Design duo Divine Savages on playful prints and decadent maximalism

Jamie Watkins and Tom Kennedy’s southeast London home is a showcase for their extravagant creations, says Katrina Burroughs

 

Jamie Watkins, left, and Tom Kennedy at their home in southeast London
 
Jamie Watkins, left, and Tom Kennedy at their home in southeast London. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
Their home is a showcase for their wallpaper and fabrics
 
Their home is a showcase for their wallpaper and fabrics. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 
Kennedy designed the Crane Fonda wallpaper to match the kitchen tiles
 
Kennedy designed the Crane Fonda wallpaper to match the kitchen tiles. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 
The living room is decorated with Deco Martini wallpaper
 
The living room is decorated with Deco Martini wallpaper. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 

wallsandfloors. co.uk). The glossy ceramics extend from the front door round the foot of the stairs and into the bathroom at the back of the basement, a practical surface that makes it easy to mop up mud from Kennedy’s bike or Ripley the cat’s gifts of mice.

 

The bedroom mixes Nocturnal Faunacation print with F&B Off Black paint
 
The bedroom mixes Nocturnal Faunacation print with F&B Off Black paint. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 

There was no natural light in the hallway, so they swapped all the doors for period-style replacements with reeded glass panels that would share light from the rooms above. Left of the front door, pride of place goes to a midcentury shelving unit displaying what Watkins refers to as “Tom’s toys”: a Kidrobot Kim Jong-un, figurines from the 1980s video game Street Fighter, X-Men comic books.

The walls are adorned with posters, including an Italian one for the film One Million Years BC, featuring Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, and pulp-fiction novels, displayed as artworks in Perspex boxes. Titles include She by H Ryder Haggard and Gay Paragon by Dick Dale (subtitle: “Greg had a body fit for a Queen!”). On the landing is a picture of Debbie Harry with the word Atomic picked out in yellow EL wire, a collaboration the pair did with Light Up North for the 100% Design show last year (£760; lightupnorth.com).

The bedroom in the basement, the last interior to be made over, was finished just a month ago. “The sun goes over quite early, and this room doesn’t get much light,” Watkins says. “It’s best to embrace the darkness and work with it.” They chose Off Black paint (£46.50 for 2½ litres of Estate Emulsion; farrow-ball.com), which they also applied to the frames of the mirrored closet doors.

 

Brenda the peacock hangs above the hearth in the living room
 
Brenda the peacock hangs above the hearth in the living room. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 

They added fake curtains in velvet Nocturnal Fauanaction (£95 a metre) on either side of the wardrobe mirrors “to give a dramatic cinema-screen feel”. Fringed lampshades and wallpaper in the same pattern (£140 a roll; divinesavages.com) create an immersive effect.

The carpet, in an intense blue veined pattern like natural stone, is a collaboration between Alternative Flooring and Zoffany (Zoffany Boutique Serpentine Malachite, £58 a sq metre; alternativeflooring. com). Wall-mounted Lily lamps by Dutchbone (£99; accessoriesforthehome.co.uk) are positioned on either side of the bed, above upcycled cabinets from Design Retro — customised with Anaglypta wallpaper and Off Black paint (designretrobrighton.co.uk).

Upstairs, where the interiors are awash with daylight, the palette shifts to blush and green. The living room is papered in Deco Martini in Teal. Against that snazzy backdrop, there’s a menagerie of eBay finds: a china tiger as tall as a greyhound; two vintage Audubon prints; and Brenda the peacock, who hovers above the hearth.

 

A mid-mod cabinet displays vintage finds
 
A mid-mod cabinet displays vintage finds. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 

She is named after Kennedy’s aunt, a film teacher who adored interiors and left him some money to treat himself. “She passed away in 2016, and I decided I would buy something with attitude that reminded me of her.”

The velvet seating includes a rust-coloured Scott armchair from Made.com(£599) and a Munich sofa in Kingfisher Blue by Swoon (from £1,249; swooneditions.com). The single rattan Bermuda seat (£275; therattancompany. co.uk) is an online treasure that nearly didn’t make it into their home. “We found it on Instagram,” Watkins says. “We love bamboo and cane, but we didn’t realise how big it was — we only just squeezed it in. We had to repaint the door!”

Kennedy’s workstation is cleverly camouflaged in one corner of the living room. Floating shelves, walls and a countertop at waist height, so he can stand up to work, are painted in Farrow & Ball Hague Blue. The dark backdrop means the black storage cabinet and computer screen are almost invisible.

Benefiting from large windows with views of the garden, as well as borrowed light from the glass-panelled door, the kitchen is the brightest room in the house. The couple kept the white Ikea units installed by the previous owners, giving them a facelift by substituting neat gold metallic pulls for the old silver bar handles and installing a richly coloured solid zebrano worktop (from £320; worktop-express.co.uk).

 

The pair have bought mostly secondhand furniture
 
The pair have bought mostly secondhand furniture. Photo: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
 

They chose Rose Mallow tiles by Artisan Equipe Ceramicas (£39 a sq metre; tiles-direct.com), then, once more stumped for a suitable wallcovering, Kennedy created a quirky coral-coloured bird print, Crane Fonda, to harmonise with the ceramics. They bought a 1960s extendable teak table and covered the accompanying chairs in velvet fabric that matched the wallpaper (£95 a metre). The finishing touches were a host of succulents and some mini gardens from London Terrariums (from £60; londonterrariums.com)

With their home finished, the chaps plan to concentrate on expanding their design brand. A new range of five patterns, available as wallpapers, fabrics and cushions, is on the cards this autumn, created in collaboration with Kennedy’s favourite museum, the National History Museum. Indicating the tyrannosaurus rex model over his workstation and a velociraptor skeleton in the hallway, he says: “It was always my favourite place to visit if we ever came up to London as children.”

Watkins got in touch with the South Kensington institution and found that the feeling was reciprocated: “They had seen us online and really liked what we were doing with a number of our prints already inspired by the natural world. Tom has been Indiana Jonesing it, raiding the archive, and we’ll launch the collection in October.”

They are tight-lipped about the details, but it seems likely that the next generation of maximalism will be more Jurassic Park than Arts and Crafts. How divine.

 

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