Inside story: Custhom

Led by a love of simple forms and consideration for detail, British design studio Custhom turns 10 this year

‘Oblique’ fabric by Custhom
Custhom

Part research studio, part design practice, Custhom is a brand that has never conformed to type. Steadily and quietly growing over the last decade, its designs are characterised by simple geometric forms and sophisticated palettes – instantly recognisable and impactful, yet refined and considered.

Jemma Ooi and Nathan Philpott of Custhom
Jemma Ooi and Nathan Philpott of Custhom
Custhom

The studio was founded by Jemma Ooi and Nathan Philpott, who met while studying at the Royal College of Art in London. Nathan trained in textile design with a focus on embroidery technology while Jemma specialised in print design. After graduating, the pair shared a studio space and began to experiment with materials and processes, and Custhom was born.

‘CREATING HANDMADE WALLPAPER THAT DIDN’T REPEAT WAS HOW WE BEGAN TO ATTRACT AN AUDIENCE’

The duo quickly made waves with their mural-like, hand-printed wallpaper designs. ‘Back then, the interior design landscape was generally quite conservative. Creating handmade wallpaper that didn’t repeat or match up was how we began to attract an audience,’says Jemma. ‘We started the brand with the spare change we’d saved from bar jobs and presented work in an old shop off Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, which we hired for £200 during London Design Festival. We were inspired by what small brands were doing with pop-up spaces during Milan Design Week.’

custhom fabric and cushion
‘Hayward’ cushion, £86; ‘Contour’ fabric, £90 per m
Custhom

That hands-on, try-it-and-see approach is still very much a part of the process for the duo, whose studio is now in Peckham, southLondon. As well as making wallpapers, textiles and ceramics, Custhom also has a project arm that creates bespoke interiors, branding and designs for other firms; Clarks, Liberty, SomersetHouse and John Lewis & Partners are just a few of the illustrious names to have enlisted the studio’s expertise and fresh thinking.

‘Custhom projects and products are all interlinked by the making process, which is at the heart of the studio,’ explains Jemma. The studio’s first commission was for the Design Museum shop: ‘It felt like a real nod of approval, especially as it happened right at the start of Custhom.’ From there, the brand has grown organically, picking up industry awards and, most recently, a Design Guild Mark in 2019.

glass tumblers by Custhom
‘Oblique’ glass tumblers, £38 for four
Photography Megan Taylor

Unswayed by trends or the pressure to release products every season, Custhom follows its own schedule. Jemma says: ‘We aim to distil our ideas to reach their most simple form as, in our eyes, that’s the key to longevity. The materials we use are important to us, from the packaging to the content of our printing inks, and this is an area we’re constantly striving to improve. We work on the principle that when we are happy with a new range, we will reveal what we’ve made.’

During London Design Festival in September last year, Custhom launched new ceramics, glassware and printed and woven textiles, but wallpaper remains at its core. ‘Wallpaper is the medium we fell in love with – now we’re dipping our toes into product design, drawing upon specialised making skills used from wallpaper production to create a wider range. We have a few collaborations due to launch next year and we will definitely be celebrating with everyone who has supported us along the way,’ says Jemma. custhom.co.uk

This article appeared in the January 2020 issue of ELLE Decoration

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