We’re all familiar with that hotel-as-lifestyle holistic design aesthetic of establishments like Ace Hotel, with their Instagram-worthy decor, mood lighting, cozy nooks, and rooms appearing less like a bedroom and more like a living and socializing area. Stepping into the East London home of Paul Firmin and Niko Dafkos, cofounders of Earl of East—the travel-inspired fragrance and homewares brand—you instantly get that “put on some vinyl and stretch back out on that daybed” feeling too.
“We’re inspired by the places we stay on our travels, where the entire space makes you feel like you don’t just want to book a room and go, but you want to actually hang out and spend time there,” explains Paul. “We’ve tried to recreate that feeling at home with different zones, so it can function as a bit of everything, and when we walk through our front door, we feel like we’ve left London behind.”
They made the move from a one-bedroom apartment in hipster Hackney to neighboring Leyton, a more leafy suburb of the city, five years ago. “We had been looking for months and finally saw this place, which was a new-build four-bedroom house, and we put an offer in straightaway, as we knew we could never afford to own a place this size in Hackney,” recalls Paul.
Thanks to its good bones, no structural nips and tucks were needed. This freed the couple to focus on cosmetic changes throughout the house, which comprises an open-plan kitchen and dining room, a living room and downstairs bathroom on the ground floor, and the bedrooms, main bathroom, and office on the top floor. “We also use the house as a place to shoot all of our candles, bed, and bath products,” says Paul. “So for the last year or so we’ve been updating the interior not just for us to enjoy, but to use it as a place for content too.”
Since moving in, they’ve slowly created a modern but cozy home with an understated, down-to-earth vibe. “We’ve tried to incorporate that laid-back L.A. style, which we love,” notes Paul. They painted walls in a neutral muted palette and found subtle ways to add interest and complexity to the look, like using white-gloss porcelain tiles with lashings of glaze and a quirky tonal palette for a backsplash in the kitchen, which alters the mood from day to night.
A welcoming communal dining area in one corner is decorated in soft linen and cotton textiles, tactile organic ceramics, and vintage lighting. Textured wooden elements complement the mix as well, such as three cylindrical stools and an oval table, all custom-made from solid oak wood. Sliding doors allow access to the garden, which has become a focal point in the house, landscaped by the pair from a patch of mud into an oasis of its own—filled with bamboo and evergreen plants, reinforcing their connectedness to nature. “We spend as much time as possible out there during the year,” joined by their French bulldog, Piper, says Paul. “It’s our little sanctuary.”
It’s a meticulously curated but tranquil home where objects that inhabit the space interact harmoniously with one another, reflecting the couple’s design mindset: minimalist, yet rich with vintage cool and contemporary quirk. “We love midcentury design, but in the last year we’ve become more interested in postmodern references too,” says Paul. “It’s about that approach to making your home more individual and having a mix of older items that were a bit hard to find, and also new design, like the brands we stock in our stores. The house is very much a representation of the business, and the business is a representation of the things we love.”
Clean lines and earthy tones are subtly infused throughout, with jolts of blue a common thread and mustard yellow and burnt orange appearing on textiles, lamps, and furniture, alongside an abundance of potted and hanging plants. The living room, in its ochre palette, perhaps best epitomizes the couple’s predilection for warming colors and textures and eminently comfortable furnishings. The dusky brown veins of a circular marble coffee table also tonally complement a rich teak modular midcentury-style sideboard.
There’s a natural flair for design moments too: giving the IKEA bed frames an upgrade with an embellishment of luxe layered cushions and linens to add depth, repurposing mementos the couple found on their travels. Take the braided rattan vintage footstool in the living room, a neat curbside find in Paris that now holds a trendy collection of art and design books, or the throwback ’70s boho beaded wall hanging in one of the guest rooms—a door curtain they picked up while on holiday in Greece.
The couple’s home is an ongoing dialogue with space, color, and objects. “We’re of an age now that we’re buying things for the house that we want to keep and enjoy for a long time,” says Paul. “We’ll eventually change the flooring upstairs, the kitchen worktops, and update the bathrooms too. We’re always thinking about how we’ll use the different spaces,” he adds. “It’s nice for it to just evolve over time.”
⚒ Do It Yourself
Be bold when it comes to color. If you decide to go with color in your home, don’t just paint a feature wall. Instead paint the entire room, including the ceiling and skirting boards—it really does make the space feel bigger and adds a lot more depth.
Work with scent. Make your home a multisensory paradise and use scent to zone spaces. Think calming in the bedroom, fresh in a bathroom, and something that suits the occasion in the living room. With home and work becoming more blurred, scent can also be used at different times to create different moods. And don’t forget the hallway or entrance to your home—something familiar and welcoming would work here.
When considering flooring, don’t forget rugs—whether that’s an oversized rug to define the living space or a runner in the kitchen to make it feel cozier. In the living space always go oversized: The rug should ideally go under the main sofa or seating area, as it will help to make the area feel larger and more inviting. Same goes for rugs under a table. Layering rugs is also another way to add depth and texture—a large kilim underneath a deep pile rug can really add a sense of luxury.
🛍 Shop It Out
All products featured on Architectural Digest are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Harriet Medium Corner Sofa in Burnt Amber from Arlo & Jacob, $4,634, arloandjacob.com
Shay Patchwork Quilt Blanket by Ferm Living, $216, earlofeast.com
Tisbury Coffee Table from Soho Home, $1,495, sohohome.com
“Down on the Corner” 1975 by Hugh Holland, $90, hughhollandstore.com
Clio Muses Vase by Ferm Living, $109, verishop.com
Mini Guggenheim Vase from 101 Copenhagen, $102, 101cph.com
Jute Rug from Zara Home, $278, zarahome.com
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest