive to create a design for their 70th anniversary.  They are such an amazing British brand and their heritage is so rich - we were like kids in a sweet shop! From the beginning we were designing with our house in mind because it is our muse and we knew we wanted to showcase the finished wallpaper design in the house. In the end we got carried away and designed a full collection for Graham and Brown - our house is now full of pattern and colour, even on the ceilings, and we love it. 

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How have your tastes changed since your last house?
Our last house was a speedy project and it had a very strong contemporary edge, with polished concrete floors, exposed plywood joinery and lots of neon colours. It was Victorian but all of the period details had been ripped out before we bought it so there was an opportunity to do something totally clean and modern, with a bright airy extension on the back.  This current house has given us the opportunity to take our time, it has lots of the original period features so it's changed our look quite a lot.  We are also having a massive floral moment and that is largely due to the found patterns and floral motifs in the house. 

With colour and wallpaper being an integral part of your designs do you have favourite brands and designers you tend to stick to?
There is a bit of a wallpaper revival happening right now and we are loving it, it can totally transform a space! There are some incredible wallpaper designers out there, from Eley Kishimoto in Brixton to Calico wallpaper in Brooklyn. We use wallpaper a lot in our interior design work because it's a great way to soften a space with pattern and colour - but paint is equally important. We are currently loving Mylands, because their factory is just around the corner from us and their colours of London range is so beautiful.  We've used lots of their matt wood and metal paint which has the most incredibly soft look and feel. 

Do you decorate room-by-room and do you allow these schemes to evolve over a few years updating parts or do you go in for a whole overhaul?
A home should evolve naturally all the time.  That's real life.  We believe in creating schemes for whole homes rather than space-by-space but we also leave room for growth and change in any scheme we design for our clients. If you get the bones of your interior right and stay true to the particular architecture of your space, you can create an environment that can grow and change with you.  We tend to use a limited colour palette and choice of materials that have a through line in the entire property, but within that framework we like room for change and for the individual home owner to stamp their mark. In our own house we very much see this as the first evolution of the project and it has a long way to go. It will be evolving all the time. 

What are your favourite pieces?
There are certain pieces that have stayed the course in every property we've had and that is because they are beautifully designed and sometimes just because we have sentimental attachments. Both are valid. We have a Kathy Dalwood Sculpture that was gifted to us by lovely art gallery owners, Cavaliero Finn. They are south London based too and they asked us to do a talk for them and our fee was to choose a piece of art from their latest exhibition. We love it and always will. But right now the wallpaper is giving us constant joy. There is something so nostalgic and primal about searching for patterns. And creating our own patterns has certainly been a fulfilling process. 

What would be your dream commission?
Every project is different and we love people - you never know who you are going to meet next and that keeps the work fresh.  We like to remain open to whatever the next client may bring and we adapt to each project as it comes, so we try not plan for a dream commission!

How are you going to decorate your home this year for the festive season?
It's all about foliage and white porcelain for us - this is the first time we've ever had a proper garden in London and we intend to fully make the most of it by bringing it indoors! We love making displays of greenery on our mantle pieces and stair banisters and even extra foliage on the tree itself.  The one in the photo was actually cut from our own garden would you believe, it’s ludicrously large but that's just how we like it!  We love to play with scale. Ivy, holly and bay leaf all work beautifully in the home over winter and they make your house smell amazing too.  We also can't resist giant bunches of eucalyptus in vases around the house for the festive period, in place of the fresh seasonal flowers we usually have. 

Our wreath is usually either handmade from foliage - we went on a rather boozy wreath making workshop last year and loved it - or we have a favourite brass wreath that is all intricately cut leaves and flowers in aged sheet brass. We bought it in Liberty years ago and it will probably always be part of our Christmas decorations now. 

For the tree we LOVE white porcelain decorations, this came from our mutual obsession with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, our favourite childhood Christmas movie, where Macauley Culkin has two porcelain turtle doves - we found ones exactly like them on eBay years ago and have been collecting white porcelain decorations ever since.  We like to buy one or two new special decorations each year and have been slowly building up our collection, it’s more special that way and we can build up the memories along the way. 

What/who are your favourite South East London home shops, makers or designers?
We love Stag and Bow on Dartmouth road, we found our vintage pink dinner service there and the framing salon next door is brilliant too - they have just done the most incredible job framing a limited edition print that we've been holding onto for years, we can't wait to put it up!

We are so lucky because South East London is full of the most talented creatives - we’ve become friends with design duo Custom who are based in Peckham - we've commissioned their hand printed papers on several of our interior design projects.  We have now actually collaborated with them on our first print collection called the Forest Hill collection, it’s based on a floral pattern we found in our house under many layers of wallpaper and we launched it this year at London Design Festival in Ligne Roset's west end showroom, we are so proud of the designs and it's so good to be designing with friends.  We are also friends with another south east London resident, Richy Almond of Novocastrian, his metal work designs are incredible and earlier this year we met up with Secret Linen Store, which is based in Crystal Palace, they make such amazing quality bed linen and they approached us to design a range for them, which has been great fun.

What are your favourite South East London places?
Obviously, our favourite place in Forest Hill has to be our very own, St David Coffee House! We would be lost without it and have had so many productive meetings there over a coffee and cheese toastie. The Horniman gardens are also a massive favourite for us, the views are amazing and it's just so nice at all different times of the year - we love the farmers market and the carols at Christmas with a cheeky hip flask of whiskey to keep warm!