In the bright, peaceful living room of her west London home, Nathalie Assi is pointing out the daffodil-shaped mirrored pendant lights by Pietro Russo, which sparkle like giant brooches in the sunshine.
They wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary design museum, but here they mingle with vintage pieces and personal possessions as easily as friends at a party. That’s because Nathalie’s abode, which she shares with her husband and three children, is no everyday home. The stucco-fronted property doubles as a showroom for her gallery, SEEDS, which she set up to ‘bridge the gap’ between buyers and contemporary makers.
The inspiration for the business was planted when Nathalie, who used to work in finance, started renovating the five-storey house in 2014. With the help of architect Carole Asfour Lin, she added a new glass extension for a dining room and office. Connected via sliding doors to the living area, this extra space afforded a level of flexibility that makes her unique work/life balance possible.
‘I can shut off the living room and it becomes a gallery,’ explains Nathalie. ‘In the afternoon, when the children are back, I open it up. The transition happens every day.’
It was only when she began to furnish the house that the concept for SEEDS really blossomed. ‘I was visiting art fairs and graduation shows and I realised that I wanted to fill my home with objects that have meaning,’ she says. ‘There’s so much creativity out there just waiting to be sponsored.’
Nathalie’s very first purchase was a sycamore ‘Tonus’ stool by Dutch designer Aldo Bakker. After that she was hooked, hunting down unique items and commissioning lighting, furniture and ceramics for clients and herself.
‘Some of the pieces are quite experimental,’ she admits, ‘but when people see them in a domestic setting, they seem much more approachable. We sit on the chairs, serve dinner on the ceramics; the children do their homework at the coffee table. Design is part of our lives.’
The defining characteristic of every piece curated for SEEDS’ seasonal displays is a fresh and inspiring approach to creation. ‘Learning about a maker’s ideas and techniques creates an emotional connection that you can’t have with a mass-produced object,’ explains Nathalie.
Bright and playful, or constructed using sustainable materials and methods, the designs she selects look especially striking when viewed alongside her collection of iconic mid-century pieces, from Pierre Jeanneret chairs to a sofa by Leif Hansen.
‘Everything here has a heritage or a story,’ she reflects. ‘I feel that the definition of luxury is changing. We’re looking for things that make us think and dream.’ In a year that has prompted all of us to question our values, it’s a notion that resonates. seedslondon.com; asfour-lin.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration August 2020
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