With a combined career of over 30 years and some of the industry’s best-known brands and publications on their resumes, from Matches Fashion to the BBC, The Conran Shop is delighted to welcome Jessica Jonzen and Rosalind Sack, co-founders of The Home Page, to join our Dark is the Night panel.
Ahead of the event, we sat down with the pair to discuss all things career, lighting and interiors.
The Home Page launched in January 2019, please tell us about the platform.
The Home Page is an online interior and lifestyle magazine. Our strapline is ‘celebrating what truly makes a house a home’, and so that mission statement is always front and centre when we are planning our editorial content. As experienced lifestyle journalists and editors, we felt that many of the traditional interiors magazines were presenting beautiful properties, but they often looked a little too staged and clinical, or were simply unrelatable for many. They also overlooked the emotional connection that we have with our houses; a real home is about far more than just designer paint and nice cushions. A house might look ‘perfect’ and tick all the boxes of ‘good taste’, but what good is that if it’s not a welcoming or comfortable place to be?
We wanted to present people living in, and enjoying, the reassuring comforts and pleasures of their homes – and so The Home Page was born. We bring inspiring interiors, culture, thought-provoking first-person pieces, delicious recipes and expertly selected shopping inspiration all under one roof. So far, we have featured interviews with a variety of people from very different professions including Jess Phillips MP, Skye Gyngell, Russell Norman, Pearl Lowe, Sophie Conran and Emma Gannon to name just a few. We have recently launched a travel section, but the remit is that the hotels and rentals we feature must be design-led and have a ‘home from home’ sensibility.
We have also launched our branded content consultancy, where we work with interiors and lifestyle brands who fit with The Home Page aesthetic and ethos. We help craft their tone of voice, write engaging and compelling copy for newsletters, blogs, in-house magazines and more to help them connect with their customer in a meaningful way which cultivates a greater brand awareness and loyalty.
You encourage your readers to use #thestayingincrowd, please explain its meaning?
#thestayingincrowd is a play on the phrase “the ‘in’ crowd”. The saying that ‘staying in is the new going out’ and the acronym ‘jomo’ (the joy of missing out) have become well documented, representing a huge cultural shift in the UK. When there is chaos in the outside world, we seek a retreat, and where better to find one than in our homes? It also speaks to the fact that in our digital world you can always be part of a bigger community, even if you’re staying in on your own.
As the days get shorter, our relationship with lighting changes, why is lighting so important in design?
Lighting is one of the most important considerations when it comes to design. Not only can a lack of daylight lead to a fall in our serotonin levels, which can harm mental health, but poor-quality artificial lighting can also affect our mood and wellbeing. As the nights draw in, good lighting within our homes becomes even more important. In winter, we often leave our homes in semi-darkness and return to them in darkness, too. Being able to turn on some well-designed lighting can make a huge difference to our mood.
We can’t bear the grids of harsh blue-toned spotlights which seem to be creeping into new homes and extensions. In a sitting room, we always prefer lamp light to overhead lighting, although a beautiful pendant serves a great decorative function. Wall lights on dimmer switches can also create soft pools of light and highlight beautiful pieces of art. When overhead lighting is unavoidable (such as in kitchens and bathrooms, where good lighting is essential) then dimmers come into their own.
You’ve both worked for some incredible brands and publications, what is your favourite project to date?
Without a doubt, setting up The Home Page! Running our own business and nurturing a brand is hard work but enormously rewarding, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without all the experience we have gained along the way.
Jess’ career encompasses hard news features as well as freelance work for big names such as Net-a-Porter, The Times and Matches Fashion. Ros started off as a news reporter for a local newspaper before reaching new hights on national television, listing ITV, Hearst UK and the BBC on her resume, and covering events such as the BRITs and BAFTAs.
We met after we had both moved out of London and were working together on a regional lifestyle magazine and clicked. We both loved the interiors section of the magazine and felt there was so much more that could be done with it aside from traditional ‘at home with’ interviews and one-off trend pieces. We couldn’t find what we were looking for elsewhere and felt there was a gap in the market for an inspirational interiors magazine which dug beneath the surface and went deeper into the emotional connection we have with our homes. After talking about it on and off for more than a year, they put plans on hold while Ros went on maternity leave. While she was off, the magazine where we worked folded and it presented us with the perfect opportunity to launch our business. We went live just four months later.
What is the earliest impactful interior that you remember?
JESS: My grandparents converted a barn in the Dorset village of Abbotsbury when I was a toddler, and that house made a huge impression on me. It was a thatched roof house set in beautiful gardens with views of rolling hills and an ancient chapel with the Jurassic coast beyond – the most perfect setting. Inside, the house was very simply but stylishly designed. My grandfather was Swedish and my grandmother had a very traditional English aesthetic but their two styles went together seamlessly. There were traditional quarry tiles in the hallway and kitchen, and the walls were simply lime washed, with framed vintage Vanity Fair Spy cartoons hanging next to my grandfather’s watercolours. There was a striking Swedish wrought iron and glass chandelier which hung over the staircase, and the open fireplace was the focal point of the sitting room, which had antique rugs on the floor and dogs permanently lolling on the sofas. They had owned a restaurant in Weymouth in the 70s and were fantastic cooks so there was always the smell of something delicious cooking in the kitchen.
ROS: I think the first time I registered that a room I was in felt particularly stylish was on holiday in Denmark when I was about 10, visiting family friends in Copenhagen. Theirs was an ultra-modern apartment with floor to ceiling windows on one side of the big open plan living space overlooking the leafy neighbourhood beyond. They had a large wall of bookshelves, a giant L-shaped sofa around a low pendant light and contemporary armchairs made from steam-bent wood. IKEA had opened their first British store just a couple of years earlier, but it was still in its infancy in the UK and I’d never set foot inside one before, so to see all this contemporary Scandinavian furniture for the first time felt very exciting. I still love Scandi design to this day.
Where or who do you go to for inspiration (other than The Conran Shop, of course)?
JESS: I am always inspired by the V&A – their exhibitions are so thought-provoking and beautiful, and their shop is a treasure trove for interesting prints and home accessories. I’m also always impressed by the Burford Garden Company in the Cotswolds. They have a fantastic collection of interesting homewares, furniture and art which always inspire me.
ROS: The Design Museum in Kensington – even just 15 minutes people-watching from the steps in that incredible atrium fills me with ideas. Music is also a big inspiration and I usually have something playing in the background; I have quite eclectic tastes, so it could be anything from The Prodigy to Tchaikovsky.
What should we be looking forward to about lighting and interiors this season?
In terms of lighting, we like the oversized pendants which are coming in this season. The traditional three small pendants over an island are giving way to two bolder, more sculptural styles. Ros chose this for her newly renovated kitchen and it’s wonderfully effective. With interiors more generally, we are very pleased to see people embracing colour again. After years of grey, it’s so refreshing to see people being bolder in their choices. You can’t beat a pop of Conran blue!
Finally, what is your favourite piece in The Conran Shop’s edit?
JESS: My favourite piece is Eero Saarinen’s Womb Relax Armchair and Ottoman in Moonlight and black chrome. Stylish and cosy, my perfect combination!
ROS: Hans J. Wegner can do no wrong in my eyes, and my favourite piece right now is his ultra-elegant CH25 Low Armchair in white oiled oak.