The head office of fragrance company jo malone london packs a powerful design punch. With refined interiors courtesy of rose uniacke. Emily senior visits the house as it is prepared for a christmas party and talks to the people behind its decoration.
Jo malone london’s sophisticated headquarters couldn’t be further from a typical office. Now occupying one of a row of grand georgian town houses in marylebone. The company has breathed new life into a previously neglected architectural gem. ‘When we first came to look at the building, we all had to wear hard hats,’ says creative director matthew parr. ‘It was a huge job. We had to take it right back to the bare bones and start from scratch.’
The task of decorating the interiors was entrusted to rose uniacke, a british designer whose particular brand of understated luxury was the perfect fit. ‘We loved rose’s work as soon as we saw it,’ says matthew. ‘She was able to honour the classical elements of the house with a lightness that fitted the brand’s ethos.’
Rose took the distinctive black-and-cream palette of the jo malone london box as a starting point. Filling the space with a mix of antique furniture and pieces of her own design. ‘I used the “drawing room” sofas upholstered in cream from my bespoke collection, alongside my “hoof ” occasional tables and standard lamps,’ she says.
‘Many of the decorative elements refer back to nature or the making of scent.’
‘For example, i used raw wood throughout, and the design of the bespoke, painted-tin chandelier is made up of intertwining oak leaves. All the art on display includes floral or plant motifs.’
When decorating a space like this for christmas, the key, according to matthew, is ‘to keep things as natural as possible. Create dramatic moments in the house – but nothing should feel artificial’. ‘Candles, holly, ivy and flowers help to introduce warmth and atmosphere,’ says rose. ‘I aim to create a kind of convivial intimacy.’
In the sitting room, floral designer nikki tibbles of wild at heart has created arrangements to complement the interiors.
‘We incorporated elegant statement arrangements that represented jo malone london’s clean and sophisticated image,’ Says nikki. ‘for both arrangements, we’ve used a base of scots pine, soft grey pine, soft grey eucalyptus and asparagus fern. On the mantelpiece we’ve added flowering white jasmine and white euphorbia, while the grey vases have been padded out with lichen branches and eucalyptus buds.’
A feast for the senses
The centrepiece of the jo malone london party is a banqueting table in the elegant dining room created by cellar society, caterers du jour whose clients include karl lagerfeld, stella mccartney and kate moss (for whose wedding they created a fountain of 500 free-standing champagne glasses, into which 360 bottles of pol roger were poured).
‘We’ve used old english silver from a mixture of periods – mainly georgian and edwardian, with a few bits of art deco – to give the feeling that the collection had been amassed over time,’ explains cellar society director bertie de rougemont. ‘We’ve mixed this with cut crystal, which adds lovely christmas sparkle.’
‘Our starting point is always to invent a story,’ says bertie. ‘Working from jo malone’s brief, we imagined a party held by an aristocratic english family, who have come from their country pile to entertain friends at their london home. I wanted the table to give off an air of easy opulence.’
- The planning ‘we start by marking out the dimensions of the table in tape on the floor to decide the layout. it’s a process of trial and error that can take a full day to decide. We then photograph it from above and use that as a guideline.’
- The layout ‘a good rule of thumb is to start off with a high, dramatic centrepiece – such as the lobsters. Then place the second-largest items on the table – here it’s a fillet of beef, a salmon, a goose and a ham. Putting them in the four corners works well. Fill the rest of the table with the smaller things. Guests should have a “wow” moment of visual impact from afar, then be able to discover layers of complexity as they get closer.
- The food ‘we have sourced produce from all over the british isles. In the centre, tiered dishes filled with norfolk lobsters, are surrounded by scotch bantam eggs, stilton and game pie. At one end of the table are the ham and goose, and at the other are langoustines and trays of mini roast-beef sandwiches. We wanted to create the impression that the food had been brought straight from the farm or a shoot. Game pie with poached cranberries, quails’ eggs, stilton and roast-beef sandwiches all have a kind of country simplicity about them.
- The suppliers ‘i love the look of having whole pieces of meat on a table. With too much small food, it becomes a buffet rather than a banquet. Of course, the look can’t just be a beautiful veneer. Quality suppliers are essential. Don’t expect to be able to buy all these things in a single day; talk to your local butcher and fishmonger, and order things in advance.’
- The finishing touches ‘we tend to hire all our silver from prop companies such as a + m hire in london (amhire.com). We always make sure all the silver has a final polish and we oil the claws of the lobsters. If your table looks like it lacks colour, bowls of fruit can be useful. As a final touch, nikki tibbles has draped around knots of white roses.’
At the bottom of the spiral staircase, the floral artist rebecca louise law has created a woodland scene with blue spruce trees imported from denmark.
‘The larger trees were at least 12 years old,’ she says. ‘I wanted the installation to look as real as possible. My inspiration came from childhood memories of untouched, snow-covered trees at anglesey abbey, near where i grew up.’
To create the drifts and undulations of a convincing snow – covered forest floor. Smooth domes of wadding have been hidden under the synthetic snow. The trees were sprayed lightly with adhesive to create a fuller, more natural settling of fake snow on their branches.
As a foil to the restrained decoration indoors, outside the house nikki tibbles, has created a snow scene using christmas trees wrapped in masses of white lights. Surrounded by ankle-deep, glittering fake snow.
‘We wanted people to look out of the windows and see an enchanted wonderland,’ she says.