House of Hackney: from east London to Cornwall’s Trematon Castle

·5-min read
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge

Sat atop an ancient Pagan site overlooking the Tamar Estuary, Trematon Castle is the stuff of fairy tales. With its ancient medieval keep, a 14th-century gatehouse and a mansion built with stones taken from the Norman castle wall, it’s a magical mix of architectural styles that’s rich in Cornish history.

Adding to the enchantment is its extraordinary garden planted by renowned landscape designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman, which, with its fragrant blooms, wild borders and romantic meadows is quite simply otherworldly.

It was this garden that first drew House of Hackney co-founders Frieda Gormley and Javvy M Royle to the charming spot that they now call home, and the events that led to them taking custody of the property were something of a fairy tale too.

Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge

‘Moving to Trematon was an unexpected twist to our story,’ says Frieda. ‘It was as if we had a calling, and it was more than coincidental.’

The adventure began three summers ago, when the couple and their two children were heading back from a holiday in Cornwall. ‘I saw a sign for Trematon Castle Gardens, which I’d never visited,’ she explains. ‘Exploring gardens is one of our favourite things to do, so I managed to persuade the family to squeeze in one more. We spent a glorious morning there and when we got back to London, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.’

Fast forward two days later, and she received a call that was to change things forever.

‘A friend of mine had been having lunch with some people in this incredible house, and they were looking to move on, so she’d thought of us and asked if we were interested,’ she says. ‘When she said it was Trematon my heart almost stopped. We agreed to take it there and then – it was serendipitous.’

Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge

By Easter 2019, after securing a long-term lease on the property, which is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, they said goodbye to life in London Fields and relocated to their new home. The nine-bedroom, Grade II-listed house was in need of some attention, and they spent the first year restoring the windows alone. Having refurbished the radiators and as much of the old bathrooms as possible, they then sourced local materials and skilled craftspeople to complete the rest.

Four-poster beds by furniture makers Titchmarsh & Goodwin feature medieval style castellations, while a smart new kitchen comes courtesy of Devol. Papers and fabrics are their own signature prints, and include ‘Hortensia’, a nod to Cornwall’s hydrangeas as well as ‘Phantasia’, a new design painted with dragons and mythical beasts inspired by the castle grounds. Carpets woven by Axminster have since become an official collaboration.

Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge

It’s quite a step up from the Victorian house where Frieda, a former fashion buyer, and Javvy, a fashion and product designer, first started their business. Both the inspiration and a showroom for the then-fledgling brand, Frieda’s home, which Javvy subsequently moved into, became the original House of Hackney.

‘We wanted to connect with nature and to bring in colour but couldn’t find what we were looking for,’ explains Frieda. ‘At one end of the market was Ikea, and at the other were the kind of traditional wallpapers our parents were buying. We wanted beautiful, well-made products inspired by the past but juxtaposed with the present – not antiques but something that felt unique and modern.’

Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge

Their solution was to create the designs themselves, and inspired by William Morris, Victorian palm houses and their own London neighbourhood, House of Hackney was born. With no shop or showroom, they presented the designs to buyers and shot photography from the house, with the living room and bedrooms decorated with the bold and botanical prints.

‘People said it was an amazing concept, but it was all about budget,’ laughs Frieda. ‘Looking back we were quite naïve. After a big launch and great press, our sales were still at zero. But then things started building, Liberty bought into the brand and we realised we were going to be okay.’

Since then, thanks to environmentally conscious and British-made products they have gone from strength to strength, with instantly recognisable prints such as ‘Hackney Empire’, ‘Palmeral’ and ‘Artemis’ as well as their striking pineapple and animal lamps becoming modern classics. A collaboration with William Morris Gallery, which asked them to reimagine archive designs, was also a highlight; and in January the business was awarded a B Corp certification for its support of small companies and environmental standards.

Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge

‘We couldn’t really be inspired by nature without wanting to protect it as well,’ says Frieda. ‘We work with both local and international charities and support environmental initiatives and projects, and since moving to Trematon we’ve stopped using herbicides and pesticides in the garden.’

Having run the castle as a pop-up hotel for the past two summers, their focus now is on a paint range, due out next January, as well as a series of collaborations with different creatives around the theme of a fantasy room.

‘We want to continue to make beautiful collections too,’ says Frieda. ‘Our house in Hackney was the original muse, and now we’re here at Trematon. Those first few years were so stressful, so these days it’s about keeping things slow and sustainable, being independent, creative and collaborative. We all live busy lives and to be able to take meditative time out is everything. This house takes our breath away on a daily basis, and we don’t take a second for granted.’ houseofhackney.com

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