After a crazy couple of weeks our Townhouse in St. John’s Square finally opens its doors and is just the beginning of a new adventure for us and our customers
26th May 2017
The calm before the storm that is dressing this beautiful house
We are never happy are we? Nothing to do we are bored, too much to do we are stressed, just the right amount and we need a change. But sometimes you look back on a moment of calm or complete craziness and your memories are nothing but the good bits. When I’m on holiday, lying on a beach I always think I must fully relish this moment right now as in a week or so when I’m home I will wish I was back there, so I always try to enjoy every little bit as it happens. The last two weeks I have been down in London getting our Townhouse (which is attached to our new showroom) ready for customers to look around. It was one of those times when you literally don’t have time to even think, let alone relish or panic about the day ahead and by the time your head hits the pillow you are so tired you don’t even have the luxury of going through the day in your head and remembering every little detail. I knew that ‘Clerkenwell Design Week’ was the moment that the house needed to be open by, so our customers could wander around. Just like Cotes Mill, which is so much more than a kitchen showroom we wanted the same for St. John’s Square, rooms to be explored and to mooch around in, unusual things to buy and lovely spaces to just enjoy. The vision of more than just a showroom is what brings so many people to deVOL, it’s the idea that you get more than you expected, you get inspiration, you get an experience and you get the chance to take home something that will make your own home even lovelier, oh and of course you get a very beautiful kitchen!!
The library room in ‘Oval Room Blue’ with old books and maps and prints and little oddities to give charm and character
The St. John’s Square showroom was such an amazing project, the kitchen and showroom were so much more than we could have imagined a few years ago, yet, no sooner had that finished than we moved onto the Mill House Kitchen here at Cotes Mill, I absolutely love that new black and copper kitchen display but I couldn’t sit back and feel smug as I had a whole house in Clerkenwell to get sorted!!
The laundry room with deVOL Laundry Maid and ‘Green Smoke’ walls, this room is so photogenic!
The first decisions to make were the colours, I knew I wanted atmospheric, I wanted to make the house feel alive and full of character yet I wanted it to feel moody and enticing, I wanted it to be a little bit dark but welcoming in its softness. I didn’t want it to feel too fashionable or of the moment, I wanted it to feel as if you were just wandering around someone’s home finding interesting little vignettes to enjoy and photograph.
The dining room in ‘Inchyra Blue’ with a table under the trees and looking out to the square, the light and sounds are mesmerising
The woodwork throughout the house and showroom is all Farrow and Ball ‘Drop Cloth’ we chose that right at the start because it just seemed right, soft, dull, matt, not too showy just beautifully ordinary. The hall, stairs and landing are all Farrow and Ball ‘Charleston Gray’ a safe choice as I had already fallen in love with it in the Mill House Kitchen at Cotes. Apparently, this colour was used by the Bloomsbury Group for their own interiors, a part of London close to Clerkenwell, so I knew it would work perfectly.
‘Charleston Gray’ and ‘Drop Cloth’ enhance this magical building and all its original features
The bathroom was already a fabulous room, full of character, so easing gently from the hall into the bathroom I chose ‘Moles Breath’ by Farrow and Ball, it hardly seems to change, just a little darker and richer, perfect for soothing the soul while having a warm bath. I love dark brown walls and green plants, it feels a little colonial and opulent.
A dark and thoughtful place to relax, in the foliage!
The library room is ‘Oval Room Blue’ and the dining room is ‘Inchyra Blue’ again Farrow and Ball colours which are different but not so much so that they don’t merge happily.
Candles, books and a soft breeze and some history make this library room a special place to sit
The little laundry room is ‘Green Smoke’ a colour very popular in the second half of the 19th century, so I hoped that would work, having never seen the colour or even tested it before I was so happy to see how easily it fitted the room.
All the items dotted around are for sale
For the moment, the last room I had to think about was the games room on the top floor, so I opted for my favourite ‘Down Pipe’ by Farrow and Ball, not as traditional maybe, but it gives an evening feel to the room which I like, a colour that makes you want to stay up into the night supping wine and playing games in the candle light.
Dark and moody, this games room feels more like a Gentlemen’s Club
So I arrived at the house two weeks ago, closely followed by a big van that I had completely filled with vintage and new treasures from the Mill, things we have bought over the last months and years at antique fairs and a whole heap of antiquarian books and maps and treasures from my own house. I had a father who collected beautiful things and I was lucky enough to inherit a lot of stuff, way too much to fit in my little mouse house!! Finally, I have the perfect place to display and potentially sell these beautiful things that have been gathering dust under my bed, under my settee, in my loft and in my garden shed and have been part of my personal baggage for the last thirty years.
A wonderful collection of new books are all for sale in the house, just have a browse
I had so much help, Phil and Paul from Cotes Mill, drove the van down and thankfully agreed to stay all week after a little persuasion. I had Ben who has been a constant help from the moment we bought the shop and house, he’s all over everything!! Of course there were so many other people, my wonderful Zoe and all the London staff and of course Paul O’Leary for buying the place and letting me loose in there. In fact his vision for property and just ‘going for it’ is what has really made deVOL, then his ability to pick the right people including the builders who worked on the building for 6 whole months tirelessly. Paul has a knack of getting it spot on, Cotes Mill and now St. John’s Square, two massive projects that have taken us to a place that he could only have dreamed of 10 years ago. Most people would be tentative or careful, then they would miss the chance but Paul just goes for it, he bought St. John’s Square without even seeing it, bold, brave and pretty cool. His knowledge of old properties and renovations was critical in the London house particularly, the quick decisions he makes, the listed buildings guys he dealt with and the sympathetic way he wanted the whole building to be finished was what makes the finished building look so right. Even down to the way the bricks were painstakingly cleaned one by one by hand and not sand blasted.
I love this view of our new deVOL home, pale, clean and classic in it’s simplicity
I planned to carefully decide the layout of each room ahead of arriving and planned to look for hours at the layouts and sizes of the rooms to make sure everything I bought had a place, but it didn’t happen!! I can’t do it that way I realised, so I just had to hope for the best. From the front door to the roof terrace we painted, nailed, moved, stood back, wired up and made displays of pretty things and gradually the rooms emerged into places with personality and atmosphere, phew!!
The roof terrace was a big job, I ordered some plants and Paul had chosen some beautiful chimney pots from a reclamation yard, so it came together slowly after a lot of hard work all done in the pouring rain. It needs time to grow and become jungle-like for me to be really happy, but the views are really what makes the whole place so incredibly special, you get the top look over the square and beyond to St Paul’s and just smile smugly.
This is one of our views, the beautifully tended and delightfully planted gardens of St. John’s Priory, this place is always hosting weddings and parties and we have a private view of it all!!
The house will continue to evolve, this is just the beginning, we may add a kitchen or two, we will definitely add some more of our handmade crockery, tiles and lights. We have plans for eccentric collections and more of the beautiful tromp-l’oeil like the ones Huw painted during Clerkenwell Design week. We are so lucky to have such amazing people here at deVOL, I’ve always loved tromp-l’oeil, paintings that create an illusion or trick of the eye, I mentioned them to Paul and he said lets get Huw down there while visitors wander round the house, he’s a fine artist and had already done the shop sign by hand, so that’s what he did. Mice coming through holes in the skirting and other little delights, so delicate and realistic and so right for this house, something different and unexpected. We have plans to lure Huw back for a jungle like mural in the bathroom and possibly the ultimate blue sky ceiling with birds and fluffy white clouds.
A trick of the eye, I hope so!
After a week of non-stopness, I shut the door behind me, sighed with relief and tried to keep my eyes open on the drive back up the M1 on the Friday afternoon. It wasn’t ’til I got home that I realised I hadn’t stopped to appreciate how jolly lucky I am, I hadn’t had time to reflect on the privileged position I had found myself in, a whole East End Townhouse to play with, make look beautiful, put my mark on and generally just have fun with.
Someone actually tried to pick up this trompe-l’oeil feather, that’s the idea!!
A weekend at home sleeping then back down this last Monday with Paul, into the fray of Clerkenwell Design Week and what a week it was, I tried to enjoy every moment and watch the thousands of people who came into our house over the three days, but I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do now I’m reflecting on it.
The Townhouse is now available to look around during your design appointments, just chat to your designer and they will give you a guided tour, after all what’s more fun than snooping around someone’s house!!