Nell Card May 13, 2022
Studio Iro is a London-based interior design studio founded in 2017 by Lucy Currell. We discovered Lucy’s work via a feature that appeared in Elle Decoration last autumn. In it, she described a handful of the projects she was currently working on— including a vast piano factory in Kentish Town. But our interest was piqued by the description of her own home in Forest Gate: a former blacksmith’s cottage and workshop dating from the 1800s featuring “a warm, eclectic mix of inspirations from my travels—particularly to Mexico and Japan—with terra cotta flooring in the kitchen and exposed brickwork painted in limewash.
We duly followed @studio_iro , where we found an image of the exterior of her East London home. “During lockdown, we painted our house in a color inspired by the Mexican architect Luis Barragán,” she wrote. “There should be more colored houses in London bringing joy.”
The incongruity of the Mexican-inspired facade prompted us to get in touch. Today, we take a look behind that sunny exterior:
Above: Lucy Currell’s East London home has been rendered in Clay Works demi rustic clay plaster. The color is a bespoke tint based on a Luis Barragan exterior.
Lucy studied at the New York School of Interior Design and went on to work as a lead designer for a staging company in New York. On her return to London, she set up her own studio and named it “iro”—the Japanese word for color. “I love the natural color palette derived from a wabi sabi mindset of neutral and earth tone colors,” Lucy explains.
Lucy lives with her husband, Ben Randall (director of Cloud & Horse set building company), and their rescue dogs, Reggie and Mali. The couple purchased the property in 2020. “It had been lived in by the same family for 20 years, so was in need of a refresh, but nothing structural,” she explains. “Besides, sometimes things are best left as they are.”
Above: The dining room and plaster wall lights have been painted in Dulux’s True Terracotta. The lime-washed oak dining table is French and dates from the 1800s; the 70s Manila chairs were designed by Val Padilla for Jasper Conran. The artwork is by a Serbian artist, Tina Danilović, and the ceramic pendant came from deVOL . The white plinth was made by Ben “to create a modern feel in amongst the antiques and traditional color.”
Above: “We unearthed a fireplace in the living area and decided to just paint over the brickwork,” says Lucy. “We felt a fireplace would be too formal, as our home feels more like a Mexican/Spanish farmhouse cottage.” The black encaustic tiles are from Milagros; the 70s Corolle scalloped lamp is by Georgia Jacob, via Anna Unwin and the glass side table was an eBay purchase. Above the fireplace is a piece by the French artist Sarah Espeute .
Above: The living and dining room in Lucy’s double-fronted cottage. The teal sofa is from Habitat; the marble coffee table is another Anna Unwin purchase. Ben made the painted-ply desk to the left of the fireplace.
Above: The snug is painted in Dulux’s Natural Hessian on the walls and Red Ochre on the floor. The travertine coffee table and vintage armchair are both from Kempton Antiques Fair. (The armchair has been reupholstered in Rose Uniacke’s cotton velvet in Cocoa ). Shelving showcases the couples’ collection of ceramics—a combination of auction job-lots, gifts ,and flea market finds.
Beside Luis Barragan, Lucy cites Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge—where artwork is hung beneath windows and above doors—as a place of endless inspiration. In the snug, two abstract Thai collages have been hung at eye level, to be admired from the comfort of the sofa or armchair.
Above: A detail from the snug, which is largely taken up by a green velvet corner sofa (a Gumtree purchase) with cushions from Habitat. The vintage palm light was purchased in France. The curtains have been made with bouclé fabric by Dedar and the metal shelf is by designer, Fred Rigby . “Little shelves like this are very convenient for a cup of tea or a glass wine if you don’t have space for a side table,” explains Lucy. “This idea can be used for a bedside too.”
Above: The kitchen—once a blacksmith’s workshop—has been laid with Mexican terracotta tiles. The pre-existing cupboard seat has been painted in Farrow and Ball’s Bancha and topped with a cushion made from vintage African Baoulé cloth.
Above: A view of the stairway from the upstairs bathroom. The walls are painted in Dulux’s Heritage Blossom; the woodwork in Atelier Ellis’s Paper and String. The central artwork is by Damien Hirst—a gift to Ben, who used to work at the artist’s studio.
Above: Inspired by cathedrals, Lucy added a pane of tinted glass above the doorframe and in the wall (try Lead and Light in Camden). This illuminates the otherwise dingy corridor and acts as a lightbox in the bathroom. “When you’re in the bath, you can leave the landing light on, and light one or two candles in the bathroom to create this beautiful, orange glow.” Trinkets from Mexico, Japan, and Thailand are lined up on the shelf.
Above: Another brick fireplace was exposed in the main bathroom and painted in Atelier Ellis’s Paper and String. The walls are rendered in olive tadelakt from the sustainable decorating and building specialis Mike Wye. The Mexican encaustic floor tiles are from Milagros, as before. The base of a new cast iron bath has been painted in Atelier Ellis’s Hari.
Above: The shower area with bespoke tadelakt enclosure. The sink is a Victorian antique farm sink from eBay. The vintage bamboo mirror is French, and the ceramic pendant light is from Mullan Lighting.
Above: In the master bedroom (Dulux Heritage Pale Nutmeg), Lucy has created a wallhanging from a piece of vintage Japanese fabric. The monochrome headboard is also upholstered in vintage Japanese fabric. The “flower moon” artwork is from @tatami_antiques , a dealer based in Japan. The rattan beside tables are from The Rattan Company and the paper string and ceramic lamps are by Zara Home .
Above: In the guest bedroom, Lucy has painted the floorboards in Farrow & Ball’s Bancha; the walls are Setting Plaster. The metal Quinta chair is an 80s design by the Swiss architect, Mario Botta; the artwork is by Tuli Mekondjo.
Above: More shape, color, and texture in the guest bedroom, which features a hanging wooden object from a Japanese shrine and a pair of bedside tables from Lucy’s childhood bedroom—now repainted in Atelier Ellis’s Tea and Toast.
Lucy’s parting advice? “Use natural materials wherever possible, muted colors found in nature, humble aesthetics—nothing flashy. Search for antique, vintage, or second-hand pieces that already have a story to tell. Support rising artists and craftspeople making things to last for generations. And don’t strive for perfection or completeness,” she adds. “My house is a work in progress—there’s always something that needs doing.”
Explore Deeper Into These Areas