Olympia and Ariadne Irving bring colour and creative exuberance to a London rental

In their London rental house sisters Olympia and Ariadne Irving have used bold colour, high street finds and a mish mash of antiques passed down from family to create a witty and deeply personal home.
Olympia and Ariadne Irving's London home
Dean Hearne

The family obsession with the decorative arts runs deep and is everywhere in evidence. ‘There were definitely a lot of Facetime situations with our dad, asking where he thought we should put things,’ says Olympia. ‘And our mother’s instinct for mixing textiles is honestly second to none. But I think the biggest thing we’ve learnt from them both is how to decorate with a sense of bravery. What’s the worst that could happen? Just put it there and see how you feel about it.’

So for the girls decorating this house has been an exercise in recontextualising these objects for their age and this moment. Lightly tossing serious inherited pieces with high street finds, the start of their own budding collection, and pieces of their own design.

‘A lot of the art and the bigger pieces of furniture are things our parents wanted to get rid of. We were like, yep, we’ll take it! Then we just kept adding and adding,’ says Ariadne.

‘I mean, it’s kind of a problem,’ chips in Olympia. ‘You literally can’t throw anything away.’

‘Oh yeah. I’m like, I’m going to need that tissue in four days,’ she laughs. ‘I like everything to be out on display. There are lots of things, but they all have a place.’

Working within the confines it being a rental, the girls have found hacks to give the scheme a sense of permanence. The first port of call was Papers & Paints where they sourced colour for the walls from the historical collection. The warm, ‘Imperial Chinese Yellow’ in the living room, somehow works as the perfect backdrop for a set of 18th century Thomas Frye Mezzotints, a Victorian chair upholstered in leopard print (‘It was the first thing our father bought from Robert Kime in 1985!’) and a 19th century Indian Tree of Life wall hanging.

The dining room is painted a deep, zingy green, and in her bedroom Ariadne chose an arsenic colour, which she has layered with purple textiles and a collection of Iznik plates. Throughout the house the colour combinations are unexpected and fresh. In Olympia’s bedroom, walls in Farrow & Ball’s soft pink ‘Setting Plaster’, are mixed with pale lemon yellow textiles and old fashioned dark red and pink florals.

The grey carpets have been covered with huge inexpensive, striped durries from Jaipur sourced from Etsy. Cafe curtains and blinds are held up with tension rods rather than anything screwed into the wall. Between the kitchen and the dining room the girls created a curtain made from a piece of their mother’s fabric and a tablecloth, joining them together with double sided tape to create a well of pattern and a clever divider between the rooms.

The living room sofa is IKEA with a slipcover in one of their mother’s fabrics ‘Nino’, and where there were gaps, ‘we just bought tables from Amazon and draped fabric over them.’ Many of the lamps are from Pooky and the shades are from Alice Palmer.

The girls work from the sunny conservatory, which is full of prototypes of their ceramics which are predominantly produced in Portugal. They love to entertain, and their guests are the guinea pigs for their designs.

‘This house might be a nightmare for literally anyone else,’ says Ariadne. ‘But for us it’s an accumulation of memories. We might not live in New York anymore but it’s comforting to have so many pieces that remind us of our childhood. Everything is personal and has a story. I think that’s how we’ve made it feel like home.’

Carolina Irving and Daughters: ci-daughters.com