From the roll call of classic 20th-century furniture to the occasional flourish from Soho Home, the fashion designer and his partner give us a glimpse inside their modern five-level London home designed by RIBA Award-winning developers Solidspace
By Becky Sunshine Images by Mark Anthony Fox Sunday 25 October, 2020 Long read
When the Korean-born, London-based fashion designer, Eudon Choi, and his partner Irish-born Neil Byrne were considering buying their forever home in east London three years ago, they deliberated over whether to opt for a period property or something modern. ‘Koreans want new, everything new, which I guess is about convenience, whereas Neil was leaning towards historical buildings,’ explains Choi. The couple, already renting in the area close to their respective studios, walked around the neighbourhood regularly and watched this building go up. ‘We were definitely intrigued,’ says Byrne, founder of design agency Tomorrow PR. ‘We weren’t really in a position to purchase anything at the time, but came to view it anyway. It took us about a year to then buy it.’
Fast-forward to October 2018 and the pair moved in. The building’s exterior, which occupies the corner of two quiet residential streets in Hoxton, a short walk from Shoreditch, is sleek and simple, and discreetly disguises what’s inside: three surprisingly roomy townhouses and five apartments, designed by Swiss architects Jaccaud Zein and RIBA Award-winning developers Solidspace, built in 2015.
Choi and Byrne’s home, technically a 1,650 sq ft apartment, feels more like a house as it’s spread across five levels. Part of what drew the couple to the building was the developers’ trademark use of split sections, which places mezzanines between floors to increase living space and flood the home with natural light.
'The benchmark for something to make it into our home is we both have to love it and it has to be beautifully constructed'
The layout is certainly unusual and arguably not to everyone’s taste, as both men admit. It’s more or less a wonky L-shape, with four short flights of stairs reminiscent of an Escher drawing. And with rooms across five levels, it means there are no corridors. ‘It’s quite deceptive,’ explains Byrne. ‘You enter on the first floor, but immediately descend to the ground floor to the kitchen, dining and living room. We wanted it to have a sense of a journey and not just some long corridor with rooms off the side as you often get in traditional flats.’ The sense of scale here is impressive, too. Within the open-plan kitchen-dining-living room there are six-metre-high ceilings on both sides with vast windows, which sends beautifully diffused light up the stairwells. A walled garden – Byrne’s self-confessed sanctuary – is behind the dining area, which feels secret and lush beneath its high surrounding walls.
Up to the first floor and there’s a relaxed TV room with a slouchy sofa and a dog bed for Barney, the much-loved Schnauzer. On the next mezzanine is the open dressing room with built-in plywood wardrobes finished in graduating shades of yellow and green, designed by Uncommon Projects. Bedrooms and two bathrooms occupy the two top floors.
Design-wise, both men have a keen eye and strong ideas. Developers had already installed a pared-back, modern kitchen, ceramic floor tiles downstairs and nice details, including rough-hewn oak floors upstairs, walnut balustrades and warm putty-coloured, textured Venetian plaster walls – all of it an ideal backdrop for Choi and Byrne’s growing furniture and art collection.
There are constant reminders that you’re in the home of design cognoscenti: a roll call of 20th-century classic furniture and lighting, including Eames chairs, an Anni Albers rug, George Nelson bubble lights, a Noguchi coffee table and paper lanterns, USM cabinets, and Vitsoe shelving. ‘There’s definitely a mid-century vibe here, it’s where my heart instinctively lies,’ admits Byrne.
There are plenty of contemporary pieces in the mix, too: Konstantin Grcic side tables, Felix de Pass shelves, a Terence Woodgate sofa for SCP and lighting by The Bouroullec brothers for Established & Sons, connected to Byrne’s design clients past and present. Everything works in perfect harmony with a smattering of vintage pieces, including a 1960s Danish sideboard and G Plan chests – the common thread being old-school craftsmanship. ‘That’s the benchmark for something to make it into our home. We both have to love it and it has to be beautifully constructed,’ adds Choi.
'There’s definitely a mid-century vibe here, it’s where my heart instinctively lies'
The colour – seen best in the dressing room and large-scale artworks by Vince Hart – is clearly Choi’s territory. ‘I find colour easy to work and live with,’ he says. ‘If it was up to Neil, everything would be grey. I bought the art pieces the day after we bought the flat and already owned some of the USM cabinets – the green one in the living room and yellow one in our TV room. I love bold colour, I’m not scared of it.’ They also added plenty of textiles for softness, like mustard-yellow cashmere throws and cotton linen oversized cushions from Soho Home. ‘I have to concede that our house wouldn’t have the same personality without the colour,’ adds Byrne.
Both men have, of course, spent more time at home this year, finding themselves using the space more efficiently and with a greater appreciation. ‘We’ve learnt that we’re both quite shouty on the phone when we’re working,’ laughs Choi. ‘So I disappear into the guest room to focus on collections, while Neil has set up shop at our dining table. It works really well – we’re fortunate not to have to compromise over communal space.’
Byrne agrees. ‘While of course it has been an incredibly hard year for so many people, this time has enabled us to value our home in a new way. And over the summer I spent so much time in our garden, planting and now pruning; it has been my saving grace being outside.’
For Choi, being at home has also proved fertile ground for his work. ‘It has meant I’ve really noticed the changing light throughout the day and seasons, how it moves across the artwork and the walls, which has inspired my resort collection. And now we’re looking forward to a cosy winter ahead.’