Jamie Song, Lester Li and Vince DeKime live in a beautiful bright, plant-filled space next to Canada Water. The three friends also happen to be business partners in online vintage art and objects business, The Bureau of Interior Affairs.
How long have you all lived in your home?
Jamie and I [Vincent] moved in October of 2013 and Lester joined us in August of 2015.
Was each space designed in its entirety, or have they evolved over time with everyone’s influence?
Our spaces have definitely evolved over time. Jamie does all of the plant design and maintenance. Our rooms are constantly evolving with the rotation of our vintage stock. We are still having work done and are turning our downstairs bar area, which gets little use, into a business showroom as we increase our stock of mid-century furnishings.
How do you balance the need for practicality with aesthetic choices?
We are very lucky to live in a large space, therefore we’re not often presented with having to choose between practicality and aesthetics. It’s a rare luxury in London and we feel very fortunate to have such room.
Are there compromises to make sure the flat suits everyone’s tastes?
When we go on buying trips for our company, we are choosing our art, objects and furniture together. It’s amazing how much we agree on our choices and this translates into harmony at home in terms of the items with which we surround ourselves.
Does running a business together affect which art and objects are on display in the flat?
Virtually everything in our home is for sale! Our art adorns the walls, our 1950s French ceramics rest on our shelves and tables and our furniture fills our rooms. We are simply temporary custodians for BIA’s objects and, essentially, this allows us to live in a constantly-changing gallery.
Your home is full of beautiful objects and art. Can you tell us about your collections and whether you play around with composition and different configurations?
When we sell a work of art or an object we necessarily have to fill the void left by the sale. Although we absolutely love each piece that we have, we also feel delighted when a client loves it enough to buy it as well. Our artworks are mostly vintage French and Italian by named artists, but not necessarily well-known internationally. We buy pieces that we love that are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s and which have a special quality imbued in them by the artists themselves. Our website shows what varied tastes we have and that is why we appeal to a very wide audience internationally.
The spaces feel timeless in their design due to the mixture of vintage pieces and of course all of the plants, which creates a great contrast — can you talk a bit about that?
Jamie is an indoor plant expert with a following on Instagram of over 60,000 plant lovers (IG: Jamies_Jungle). He considers each plant to be nature’s work of art, because each has evolved over millions of years to attain its unique perfection. Sometimes that means Jamie’s plant hoarding competes with our business! Last year we had to sell his three-meter tall fiddle-leaf fig tree in order to reclaim space for living and art.
How long has it taken to establish such a brilliant collection of plants?
Jamie has always had plants, but he started collecting a lot more after moving into this place over four years ago. The huge skylight provides a greenhouse-like environment which enables the growth of his Jamie’s Jungle.
How do you keep all of your plants thriving? What are your top tips!?
An ordinary but healthy plant will bring infinitely more pleasure than a trendy but struggling plant. Keep the type of plants suitable for the conditions of your home. If a plant naturally lives under full sun in Mexico, it won’t be happy in a windowless bathroom in London. Don’t force it.
Do you all feel part of a community where you live?
Canada Water is just starting to come into its own. For now, we still lack the kind of commercial activities which bring communities together. We’re seeing improvements slowly but surely, and in a few years SE16 will be a top neighbourhood in London.
What are your favourite SE places?
We enjoy Canada Water and Plough Way Cafés in our neighborhood very much. Jamie loves the Forest Plant Shop in Deptford and we’re all following the upcoming art scene there too. Also, we take time out on busy days to run over to Mama Pho Vietnamese restaurant for a quick and delicious lunch.