If you're a creative in the E7 environ you may have met local designer Michelle Drew. Under her Established 25 Atelier umbrella, she's hosted lampshade making workshops at Tracks last year (another one on the horizon so stay tuned...) and popped up at The Forest's Homeware Fair down the station strip this summer selling her soft furnishings including cushions and lampshades.
Michelle's ethos is to make timeless well-crafted products with broad appeal, also aiming to support and work with artisans and manufacturers from the Newham neighbourhood. As a small business, her Established 25 Atelier’s focus is on producing small runs and limited edition pieces, with a zero-waste approach using end of line materials sourced predominantly in the UK. She is strongly influenced by the bright colours and light of the Caribbean which can be seen in their own range of unique fabrics.
So as an atelier handcrafting home furnishings, it's only natural we kick off our new Open Doors series with Michelle who welcomes us to her home abode adorned with her signature soft furnishings.
What's home life for you?
I’m very much a homebody and enjoy the company of friends and family within my home. I also like being in my own space pottering or working on designs. Saying that, I do like it when one’s out and about locally, you do tend to bump into someone you know, stop for a chat and instantly forget what you popped out for.
How have you made your house your home?
Our house is most definitely our home. I enjoy being in my home and want it to be as comfortable and calming as I can make it.
I enjoy the light that comes through the house throughout the day and am a bit obsessed with light and shadows and the energy that come from it.
Both Mr D and I work in design and spent our early days making furniture for clients; so, before giving up our workshop we made a few key pieces for ourselves. These definitely make our home, from our dining table and bench, side tables and beds. They are all one-off pieces of furniture that we are connected to and sit alongside our art which all have a personal story.
Describe your colour palette...
How would I describe my colour palette, well… I don’t think I have an obvious colour palette. Most of the walls are neutral with accents of colour within the soft furnishings, upholstery and art. I do like to work with colour when I’m designing or making, so there will always be hints of it somewhere. I tend not to follow trends or style periods, but look at how individual pieces work in the house alongside what we already have. If it doesn’t work, then regardless whether it’s a beautiful piece, we probably wouldn’t buy it.
Minimalist or maximalist? Be honest...
Mr D and I are not ones to chop and change our style, we like to work with the fabric of the building and what suits the internal space and structure. So, the question of minimalist or maximalist is neither! I prefer a classic style with undertones of both alongside a sprinkling of order, but others may beg to differ. It’s not always easy to tell your own home style when you’re not following a trend, so I would say it’s a space for being; for living and enjoying with family and friends.
Best bargain piece or treasured possession you'll never let go of?
Treasured possession or bargain pieces... This took a bit of thinking, but I would say my treasured possessions are the pieces we made ourselves, they’ve all been made from left over materials, mainly solid hardwoods and remind me of a different period in my life. I hope they become pieces of furniture that stand the test of time, that will be passed on within the family along with its story; but only time will tell. They were definitely bargain pieces too.
If money was no object, what would you do in your home?
This kept me thinking of all the places and things I’d do outside the house, but you asked the question so I’d say make the house structurally sound again, extend the kitchen (now the kids are going off to Uni, and it’s just me and Mr D) and have beautiful furniture commissioned.
Plant policy both inside and outside?
I do enjoy a bit of greenery and spend a fair bit of time pottering around the garden alongside looking at or buying plants. But I do prefer my plants to be outside the house looking in, with just a few dotted around inside. I can never make my mind up where inside they’re best suited.
Cats or dogs?
We’ve never owned a cat or dog and don’t want the responsibility. We are quite happy (with a very small 'q') sharing our garden with the many cats that pass through. It’s enough!
Where are we most likely to bump into you out and about in the local hood?
When I’m not at home working on my homeware or upholstery, then you’d probably see me going for long walks on the Wanstead Flats or popping into Bereket (the Turkish shop for bits and bobs), and of course to Tracks.
Why should we move to Forest Gate?
We made Forest Gate our home back in 2003 via North London with a short spell in Stratford. We really found the house by accident; this was when I was thinking of returning to work after our first child was born.
We were going for a drive one Saturday afternoon from Stratford, and just happened to drive down a few of the roads of Capel; and was surprised how different it felt from Stratford. We instantly liked the feel of the place; saw a ‘For Sale’ sign on one of the houses and decided to pop into the estate agents. By the following Monday we had made an offer on the house we’re in now.
Everyone has their personal reasons to move to an area, but being born and raised in North London there was always a sense of community within your particular area or postcode. It felt like a small village where you knew everyone.
Forest Gate reminds me of that; friendly neighbours, and a great sense of community.
I remember this feeling as a child and Forest Gate definitely has this. There aren’t too many places in a big city where you can make good friends and feel part of a group of like-minded people.
A friend asked the other day if I won the lottery where would I move to? I said that I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d want to live right now and wouldn’t move just because I won the lottery. Forest Gate covers all bases for me right now. Just need that new kitchen!
For interior inspiration shop the Established 25 Atelier collection here and for further updates follow @established25atelier