My Modern House: Emma & Kam Young of Falcon Enamelware take us on a tour of their Islington townhouse
INTERVIEWS , My Modern House
Kam Young: “We’ve been here for about three years and it’s changed a lot.”
Emma Young: “Before we were living on Wharton Street, close to our design studio in Clerkenwell, but we needed a larger house to fit our expanding family. We have three children, Pip, Kit and Marni, so we narrowed the search down to postcodes near good schools that would still allow us to walk to work.
“It was pretty run down and had been vacant for over a year. The bedroom was deep red with gold cornicing, and the hallway was various tones of salmon and purple. We weren’t able to do a full renovation straight away so we’re doing it as we go along.”
Kam: “Hopefully we’ll manage more once Marni’s a bit older and starts sleeping through the night!”
Emma: “Ideally we’d like to knock-through the basement to make use of the full width of the property and achieve a more modern space – but we need to find the time to design it. The next project is likely to be the main bathroom – we’re working our way from the top down.”
Kam: “It’s quite a blank canvas now. We’ve put our stamp on it through pieces of furniture, things we’ve made and things we’ve collected over the years.”
Emma: “The litho print in our bedroom was a proof print from a limited edition run by an artist friend in New Zealand. He has this studio in Auckland that’s in a listed boat shed and it’s right over the water – you can open up the back and jump straight in! I bought the print as a surprise present for Kam’s birthday.
“I also have a bit of an issue with my collection of chairs. As a product designer it’s always a dream to design a chair and we’re in the process of doing it with Vincent Sheppard at the moment. This prototype is in rattan but we’re also developing a furniture range in their signature Lloyd-loom – wire wrapped in paper – it’s a completely different process but it’s really beautiful.
“For me design always starts with colour and materials, but for Kam it’s much more about form-making. It works well as a partnership.
“We’re known for Falcon Enamelware, which came about because we do a lot of design for hospitality interiors and we were trying to convince a client to use it. We loved the material and the range so much that we then decided to approach the manufacturer. We saw an opportunity to invigorate the brand and develop the product. It was hard to unearth the history of Falcon so we joined lots of enamel collectors’ clubs and visited the Black Country Living Museum. It became a bit of an obsession! At first we thought the appeal might be short lived, but seven years on the demand just keeps growing. Now we really think that Falcon is one of those classics that transcend time. We’ve got a brilliant team in place who run it day-to-day while we oversee the strategy and creative direction.
“We also have a consultancy and product design business, Kiwi & Pom, which enables us to experiment and collaborate with a whole range of clients.
“The Penelope and Pip phones that we designed for Hulger were interesting. They were partly a response to a disillusionment with technology and the obsolescence of mobile phones. It’s really frustrating to train in product design and then find that everything is turning towards digital interfaces. We worked with Nicolas Roope who’s in the digital world but trained as a sculptor, he’s a really inspiring character. It was a great project that allowed us to look at design differently, which is what we do.
“Kam is really the one who takes up new technologies though, I’m a bit reluctant…I guess that’s partly why we’ve designed analogue phones, in-shower radios and enamelware!
“But it’s also about creating something universal. I think it’s quite rare to hit on something that appeals to everyone and has longevity.”
Kam: “We have a lot of the things in the house that we’ve designed, but there are bits and pieces from all over. Our bed is from a man called Roger…which is quite appropriate…he’s a furniture restorer based in a barn in Kent.”
Emma: “And there’s a nursing chair which has been in my family forever. It’s sprung so it’s really comfy. When Pip was born my mum had it upholstered as a gift which was really nice.
“Pip is also obsessed with buses so we have a lot of those. Whenever there’s a bus rally in London we have to go – there’s a depot in Acton that we hang out at a lot! Pip even specified the colour of our front-door to be “Bus Red”, I had to look up the TFL paint RAL reference to make sure I got it right!
“It’s a great space to live in for the kids.”
If you were to move, what’s the first thing you’d take with you?
Kam: “I’d take the Dieter Rams record player from the bedroom. I picked it up at an online auction. I suppose, being a product designer, you start to collect things that represent great examples of that.”
Emma: “I’d take my French antique bed. It doesn’t matter where you live – if you sleep in your own bed it feels like you’re home.”
Are there any properties on The Modern House that have particularly caught your eye over the years?
Emma: “Well, we look at the Holiday Lets a lot. I really like the Norfolk Cattle Sheds. I love the idea of living in a place with a courtyard, it’s quite Kiwi actually. We’ve already planned an escape to Sussex through one of the Lets we found on the site.
“But there are loads of houses we love. There was the Sherriff Road house in West Hampstead that was Georgian at the front but converted at the back. It was so unusual with that great tree growing through it, and it was really connected to the garden.”