Walking through the doors of the House of Hackney boutique is like falling down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. One minute you’re navigating the urban grit of Shoreditch High Street in east London; the next you are standing in a magical landscape of lush foliage, exotic animals and exuberant flowers. This wildly organic vision – gracing everything from wallpaper to sofas, lamps to clothing – is the work of husband-and-wife duo Frieda Gormley and Javvy M Royle, who in 2011 set out to “shake up the world of interiors with a true celebration of print and colour”.
They have certainly achieved this, with House of Hackney pioneering a bold, new maximalist aesthetic exemplified by the popular Hackney Empire Midnight Stripe wallpaper (£165 per roll) – a deep-blue and white striped design depicting a decadent scene of anthropomorphised animals such as hookah-smoking sloths and boozing badgers. This signature print covers the ceiling at the entrance to the changing rooms, complemented by a heavily fringed Castonbury bedroom chair (£2,500) upholstered in a dusky floral linen called Limerence Quartz Pink, and a perfectly matching Oriel lampshade (£415) atop a tall mahogany base. “We wanted the store to be heady and sophisticated,” says Gormley.
It is also fabulously bonkers: both utterly traditional – it’s easy to imagine a dowager duchess coming up from the country in search of a floral silk Maxi dress (£365) and coordinating made‑to-measure velvet curtains (£110 per m) – and defiantly punk. It is a combination that has attracted an eclectic fanbase of Hackney hipsters, City sophisticates and home-counties retirees looking for ornamentation in the form of a tiger-print velvet cushion (Saber, £195), or one of the newly launched porcelain and brass lamp stands (£525) in the shape of a macaque monkey. “For some our patterns are nostalgic,” says Gormley. “For others, who grew up in the 1990s, it all feels exciting and new.”
Gormley herself grew up in Dublin surrounded by quintessentially British interiors by the likes of Colefax and Fowler and William Morris. The latter has influenced not only House of Hackney’s prints – some of which are re-editions of his original designs (velvet Artemis cushion, from £90) – but also the brand’s ethos. “Morris had an egalitarian approach,” she says, “and part of our manifesto was to provide affordable luxury.” The result is interesting, life-enhancing products that are beautifully made by skilled, predominantly UK-based craftspeople. “Our sofas are all made by a family firm in Long Eaton; the jacquards are woven in Suffolk; and the bone china comes from Stoke-on-Trent.”
It’s the kind of luxury that fits perfectly into the sleek Berkeley Square surrounds of members’ club Annabel’s, where the couple recently overhauled the terrace area in their cool Limerence print; ever since, brands have been clamouring to collaborate with them. But the couple are resisting. “We want to retain a sense of being undiscovered,” says Gormley. “We like the idea of being a destination store that people have to seek out.”