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Inside Olympia & Ariadne Irving's cleverly decorated London rental

Using exuberant colour, high street finds and a mish mash of antiques passed down from family, homeware designers Olympia and Ariadne Irving have made their rental house in east London a witty and deeply personal home. Working with their mother, the revered textile designer Carolina Irving, to produce handmade ceramics for their company Carolina Irving & Daughter’s, the family’s obsession with the decorative arts runs deep and is everywhere in evidence.

Released on 07/28/2023


You also don't like to throw things away.

Oh, yeah. It's impossible.

I mean, that is- I feel, I'm like,

I ain't gonna need that tissue in four days.

Do you know what I mean? [laughs]

[bright music]

We moved here three years ago.

What we quickly realized is as it's a rental,

there's not much that you can do.

You can't break walls down, you can't change things.

The carpet's gonna be the carpet,

the kitchen's gonna be the kitchen.

So we just found little hacks

that we thought were ways of changing it.

So little elements that would hide things

that we couldn't get rid of ourselves.

Our taste is layered.

Every piece I think has a bit of a meaning

behind there. Story, yeah.

Or story behind it.

But all renter-friendly, we've done like a lot of Velcro

and sort of double-sided tape.

I understand the fear

of wanting to do something to a rental house.

I totally get that.

But for us, it was like, if we're gonna be here,

we have to make it our home.

We have a company with our mother

called Carolina Irving & Daughters and we design homeware.

Our mother is a textiles designer

and she was also an editor at House & Garden in New York

back in the day.

My dad's an art dealer.

So I think our parents are both very much obsessed

with the decorative arts.

Working with family, I guess, the cons are that, yes,

we allow ourselves to say things to each other

that we wouldn't probably say to a boss that we worked for.

Then the pros are that we just really get

to really create what we love.

I mean, we're...

I mean, we're each other's- We're best friends.

best friends. We're best friends but-

We went to see a psychic once who said in the past,

all of our past lives, we've been twins

and that this is the first life

that we've been, like, separated,

which, obviously, we haven't done properly

'cause we're living together.

Yeah, I know.

[Olympia laughs]

[bright music]

We're in the dining room,

which is I think where we spend most of our time

'cause we're always entertaining having people over.

So it's, for me, I think it's my favorite room in the house.

This is how we would set the table, usually,

if we are having lunch or people for dinner.

It's summer now so I think lots of bright colors.

And this is our new plate collection,

which is called the Gigi, which is based on Greek motifs.

These were old dining chairs that belonged to my father.

We found this traditional Portuguese fabric

and just had them reupholstered, but they're kind of nice

'cause they have a bit of a waxy feel.

And with dining room chairs,

you're sitting on them for a long time

so we wanted something that wasn't too delicate

so that they wouldn't tear.

And then these columns,

we just saw that they would look so cool here

'cause the ceilings are quite high.

And then we put on these old, like, Hungarian pots

with some plants inside.

So these were...

They're super special to us because it's the drawings

for the interiors of the tent for my parents' wedding.

When we were younger, we obviously thought it was quite cool

to put all these stickers on it.

But, I guess, listen, it's part of the story, so... [laughs]

This painting's quite amazing.

It belonged to Ariadne's godfather.

Was meant to go in the living room

but we couldn't get it up the stairs. [laughs]

He actually, funnily enough,

looks like one of our best friends from childhood.

It's his doppelganger.

We decided, Ariadne and I,

that it would be quite fun to put some curtains.

So we used one of my mother's fabrics, Almaty,

and one of our Carolina Irving & Daughters' tablecloth.

Double-sided sticky tapes, stuck them together,

and put them up.

So it's so nice

'cause when you're sitting inside for dinner,

you close the curtains

and it feels like a completely separate room.

[bright music]

I love to cook.

It's always been one of my favorite things.

I have a great collection of cookbooks

that I've inherited from my grandparents,

that I've bought myself.

This painting has followed me everywhere.

It's by this artist called Luke Kendall

who's actually a very old friend of ours.

And I just think that it actually,

it's almost made for this kitchen.

It fits perfectly in this space.

It brings color, just makes it fun,

and that's what you want a kitchen to be.

And then another thing is that we've put all of the plates

that we've designed in the last few years.

And I thought, again,

it's another way to add color to a room.

They're removable, and for us, it's part of the story.

[bright music]

I liked the idea of having the kitchen, dining room

separate to the living room.

If you didn't really look out the window,

you could maybe be like in a country house or something,

which I really liked the idea of.

The walls are painted in an amazing, vibrant yellow.

All the art really pops beautifully on this color, I think.

Obviously, we have a television 'cause we love TV

but we don't like to look at the television.

So Olympia and I made makeshift curtain

with the tension rod.

Ta-da! And the TV is right there.

Then found these amazing shell clip.

And then for me, just absolutely beautiful.

He's Thomas Frye Mezzotints

and he did a series of these people called fanciful heads.

So much detail, it's literally two colors.

I bought this sofa maybe, what, six years ago, I would say,

and it's from IKEA.

It's called the Farlov and it's genuinely the best sofa.

I think the shape is so nice

and we literally sent the slipcover to an upholster

and they just recopied the same exact dimensions.

And we used one of my mother's fabrics, it's called Nino,

which works perfectly with the striped rug

and it's just incredibly comfortable.

Finally, this piece,

Olympia actually commissioned for my birthday.

It's by an incredible artist represented by Alma Zevi.

Her name is Katy Stubbs.

And it is the myth of Ariadne and the Minotaur,

which is my name, my namesake,

when he basically left her on an island to die by herself

and she married Bacchus, the god of wine, afterwards

so that's quite nice.

[bright music]

I do think it's really important that bedrooms

that feel personal and so that's why I already have

so many pictures around because it makes me happy

and I like being surrounded by the people that I care about.

As you can see,

I wanted everything to be quite fresh and bright.

So I used Setting Plaster from Farrow & Ball in the walls,

which I just think is the go-to color

and kind of is perfect.

I didn't have any big paintings to put behind the bed

so my mom came up with this idea of putting

one of her new fabrics, Carnation Stripe, behind the bed,

which I actually think looks great

and it sort of acts like a big piece of art.

This is a chair that we actually found at Kempton

that was falling to bits and we just had a slipcover made

with my mom's fabric, Jolie Madame.

I think it ties the room in together quite well.

Floral, pinks, yellows.

And then my favorite thing in the room

are these Hungarian watercolors of traditional costumes.

I think they're so beautiful.

We still have some more, which we haven't even framed yet.

I think they could look great actually all around here.

So we are in my bedroom right now.

Currently sitting on my bed

from The Original Bed Company. [laughs]

I saw this online and automatically knew

I sort of wanted a four-poster type bed.

Obviously, the dream would be,

I'd have, like, lots of curtains on it

but still working on that.

And I think the nice sort of purpley color

against the sort of almost arsenic green wall works so well.

And the color's actually also from Papers and Paints'

historical collection, I think it's called Sev.

And I just love sort of hanging all these pieces

that I've collected throughout my life.

Like all the evil eyes that I would pick up

without it being greased every summer

and all these beautiful crosses.

I think this is from Venice, this I actually made.

It's just these certain motifs that I'm drawn to

and they just keep coming back

and they keep finding their way back to my wall.

Those are 18th century hand colored prints

of just beautiful garden scenes.

That little needle point is of Pepito,

the love of my life, my son, and it's just so cute.

Olympia got it for my birthday last year.

[bright music]

Everything happens from this room.

The light is amazing,

which I think is what drew us to this house.

The first time we saw it, we're like,

This is unbelievable.

And it's kind of where we work from now.

We have our mood boards

where we're starting to think of ideas.

Here, we have this cabinet that is just filled

with lots of Carolina Irving & Daughters objects

that we use, so vases, our Concha shells,

which are like a major part of what we do.

It's our logo, it's our obsession, it's everything we love.

Even when it's not sunny,

which is most of the time in London.

It just feels really bright and cheery.

My dad found all these great photos of objects

that are in the house

but when they were placed in their old homes.

The hot air balloon, which is hanging in the dining room.

[Ariadne] The leopard chair that's in the living room,

the suzani that's hanging up in the living room.

I mean, we're very nostalgic as a family.

So it's keeping all of these things

that we've grown up with.

I don't know if we can ever not live with each other.

I think when we get married,

we're gonna have to live with our husbands altogether.

There's gonna be no way we're splitting anything.

You can have the IKEA sofa. [laughs]

Without the slipcover. [laughs]

[bright music]

Starring: Olympia Irving, Ariadne Irving

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