Sustainability is the touchstone issue that inspires Paul de Zwart both at work and in his west London home. The Dutch-born founder of contemporary furniture brand Another Country, who shares his Victorian house with wife, Ariel Childs, managing director of creative agency Winkreative, daughter, Daphne, and Irish terrier, Lady Harriet Wicklow, is committed to pursuing progressive ideas that are grounded in tradition and an appreciation of nature.
‘This house was made by craftspeople,’ he points out. ‘Good design comes down to a respect for materials, their origins and the architecture.’
‘Natural materials,’ he adds, ‘provide a sense of calm.’ That is why he doesn’t just favour timber when it comes to his firm’s furniture designs; it can also be found in abundance throughout his home, from the floors and bespoke joinery details to the staircase, which has been painted in a dark, earthy tone that complements the original Victorian tiles in the hallway.
The previous owners ‘carved up the space and used a lot of MDF,’ recalls Paul, who
was compelled to make big changes, starting with replacing the concrete floor in the kitchen with reclaimed wooden boards from Lassco and swapping the Ikea cabinets for a Devol design by fellow timber enthusiast Sebastian Cox.
‘Touch is so important,’ he asserts. ‘Texture and longevity, the way solid wood looks and feels…’ These are the qualities Paul feels validate his ethos to work only with natural fibres and wood from sustainably managed forests. They were also part of what first inspired his change of career.
Paul met Ariel in London in the 1990s when they were working on the launch of Wallpaper* magazine. Immersing themselves in a world of art, architecture and travel, they put down roots in the capital. In 2010, Paul, a creative entrepreneur at heart, was working on a new business idea when he started to pursue a side project. ‘I was looking for a stool,’ he says. ‘An archetypal, well-priced, simply designed, wooden stool, but with sustainability intrinsic to the process. I couldn’t find anything. So, I created my own. I found a local maker and we made a stool with provenance. This was “Stool One”.’
The simplicity of his inaugural product’s name reflects the two qualities – clarity and honesty – that Paul admires in his favourite designs. The stool became part of ‘Series One’. Also part of this debut was a daybed, a table, a coffee table and a bench. The success of the pieces – they are still bestsellers today – inspired Paul to quit his job and work on ‘Series Two’. Another Country was born.
The guiding principles behind the simplified look of those initial pieces are the same used on the redesign of his family home. Both began with close attention to the basics. ‘I always consider interior architecture and spend money on the hard stuff: good radiators, window casements, floors, lighting and switches,’ explains Paul. ‘These are my starting points.’
To these good bones, the necessities for 21st-century living are discreetly added. Bespoke storage, for instance, creates plenty of space to stash the detritus of family life throughout this home. There’s practical cabinetry built underneath the stairs and a similar creation, designed by Paul and realised in ash by his joiner, is cleverly set into the space between the living room’s two fireplaces, hiding wires and cables.
‘Bloomsbury chic’ is how Paul and Ariel describe their tastes, but as self-proclaimed, ‘citizens of the world’ their home reflects a more contemporary global narrative. ‘We are not from here, but we have chosen to live here – we don’t fight against the aesthetics, history, story or the culture of London; we respect it,’ says Ariel.
Growing up in her native New York, her childhood home was across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was taken there regularly by her mother, who was passionate about arts and crafts as well as ceramics and silver, and her father, who was an artist. Her love of art, literature and ceramics stems from this and, although she and Paul make joint decisions about their home’s interior, Ariel is, she confesses, ‘the chairman of soft furnishings’. Blankets by Eleanor Pritchard and textiles by Ruth Duff, both championed by Another Country, can be seen adding comfort to cosy corners.
Paul, who had a well-travelled childhood, cites design influences that include Japan and Scandinavia. Inspiration from all can be seen in Another Country’s furniture, but to keep things fresh he also regularly collaborates with designers – including the likes of Daniel Schofield and David Irwin – from the UK and across Europe, all of whom share his vision for uncomplicated, beautiful modern living.
Alongside recognisable pieces from Another Country, the couple’s collection of contemporary artworks and inherited antiques combine to create an overall look that is gracefully unfussy. Books feature strongly as Ariel and Paul are both voracious readers, and throughout their home, shelves, mantles and bedsides are stacked with titles.
‘This house makes me feel sharp and switched-on,’ says Ariel. ‘Having all of our books displayed allows me to take my mind away and plug into my imagination.’
The fruits of all of that downtime will become clear this spring as Another Country has plans (under wraps right now) to share its style with a broader audience, collaborating with a major British retailer. We are sure the same ethos will underpin every piece. anothercountry.com