Saturday 20 April 2019

The Staying Inn: Meet the two former actors adding a touch of drama and colour to home life

Curtains up: meet the two former actors adding a touch of drama and colour to home life

Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe of 2LG Studio
Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe of 2LG Studio
Rustic Comfort Toronto dining set at the DFS Staying Inn
Accessories from H&M home
Sofa from the DFS Staying Inn
Rustic Comfort Calm wing chair at the DFS Staying Inn;
Dining furniture from Next

Are we becoming a nation of stay-at-homes?

As 2018 drew to a close, the sofa company DFS conducted a survey on how people like to socialise. It concluded that 56pc of people prefer "a good night in" to "a good night out", and that 58pc are going out significantly less than they were a year ago. A quarter of respondents said that they preferred to celebrate their birthdays at home, 50pc would rather not go out on Saturday night, and one fifth opted to spend date nights at home. Cheapskates! More than half of these lazybones planned to ring in the New Year from the comfort of their own sofas.

Shocking statistics, if you believe that it's important to get out and about, but I'd take them with a pinch of salt. The survey itself sounds reasonably reliable. It was conducted by One Poll and involved a sample group of 2,000 people, 500 of them based in Ireland. But, because the survey was conducted by a sofa company, it's likely that the respondents had cosy sofas on their mind as they were filling in the questionnaire. If the study had been initiated by a theatre company, for example, it might have shown a different aspect of how people like to spend their down time.

Naturally, the folks at DFS were delighted with the results of their survey. If people are staying in more, surely they're going to want a new sofa? To give us all a bit of encouragement in that direction, they hired the interior designers, 2LG Studio, to style an extravaganza of six different room sets geared towards evenings spent at home. The project, known as The Staying Inn, was launched in Tanner Street, London, in the last quarter of 2018.

Interior by 2LG Studio
Interior by 2LG Studio
Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe of 2LG Studio

Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe are the creative directors and founders of 2LG Studio and Whitehead, for one, is just a few generations away from his Irish roots. "My father's always told me that his side of the family were Irish," he says. "But it was all just talk. He never actually proved it." That sounds like genuine Irish heritage to me! The name, 2LG Studio, came from a London postcode. "It was the first apartment that we bought together," says Russell Whitehead. Their friends thought the postcode was hilarious and started calling the couple the Two Lovely Gays. The name stuck and, when they moved house, they adopted it as the name of their business.

"We didn't start out as interior designers," Whitehead explains. "We both worked out as actors. I was doing eight shows a week in the West End. Jordan worked in television. Design was our personal passion - the weekend thing that we did together - but in the end we couldn't contain it. We had to change careers. That was five years ago and we haven't looked back." The segue from acting to interior design involved a lot of learning. "We facilitated that for each other," Whitehead says. "We had to learn on the job." I wonder if their theatrical background has brought something to their interior design practice. "It's brought everything to it," he admits. Like acting, interior design is creative. It's also hard work and a collaborative industry. "Our training in acting was about finding character. We love to get inside someone else's skin and interpret them in the best way that we can."

There's more than a touch of the theatrical about 2LG Studio's design for The Staying Inn. It involved six individual spaces, primarily designed to showcase different styles of DFS seating. This ranged from the modular Zania (€2,349) to the Calm wing chair in bright mustard yellow (€629), which Whitehead describes as: "surprisingly compact but with quite a bit of drama." Rugs and floor cushions came from French Connection, and accessories from H&M Home. H&M homeware, by the way, has recently become available online in Ireland and is excellently priced. A velvet cushion cover, for example, costs €7.99. Paint, where it was used, was Spiced Honey from Dulux (€69.95 for a five-litre tin). Then there was the prim little DFS Evie chaise in green velvet (€699); the four seater Belucci in slate leather (€2,599); and the splendid Trafalgar grand sofa in Sapphire Velvet (€2,079) in the bar.

"I do love the bar," Whitehead admits. "Mainly because that deep rich blue just felt so luxe. One of the things that I learned from the project is that homes can learn from bars just as much as bars can learn from homes." At the risk of overkill, they swathed the bar area in curtains made of the same blue velvet as the sofa. "It's a nod to our theatrical background."

Rustic Comfort Toronto dining set at the DFS Staying Inn
Rustic Comfort Toronto dining set at the DFS Staying Inn

One of the side effects of going out less is that people are more likely to entertain at home. Sixty-three percent feel that decor is an important factor when entertaining at home, and a third of us decorate with guests in mind. This, Whitehead argues, is simply good sense. "One of the first things that I would ask a client about their living space is whether they do a lot of entertaining. If someone is out working a lot, they may need their home to be a calm place where they can relax. But if entertaining is an important factor for them, they will need more wow."

If you want to impress your guests, Whitehead reckons that the best place to start is the hall. "Go wild in the hallway!" he urges. "People don't stay there that long." Their own house has a bold patterned wallpaper on the walls and ceiling, and a patterned carpet on the stairs. "It creates a stimulating first impression." After experiencing the hallway, you can stagger into to a much calmer sitting room to recover from the shock. "It's important to allow the different spaces within the house to have their own character. We often use colour, or flooring, to create a through line that connects the space. But I also love the sense of moving from a dark hallway to a light living space - it's like a theatrical reveal."

See dfs.ie, 2lgstudio.com, and dulux.ie, frenchconnection.com. For H&M homeware see.hm.com/en_ie/home.html.

Rustic Comfort Calm wing chair at the DFS Staying Inn;
Rustic Comfort Calm wing chair at the DFS Staying Inn;

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