Come Into My ParlourRead more
Come Into My Parlour
Feast your eyes on how House of Hackney’s sumptuously whimsical touch transforms a space
Story by Parisa Pichitmarn
Originally published in the Bangkok Post on 30 Dec 2017
Gone is the midnight-blue vortex of twinkly stars and mystical allure that personifies the Matina Amanita jewellery boutique at Central Embassy. In its place now sits the amped-up and edible world of Sretsis. Sretsis Parlour, which recently celebrated its grand opening last week, is the Sretsis sisters’ latest brainchild, which serves fantasy on a plate: the taste of Sretsis is nothing short of Blossom Baby cakes, heart puffs and intricately printed fine bone china — all to be nibbled in a place where, from floor to ceiling, not a single inch is unadorned or boring to look at.
One would have to be literally blind to be indifferent to the visually stunning unicorns, flowers, lions and hearts that deck everything from sofas to lighting, teacups to wallpaper. Youngest sister Matina Sukhahuta said she only wanted the best wallpaper for this eatery and for her; the best in the world of wallpaper (as well as all other furniture) should be custom-made by none other than London’s House of Hackney.
The founders of this renowned luxury British lifestyle brand themselves look like a family belonging to the same branch as the Sukhahuta sisters, clearly for also being in the business of conjuring a fantastically scintillating world. Their flagship in Shoreditch is ranked third among Time Out London’s 100 Best Shops, only trailing after indomitable shoo-ins like Liberty and Selfridges. Packed not only with wallpaper, this enclave is home to some of the finest fabrics, furniture, home accessories and capsule fashion collections.
Dressed in loud floral and vintage prints, the couple Frieda Gormley and Javvy M. Royle are walking sandwich boards for their brand.
“As people, we love wallpaper,” explains Gormley. “We grew up in the 80s and grew up with William Morris wallpaper and Laura Ashley wallpaper and kind of developed that love of paper. But up to recently, the interiors trend was very much about minimalism and white walls, so when we were looking to bring some colour, print and texture to our own home, we couldn’t find it in the marketplace. The print market became quite stagnant because people were just painting their walls white and there wasn’t any new wallpaper brands for quite a long time. So we decided to change that.”
Gormley and Royle started the brand seven years ago around the kitchen table in their house in Hackney, from which the company derives its name. Coupled with the burgeoning digital-printing wave, the brand has managed to build a solid (and beautiful) footing for itself thanks to the technologies of today.
“We went around the country looking for suppliers and found that they had all these new digital wallpaper machines where you could get the most beautiful colours,” recalls Royle. “These wallpapers are statically charged, they are not inkjet. It’s not dots, and you can have real fine detail, to a pinhead. Traditionally, wallpaper was a bit pixelly but now it’s really, really detailed. There are also special techniques, and you can paste the walls easily, so decorating has become a lot easier and a lot more accessible to our generation, compared to the rolls and rolls our dads used to deal with.”
This means only a roll of wallpaper or two can be printed, as opposed to the hundreds required in the past. This has opened the doors to lots of illustrators and people to create their wallpaper, thus reviving a plain that has been motionless for some time.
“It also appealed to the younger generation, who grew up in minimalist times. They’ve never had wallpaper and they’re excited by it because it’s new to them,” Gormley adds. “It transforms a space, but we’re constantly surprised with how many people love wallpaper and how it makes a lot of people really happy.”
With a strong culture of printmaking and patterned textiles, some of the most enduring images of ornate wallpaper unsurprisingly hail from Britain’s shores.
“Because we live in such a grey place,” Royle jokes. He’s right, because if happy wallpaper doesn’t cheer you up, we’re not sure what possibly can. But on a more serious note, he reckons that its popularity in the UK has stemmed from its widespread use since Victorian times.
“They made a lot back then,” his wife says. “But the fashion was very much for French wallpaper and it was all very classic, until William Morris came along in the 1800s. In terms of his colour palettes, he was taking pigment from berries, local forests and woods, incorporating all of that. His mood is quite similar to this Tamed Lovers print [by Sretsis] in a way with its symmetry, fun and whimsy. He made wallpaper very popular, and his works from the 1870s have been constantly produced and reproduced.”
While creating prints and colour palettes that feel relevant today but are inspired by the past, House of Hackney maintains a love for painted prints that exhibit a sense of mastery and craft. One would be able to see textures and brushstrokes in these artworks that are not prints you can just find on the high street. It is easy to get lost in their world of lush flowers and the whimsy of animals in top hats, and forget how it is now a walk in the park to produce a world that vivid.
“Digital-printed wallpaper has been a big game-changer for the industry. It’s only recently that you can have as many colours you want, so that’s kind of brought this explosion of colour into interiors, which is great,” smiles Gormley. This also extends to digital velvet and other fashion fabrics, all of which can be used to create cushions, curtains and furniture — making it easier to ensure one’s home is matchy-matchy rather than all over the place. Royle, who is fashion-trained and has worked for various fashion designers before moving on to product design, spends most of his time working on getting the right combination of colours.
He says: “Our tones are sort of from one single tone, so they don’t jump out too much; it’s quite subtle. It obviously looks very colourful, but we tone it down so your eyes feel like you can live in it.
“We like beautiful colours, not crazy colours!” Gormley exclaims. “We’re very inspired by the colour palette of nature and with a palette that comes from nature, it’s kind of already in your psyche. It always works well because it’s natural. For people today, their homes are their sanctuary and they want a connection to nature. To surround yourself with nature, you can bring it to your home through wallpaper or indoor plants, which is a really nice way to do it when not everyone has a garden.”
House of Hackney gives maximalism grandstand seating, yet the very core values behind the brand are the polar opposite of the seemingly lush materialism that it flaunts.
“We like print, colour and texture, but for us, it’s about simple living,” Gormley says. “It’s not about having lots and lots of things, but it’s about having beautiful things that are useful, well-crafted, not disposable and that bring a sense of interest to one’s home. We’re not seasonal, so when we create a print and it goes into a product, there’s longevity in it.”
With their two children playing in the background in the halls of Embassy, Royle drives home the point of their constant search for new manufacturing processes, even if the industry has already stepped up quite a bit to use environmental-friendly ink and a sustainable source of trees.
“We’re very protective over nature, and we have children, so we don’t want to destroy their future,” he says. “It was a callback to nature with David Attenborough’s amazing BBC series of the beautiful world we live in. Everyone’s sort of waking up to the fact that it is beautiful and we need to protect it. We need to bring it home to inspire our children and families.
“Our motto is ‘more is more’, but that’s just print-wise. We try to manufacture cleanly within the environment and put back what we’ve taken. We’re inspired by nature, but we need to try to stay within nature’s rules as well.”
Find home decoration items designed exclusively with
House of Hackney, including wallpaper, fine-bone China tea sets, coffee mugs and plates, in Sretsis’ signature Tamed Lovers motif at Sretsis Parlour, Central Embassy.