Interview with ROOME LONDON Founders: Laura and Caroline Allnatt

Lockdown wouldn’t seem half as bad if we were isolating in a home full of ROOME LONDON furniture. 

The luxury interior brand is a concept brought to life by sister’s Laura and Caroline Allnatt, who founded ROOME LONDON after 20 years in the art and fashion industries. The designers combine ‘bespoke furniture’ and elevate them to ‘works of art’ while working alongside some of the biggest names in the art and fashion worlds, including contemporary artist and founder of Runway Gallery, SYRETT, and Matthew Williamson, whose collection will launch in February 2021.

Queenie Dressing Screen in Alexander by SYRETT

It’s safe to say that the Allnatt sisters are at the top of the interior design game, but what goes on behind the scenes of the Allnatt siblings, and, most importantly, who is really the big sister? Magazine has the answer. 

“Laura is the creative mind, whilst Caroline puts the creative ideas in order, we are lucky that we complement each other in terms of skillsets” the sister’s began. 

“It’s hard to say who is in charge as both have a key role to play, but Laura is the bossy one, we would say!”

In a life before ROOME, Laura and Caroline created Laura J London, a footwear label which was sold in their boutique in Islington until the siblings turned to interior design. Their store became a blessed institution in Angel and appeared in the likes of British Vogue, Grazia and the Times Magazine in the early 2010s.

Blake Sideboard showcasing Baleztena X Molyneaux

“We think in both areas of design you have to be confident in your choices and embrace a striking yet believable aesthetic,” they began, in the comparison of the two industries. The sister’s continued: 

“There are also similarities in terms of the patterns that we use; we used to cut a pattern to fit on a last when working with shoes and we now we print and cut a pattern to work with the furniture shapes in the collection. The same amount of time and thought goes into this patterning process for both areas of design”.

While there are parallels between the two areas, there are also differences, as Laura and Caroline went on to share the early process which is exclusive to their interior design projects.  

“We are known for translating print and textiles onto furniture using superfine upholstery techniques, so it’s important that every project we work with has this as a focus. When developing new designs for the collection or when customising a piece to client requirements, we start with a discussion and brainstorming with the team as we all work very closely together. 

As a team, we have regular design conversations around new shapes and inspirations for the collection as it takes time to develop each new shape.

For every project, it is important to come together to discuss both production and print and pattern requirements to ensure everything we do is considered and commercially viable”.

Queenie Screen showcasing Deadly Nightshade by Amy Molyneaux

Another early step in the design process is, of course, the design brief, which influences Laura and Caroline in their creative decisions. But, what would be their dream design brief? 

“We are always exploring ways to combine the beauty of a painted canvas with the functionality of furniture and all design briefs that allow us to work with fabric translated onto furniture are ideal for us and bring us great joy”. 

The sibling’s affection for fabric is unmatched only when it comes to their experimentation with abstract colours, as Laura and Caroline expanded: “We love all things abstract, as we are drawn to the colour and experimentation of abstract paintings. This is probably due to the fact we have grown up with abstract art surrounding us; our artist stepfather has large oil painted canvases that feature on the walls of both our homes and since a young age we have been surrounded by art”.

When it comes to haute couture abstraction, there is no work quite like SYRETT’s, the artist and founder and curator of Runway Gallery, who is among ROOME LONDON’S most recent collaborations. SYRETT not only shares Laura and Caroline’s ethos which combines art and fashion, but he has a background in textiles, meaning they also share a joint fondness for beautifully constructed objects. 

“We are very excited to be working with SYRETT’s striking artwork,” the sister’s shared. 

“The collaboration is blurring the lines between art and furniture and introduces a fresh and contemporary look to our furniture shapes, and the collaboration has recently been featured in Livingetc.

Queenie Dressing Screen in Alexander by SYRETT

We are also delighted to be working with iconic designer, Matthew Williamson, who has designed a collection of exclusive prints for us, which are launching later this year. Three new shapes are also gracing the collection in the form of a drinks cabinet, cocktail tables and a chest of drawers and we are currently fine-tuning these designs so they can be revealed very soon”. 

Among the pieces in the ROOME LONDON X SYRETT collection is the Queenie Dressing Screen, which is glazed in SYRETT’s iconic Coco print, named after none other than Coco Chanel. The effect is nothing short of a 1920s jazz-age fantasy, and so, it is unsurprising, therefore, that when asked which piece of furniture makes them the proudest, the sister’s revealed, “It has to be our circular screens. They are decorative and unique, and they are like a large piece artwork, which provides a stylish way to define space”. 

Coco
Coco by SYRETT

We have already lusted over the image of a home filled with furniture from ROOME LONDON, but if anybody is guaranteed to have a house of our dreams, it would be Laura and Caroline. In the discussion of the pieces which fill their homes, the sister’s shared,

“Laura has Cordelia cabinet showcasing the Electric Blue by FELDER FELDER, and Caroline has the Pru Screen showcasing Navarra by Baleztena X Molyneaux, we would both have more but can never really get our hands on them!”

Cordelia Cabinet showcasing Electric Blue by FELDER FELDER

It seems there is nothing quite as perfect as a house brimming with ROOME treasures, so it is unsurprising that if the designers had the opportunity to live inside any building in the world, they would not travel beyond the neighbourhoods of London Town.

“If we could live anywhere, we would pick The Wallace Collection, due to the decadence and history which features in every room. We never tire of visiting the building, and the decorative nature of the rooms would make living in the building simply wonderful”. 

It may be The Wallace’s innate ability to transport Laura and Caroline to the late Georgian period which makes the museum so divine to the sister’s, as they expanded on the time period in which they dream of living and working. 

“We would live in the Nineteenth century due to the decadence and exceptional detailing of that time. The exquisite shapes and texture visible from that era are a great source of inspiration, if we were teleported to that period for just one day we would come back with some many ideas”. 

Despite the sister’s adoration for the ornate rooms in The Wallace Collection, they are not shy to discuss their admiration for another quintessential London institution, The Tate Modern. This was where Laura and Caroline first came across the work of Japanese contemporary artist, Yayoi Kusama, which, they shared, is the piece of art which has left the greatest impact. “It’s hard to say just one piece, it’s more a collection, and it has to be the Dots Obsession by Yayoi Kusama, due to the vibrancy and boldness of her work.

John Cabinet by SYRETT

“We remember seeing her collection at the Tate Modern a few years ago and being captivated but the colour and energy of her work. If money was no object, we would have one room featuring an installation of her work, as we believe everyone needs a pattern-filled room to escape to”. 

We can only imagine and fantasise over the pieces created by Laura and Caroline in a room filled with Kusama’s patterns, which will, hopefully, one day, become a reality. Though it is hard to predict the future, Laura and Caroline end by anticipating the trends which they expect to see in the furniture industry. 

“We do believe there will be an increased focus around bespoke made pieces as there is greater interest in how things are created in terms of production processes and environmental impact.

We also believe that furniture rental will increase, we are particularly inspired by the ethos of Harth Space and the rental options they have in rehoming great design pieces, we are delighted to be associated with the brand as some of our pieces are available for rental on their platform”.

Discover more about ROOME LONDON, and browse their latest collections on their website here. You can also follow them on Instagram at @roomelondon

By Megan Slack– Contributing Editor at Magazine by Runway Gallery.