Happy Birthday to our St. John’s Square Showroom…
28th February 2018
So today is a very special day… it’s been one whole year since we opened the doors to our magnificent St. John’s Square showroom! Time flies eh?! So, for our anniversary, I thought it would be nice to look back on this incredible project and give you a little update one year on…
From an old stationers shop to an inspiring kitchen showroom and design destination
We couldn’t quite believe our luck when we found out this place was up for sale, a majestic Victorian townhouse right in the centre of the cool design district that we had already fallen in love with on a square that is so rich in history. Built in the 12th Century it was the English headquarters of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, better known to us as the St John’s Ambulance, the priory and its pretty cloister garden sits next door to the showroom and just across the road is St. John’s Gate which is regularly listed as one of London’s hidden gems. You can even see St. Paul’s Cathedral from our roof garden… yes, there’s a roof garden! This grand old building allowed us to do something a little different, taking inspiration from the fabulous East London interiors that have long filled our Pinterest boards and adopting a more eclectic style. We couldn’t wait to introduce our customers to our Classic English cupboards in a totally new environment, not in a big country farmhouse but in a charming townhouse with impressive high ceilings and original features much like some of the amazing properties dotted around this city.
The bespoke Classic English cupboards being fitted before we opened last year
A behind the scenes shot of Helen’s wonderful cosy kitchen styling
We’re always doing renovation projects here at deVOL, something we have in common with a lot of our customers. We know the highs, lows, frustrations, hard work, imagination and sheer determination that it takes to transform something into your dream space. Cotes Mill has been a huge project over the last 6 years and I have enjoyed watching it evolve from afar but St. John’s Square was the first renovation project I was actually here to see… and I mean that quite literally. The building work took a little longer than we first thought (I told you that we can sympathise with the stresses of doing up your home) so we had a wave of new designers joining and no space for them to go! We soon decided our lovely little Tysoe Street office was becoming far too cramped, so Zo and I moved over to the new showroom whilst the building work was very much still in progress! Sitting with a dust mask on your face and having drilling noises as your office background music may not be the most glamorous day at work but it was absolutely fascinating to see and try to document the transformation of this amazing space!
Painting the walls of the townhouse with dreamy shades from Farrow & Ball
It really was a big team effort from the wonderful builders who carefully restored everything from the basement up, to Ben navigating around every obstacle, to Robin who painted the whole house and Huw who hand-painted the ‘deVOL’ sign out on the scaffolding in the middle of winter. Then there’s everyone in the workshop who made the bespoke blue cupboards and our incredible team of fitters which included our Workshop Manager, Ben, and our MD, Robin, to our Creative Director, Helen, who brought the showroom to life and created this iconic style that she had envisaged and of course Paul who founded deVOL almost 30 years ago, he made every difficult decision and somehow managed to make the whole thing work. Everyone was working so hard right up until the night before we opened and the final worktop was being fitted but when we all stood back and looked through the big windows into the cosy kitchen bathed in a warm orange glow from the wood burner and low lit chandelier, we knew this was something really quite special.
The night before we opened the door to our new showroom
So what’s happened in the last year? Well, quite a lot!! As soon as we’d opened nothing really stopped, the renovation project just moved upstairs. We were captivated by the idea of a deVOL townhouse and we were determined to create something that we could show everyone at Clerkenwell Design Week in May. Since we moved to Cotes Mill we have loved filling our showrooms with antiques and quirky pieces from all over the world that our visitors can take home and now we had the space to offer our London customers the same experience, and it is really an experience walking around Cotes Mill, it doesn’t feel like a showroom at all, just rooms filled with character and inspiration. That’s what we needed here but we couldn’t just replicate the Mill, St. John’s Square has a completely different vibe. The building, the area, the history – it has its own special charm that we had to enhance. For this we needed Helen, it will never stop amazing me how spot on she gets it every single time. Her styling is simple and effortlessly cool yet it is always somehow different to everything else, it’s just very ‘deVOL’.
A room filled with atmosphere, colour, plants and all things beautiful
Clerkenwell Design Week was a whirlwind three days with more visitors than we’d ever seen before and so many people who had come to the show just to see our showroom! There were people who had followed the whole journey on our Instagram, who knew every deVOL product and delighted in seeing all our new handmade stools and pendants dotted around the house. Lots of lovely folk even said it was their favourite thing in the whole design festival! Our immersive candlelit rooms filled with atmosphere and the faint smell of incense were a big hit and we were so chuffed!
Huw painting trompe l’oeil around the townhouse at Clerkenwell Design Week 2017
Celebrating the last day of Clerkenwell Design Week 2017
The word quickly spread about this incredible space and we soon saw it popping up in magazines and blogs as a must-visit! One of our absolute favourites, House & Garden, even asked to come and do a photoshoot for a feature on the best distinctive kitchen looks. Magazines work so far in advance it was an agonising wait until we finally got our copy of the February issue but when we saw the dreamy colours and simple styling it was well worth the wait.
A cool double page feature in House & Garden magazine
The photoshoot requests kept coming, unfortunately we couldn’t say yes to everyone as our design appointments always have to take priority but we did decide to make some time for a lovely lady called Thuy. I actually wrote about her wonderful Vietnamese restaurant when I first moved to London almost 3 years ago. So when she got in touch about shooting the front cover for her very first cookbook we decided to shut up shop for the afternoon and welcome her along with her lovely family, an incredible selection of unusual ingredients and the super talented food photographer David Loftus. It’s pretty cool that we will be seeing our showroom on the front cover of (what I’m sure will be) an amazing cookbook very soon!!
The front cover of The Little Viet Kitchen’s brand new cookbook
We have lots of outbuildings at Cotes Mill that have gradually been transformed into workshops and ceramics and metalware studios for all our talented craftsfolk. It’s a really important part of deVOL, we are designers and makers at heart and are always on the lookout for the next challenge be it designing a range of classic kitchenware or the world’s comfiest wooden stool. So it felt right that this would be a big part of our new London home too and so we set up the St. John’s Square Design Studio. I’m always popping my head around the corner to see what they’re working on. At the moment there are some pretty exciting products that we’re hoping to launch at Clerkenwell Design Week 2018 so do make sure you come and visit us this year, from my snooping I can promise you will not be disappointed.
A little glimpse at the copper worktop in the new Sebastian Cox Kitchen at St. John’s Square
A sneak peek at the new showroom with beautiful artwork by Rebecca of Seeds of Memory Art
That probably brings us to the most recent addition to the showroom – our brand new Sebastian Cox Kitchen that is oh so nearly finished!! A unique mix of our urban rustic cupboards and classic Shaker furniture with a very special copper worktop. Balancing the character of the old building with the rustic and contemporary elements of the Sebastian Cox design was quite a challenge but this room gets it just right. We will be opening up this new section very soon, so watch this space!
Celebrations with the London team at St. John’s Square when we opened last year
– You can check out more about our St. John’s Square showroom here.
– Or visit us at 36 St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4JJ… click here for our opening times.