A MODERN VICTORIAN TERRACE IN FOREST HILL
Interior design duo Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead – aka the 2 Lovely Gays – transformed their run-down Victorian terrace into a playful hybrid of the fun and the functional
Origami wallpaper, a burgundy ceiling and flesh-coloured walls (the new grey?) are just some of the unique and unusual features in the fabulous Forest Hill home of interior design duo Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead, affectionately known as 2 Lovely Gays. It’s likely you’ve heard of them from this year’s must-see interiors show, BBC2’s Great Interior Design Challenge, featuring up-and-coming interior designers. Jordan rose to the challenge with his experimental designs and love of bold colour, finishing a feisty second in the competition.
‘We applied to be in the show together, but a duo didn’t fit the show format so we decided I’d take the lead,’ explains Jordan, a fashion-obsessed actor originally from Birmingham with a passion for interior design. ‘It was tremendous fun!’
Following the success of the show, Jordan and his husband Russell, also an actor with an equally obsessive love of good design, set up their own interior design company calling themselves the unlikely name of 2 Lovely Gays.
‘Our name came from the post code of our first flat,’ explains Russell, ‘it ended in 2LG! And to our friends we became known as 2 lovely gays. We were both acting at the time and discovered we had a mutual passion for beautiful interiors and design and our first job together was selling our own textiles at Greenwich Market. When a family member asked us to refurbish their hotel and it was a great success, we decided to give up acting and concentrate on interiors.’
The creative pair admit their tastes are similar with Jordan’s love of fashion and Russell’s love of theatre inspiring their work. And when it came to re-designing their own home, a run-down Victorian terrace with pebble dash walls and dingy rooms, it was their playful sense of style and wit that brought the house back to life.
‘We stripped everything back to bare brick and started again,’ says Jordan, ‘and because of our diverse tastes, it’s become a hybrid with old-fashioned panelling and coving in the sitting room at the front and a modern extension and streamlined kitchen at the back.’
‘We love to play with colour and it was the big inspiration for this house,‘ says Russell. ‘We’ve used a flesh-coloured palette on the sitting room walls as a neutral base and a deliberate move away from the ever-popular grey. It’s different and warm and the curtains match to give a pared-down look, creating the effect of a continuous wall when they’re drawn. The panelling was achieved by attaching wooden mouldings to the bare walls, painted in egg shell and the effect is stunning.’
From the cosy Georgian inspired snug with its comfy sofas and contemporary Tom Dixon wing-back armchair, to the ultra-modern kitchen with its concrete floor, Russell and Jordan it seems have no rules when it comes to designing creatively.
‘The marble kitchen splash-back wasn’t planned but as it was leftover from a refurbished bathroom, we decided to incorporate it into the kitchen design,’ says Russell. ‘We’re definitely opportunists as it can often inspire something unusual that we hadn’t thought of.’
And in contrast to the sleek kitchen units, the walnut table and oak stools add a softness to the room, while the home office, set back into a wall using a plywood surround, is an interesting feature in its own right.
‘It’s very useful having a multifunctional kitchen as we spend a lot of time in there so it made sense to merge it with our office,’ explains Jordan. ‘We like to do things differently and to add an element of surprise, even down to our favourite wallpaper by Peckham-based company Custhom, whose Offset range has no pattern and looks different on every wall.’
Another unusual decorating technique favoured by the couple is the origami wallpaper in their hallway by their artist friend Tracy Tubb: ‘This was Tracy’s first home installation and it’s completely unique,’ says Russell. ‘Each piece of paper is folded by hand from single strips of wallpaper and then joined together. It looks fragile but it’s flexible and versatile and the effect is incredibly beautiful.’
‘Back to colour though,’ enthuses Jordan as he reveals the couple’s decadent dressing room, complete with burgundy ceiling and a bright orange chest of drawers. ‘A dressing room does feel like a luxury, but we use it every day and it’s such a functional space.’
The couple’s favourite room, the master suite, sits at the top of the house looking out across the skyline with the bed positioned low enough to see the trees, but not the roof tops. It’s this attention to detail that sets their work apart from other designers.
‘Loft extensions can often look boxy so we kept the shapes in the walls from the original chimney breast and cornices,’ explains Russell. ‘It adds texture, layering and interest. And bespoke fittings, which include a very discreet laundry basket hidden in the shelves, always create a perfect finish.’
While serious about their work, what’s refreshing about this dynamic pair is their infectious sense of fun, and love of what they do and where they live. Not to mention the constant presence of their beloved dachshund, Buckley.
‘We adore our home because it’s an expression of us, and Forest Hill is a great place to live,’ says Russell. ‘The sense of community is second to none and we’ve met so many people living here we can’t ever imagine moving.’ Adding to this, the couple recently bought their local independent coffee shop opposite Forest Hill station with their actor friend Sian when it was threatened with closure.
‘We really enjoy the sociable coffee culture in the area so we just couldn’t sit back and see St David Coffee House close. We bought it not only for the coffee, but as an investment in the community,’ says Russell.
‘And we love browsing in the Stag and Bow in Forest Hill for unusual homeware and curios followed by a nice lunch at the nearby Honor Oak,’ chips in Jordan, ‘why ever would we want to move?’