- Sharon Lomas
home Stories: mid-century love, at home with Jo Coe
This weeks home story comes from a lady I met a a few years ago, we just clicked over our shared love of Mid-Century design and green sofas. Joanne Coe from Living Room has a life long passion for British Mid-Century design reflected in her furniture business which takes inspiration from this enduring design period.
I always admire people who have passion, especially when they turn that passion into a small business. With a 20 year career in Furniture retailing as a Buyer and Product Developer working for several renowned UK brand, Jo's business was born of a desire to create furniture of quality and provenance and her home is as stylish as her product range.
Jo's home is a beautiful example of how to elegantly mix vintage pieces with future modern day classics. I greatly admire Jo as a designer and for her interior style, her home has been a huge inspiration to me - so much so I purchased her Model 1 sofas in green moss velvet - affectionately known in our home as "the green goddess".
I love the relationship between a designer, their work and their home so I asked Jo to share her design and interiors inspirations & the story of her home. Over to you Jo...
Our home in Hitchin, Hertfordshire is a classic Victorian semi-detached cottage. In my head,
I live in a 60’s Span House but Modernist housing stock in our part of the world is a little few
and far between. We therefore have the classic combination of old meeting new, with our
home’s Victorian bones made modern by a contemporary extension.
I have been passionate about Mid Century Modern since I was an A Level student, after my
printed textiles teacher set her each of her class a different year on which to base a print
design. I was given 1951, Festival of Britain year. I fell in love with the work of Lucienne
and Robin Day and Ernest Race, still my design heroes now, and a passion for this post war
period in design was born. I love the optimism of this era and the creation of an aesthetic
that was entirely new.
Likewise, as a furniture buyer for over 20 years, this period saw the heyday of British furniture manufacturing, something that I remain hugely passionate about.
I am also a great advocate of ‘honesty of materials’ and a lover of craft and the handmade.
It is this love of modernism mixed with craft tradition that drives my own personal interior
style. I like to see the mark of the maker in the things that I put in my home and always lean
towards natural materials, from solid wood to slate, wool and ceramics.
Whilst loving design of the 50’s and 60’s, and having collected a lot of vintage pieces over
the years, from teak G Plan to 60’s ceramics, I steer away from anything too literal and like
to mix vintage with contemporary design. Whether buying vintage or new, I also strive to
buy British made as much as possible and to buy with purpose, veering towards craft over
fashion. I have collected vintage Portmeirion Totem serve-ware for a decade but also own
their Sophie Conran designed contemporary dinner ware (a wedding gift).
My weakness for classic welsh wool blankets is mixed with Sally Weatherill’s contemporary take on traditional hand weaving in the cushion designs that we commissioned for our online shop. Our two Owen Jones made oak swill baskets, handmade in Cumbria from steam bent coppiced oak and hazel using a technique passed down through generations, are favourite pieces and durable log storage. Our mid 60’s Habitat mushroom lamp was a gift from dear friends that has travelled with us in every house that my husband and I have lived in.
Our furniture is a combination of our own designs, mixed with vintage pieces that we have
collected over 20 years since buying our first home in 2000, and driven by need rather than
the desire to have a completed ‘look’. Our vintage Guy Rogers for G Plan armchair and
footstool in the Living Room were bought as a feeding chair for our now ten year old’s
Similarly, the Ercol console shelving in our hallway was bought to house her books
as a toddler; the Younger teak drawer chest as a changing table. As well as preferring their vintage design, they are also so much better made than many contemporary, invariably flat-packed alternatives and their use and positioning in our home has evolved over time.
Referencing this period in our contemporary upholstery designs has made me much braver
with colour than I was previously and very much drives the colour palette of our home. Our
house is pretty modest in size so I like a coherence between each space and, whilst each
room may have a dominant colour, the same palette of greens, mustard and warm oranges
mixed with off whites carries from room to room.
Our interior choices are also driven by the house itself, with the classic Victorian front parlour room with cast iron fireplace deliberately dark, classic and cosy versus the light filled open plan extension at the back of the house which is much more pared back.
Although a collector (my main weakness being studio pottery and vintage German fat lava
ceramics), I struggle with too much stuff and busy surfaces, so like to curate favourite things
into small collections throughout the house.
Instagram has not only connected us with an audience for our own designs, but has also
introduced me to a huge community of like-minded makers and small independent
businesses. When I do buy something new or when asked for gift ideas from others, I love
supporting small and take real pleasure owning pieces from people I have built relationships
with and whose work I admire.
Instagram has also driven a love of indoor plants and the joy of bringing nature indoors, serving as the perfect excuse to indulge my vintage plant pot collection.
Jo's design favorites
The Royal Festival Hall, Robert Mathew & Leslie Martin
Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright
Favourite IG Homes
Favourite Interior Read
The G-Plan Revolution by Basil Hyman & Steven Braggs
Mid Century Modern Living by Keith Stephenson & Mark Hampshire
Interior Wish List
A wall of String Modular Storage
A garden studio
Thank you so much Jo for sharing your beautiful home and design favorites.
To see Jo's whole collection of furniture just click HERE and follow on Instagram @lifeatlivingroom