Innovative Retailer: House of Hackney
The Name: House of Hackney.
The Place: The bit of the concept we have visited is slap bang in London, EC4 but the company’s wares are on full display in a castle in Cornwall owned by the founders (and available to hire) and as of this week House of Hackney has also launched over the Pond in New York.
The Story: Nestling in a lovely City square near Old Street is House of Hackney’s latest offering. Only
opened in the spring of this year it sits next to what was formerly the hallowed turf of St Michael and All
Angels Church but more recently the home of the equally hallowed Lassco – the salvage hunter’s dream
yard full of Victorian fireplaces and Georgian statuary.
Yes, but what is it? It’s the St Michael’s Clergy House – a seventeenth-century building which has been
used for so many purposes over the years from home to school to offices and back to home and now
enters a new phase of its existence as a totally shoppable curated house of dreams with added tech
innovations. As they say in House of Hackney land “arrive with a dream and leave with a scheme”.
And I suppose that it is actually in Hackney? Yes, just. But it’s not the original House of Hackney house –
oh no, that was the actual home of husband and wife collaborators and company founders Frieda
Gormley and Javvy M Royle, in London Fields and as so often, necessity was the mother of invention.
How so? When Javvy M Royle talked to Retail Insider he explained that “We were struggling to find the
exact kind of wallpapers and home accessories we wanted, everything was very white-walled living back
then, so we set about designing our own.” And what they wanted was high-octane Victoriana with
plenty of flora and fauna thrown in.
Crikey, there’s determined for you: So they literally created their home as a showcase for their own
burgeoning interior design business and product manufactory. As the co-founder says: “We ran the
business from our home in Hackney, from showcasing new collections to buyers to hosting press
appointments and holding product.”
I tell you what that must be annoying. Having people barging in and asking to take pictures of your
wallpaper when you are trying to watch East Enders: So this is probably why they eventually sold that
house and moved to Cornwall. But now they have done essentially the same thing in Shoreditch only no-
one is actually living in this house or sleeping in these beds. Which is a shame because they look very,
very comfy indeed.
What’s the overall vibe? Minimalist it ain’t…Think Sherlock Holmes when he has been overdoing the
drug usage in the Music Room – it is seriously BUSY decoration in there – but a lot calmer elsewhere.
Everything is House of Hackney-designed – from the prints to the carpets to the paint on the walls with a
smattering of one-off finds. “We believe in tuning into what is going on around us, the zeitgest and
bringing those relevant ideas forward,” he says. It is a very brand-immersive experience, which
according to the founder, is because: “For us it’s always been so important to help bridge the
imagination gap so creating concept rooms that really immersed people in the brand was important.”
So you go in, point at something and say – that’s the one for me? Basically, but you cannot take
anything away from the shop/house directly but absolutely everything is purchasable and there is also
original art on the walls. Everything starts from a print/idea from the founders and then the design team
collaborate further and then make a call on whether it can be developed into wallpaper or rugs or
And presumably it’s changing all the time? Well this is the beauty isn’t it – whenever a new range
launches it can go straight in to St Michael’s House. There haven’t been many iterations yet though as
the company only got the keys in January and opened it up at the end of March.
Any motifs coming through? Lots of welcoming pineapples when we visited. And snakes!
Symbolising? Renewal and eternity – the shedding of the old and the constant evolving of the new.
Oh, I assumed it was the temptation to spend an awful lot of money. Yes, not gonna lie, it’s not cheap.
The cushions cost £200. And the lampshades £400. But as Javvy M Royle explained, “we work with
fantastic companies like Axminster to create heirloom pieces”, while being champions of British artisan
manufacturing. And as a B-Corp you do get the impression the company definitely does not want its fans
to spend wastefully. Wallpaper is printed to order and the highest priced articles like sofas can be borrowed to sit on for a while in your house to make absolutely sure that this is the right purchase.
Consultants with a suitcase full of samples and swatches will also come to client’s houses to advise
because, trust me, you don’t want to get this wallpaper hanging lark wrong with these intricate designs.
Is it terribly difficult to get access to this immersive house? Couldn’t be simpler. Yes, they offer free appointments and would recommend that option for anyone with a serious decorating project on their hands but on Retail Insider’s visit people were just walking in and having a nose around. As a staff member explained people come in and say they’re only brave enough to go for the ‘Full House of Hackney’ as it were in the downstairs loo. And then a bit later they come back and say well perhaps the guest bedroom too then and bob’s your uncle, they’re hooked.
Who’s the core customer? Ah, this is interesting. Javvy M Royle told us that “It’s really mixed, we have the
consumer who is ordering for themselves and decorating themselves, we often have decorators or
interior designers also working on projects for clients, and alongside that we have a trade customer” so
in the UK it’s the whole gamut. However, as mentioned earlier the brand is shortly launching in the
Design Center in New York City and over there DIY is not a thing at all so people are very intrigued that
buying your own paint might be an option.
Tell me about the tech part: When you have meandered your way through the bedroom, bathroom and
lounge and all other parts of the house then right at the top is the playroom (literally and
metaphorically) where a bespoke piece of interactive technology also called Playroom takes the form of
a huge wall/screen onto which users can project and design their own schemes. As Javvy M Royle notes:
“It’s a room with access to House of Hackney’s full collections, digital moodboards and ‘walls’ can be
saved and revisited when the customer is home, giving space to consider the projects before moving to
Clever: The company is working on Phase two of Playroom where customers can use the dimensions of
their actual walls with its cornices, embellishments and general twiddly bits. Plus clients can also access GoogleLens technology, which enables people to shop and design at their pace on their phones and
consider their potential projects at home.
I’ve just had a brain wave. A shoppable hotel – now that’s an idea: Oh, this lot are so there before you.
And it’s called Castle of Trematon, which is a Duchy of Cornwall-owned miniature motte and bailey
castle with wildly romantic grounds on the Tamar Estuary. The founders and their children are the
current custodians and have obviously sumptuously done it out with all their products – it even has its
own inspired print Trematonia. So it’s their family home but “we have had it as a pop-up hotel and it is
available to hire through Unique Home Stays. Everyone who comes here leaves feeling its magic”.
Looks idyllic. Are there any other future developments we need to be aware of? The paint range just
launched in March with 42 eco-friendly colours which are poured to order in order to avoid waste and
sold in recyclable tins. Another Autumn/Winter range is coming soon and paint is a useful price entry
point for a lot of people. Javvy M Royle also advises that “tiles are launching in September with the brilliant Craven Dunnill Jackfield”, so watch out for those.
Another great idea is coming to me. These bold prints would make good clothes, no? House of
Hackney are way ahead of you. Again. Three collections down already with Barbour and others done
with EastPak plus &OtherStories.
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