Kemi Lawson 28th March 2021
Cottage Noir Home Tour
Hi everyone, and welcome to our inaugural blog post! We always wanted The Cornrow to be a community as well as a wonderful shopping destination and so we are really excited to launch our blog and to start to post weekly content which we hope will both entertain and inspire you!
We are starting with us! And a Q&A session with our co-founder Kemi. Kemi lives in a cottage on the outskirts of London and has designed her home in a way that is fully reflective of her family and her dual Nigerian and Jamaican heritage. The often difficult quest to find interior products she loves for her home, those which fit her modern Black aesthetic, lead directly to the launching of The Cornrow!
Since she moved in, Kemi has been sharing the story of her interior renovation on her instagram account @cottagenoir and has attracted widespread interest. Here we put a few questions to her about the renovation, and ask her for the top The Cornrow picks!
Tell us about yourself
Hi, I am the co-founder of The Cornrow. I am half Nigerian, half Jamaican, 100% Black British. I have two daughters aged 7 and 9 and a husband and we all live in a cottage set in a conservation area in Greater London.
After a career spent in the City, I launched The Cornrow, along with my sister, to be the store I just couldn't find as I searched for items fill my home, in a way that reflected my aesthetic and the stories I wanted to tell. I call my interiors vibe a modern Black aesthetic as I seek to build on the heritage of design in Africa and the diaspora but in a modern way. entertain and inspire you!
When did you move into your home?
We moved in a week before lockdown so we have just had our one year anniversary in the property! We were so pleased (and lucky!) that the main bits of our renovation and redecoration work was completed just before lockdown and so we could move in. Since moving in, the work has continued, they say it is never done! But it's fun as well. Through travels, shopping, family inheritances and late night trawls on ebay, I have collected a large number of artworks, books, textiles, family mementoes, and objets and I was so excited to have an interesting place to display and celebrate them. The Cottage is also a great 'research and development' centre for The Cornrow! Samples of almost all of the products on the site are tested out by me first, and it's wonderful to share items on the site that you genuinely love and to get the feedback that other people love them too - makes all the stresses of launching business worthwhile!
What work have you done to the property?
Isaw the cottage as the perfect canvas to convey the stories I wanted to enjoy about myself, my family, and our African and Caribbean heritage. So everything changed, from carpets to wallpapers. It got Cottage Noir’ed! The aim was to redecorate in a way which centres my two young black daughters, in a country where they are a minority, by celebrating them and their culture in the most joyful way possible.
Why was it so important to you to make your heritage such a key part of how your home looks?
As a Black family living in the UK, our history, contributions and positive imagery of ourselves as beautiful dark-skinned black women are often overlooked. I wanted this house to be an antidote to this, a welcoming and safe space full of memories, black beauty and her-stories which would, I hope, inspire and energise my two young daughters. I personally don’t think the importance of this can be overstated. Living as a Black person in Britain today is challenging, home should be a place to refuel and recharge so that we can go out, get that seat at that table, or make your own tables. I believe interior design can be a magical way to bring that energy.
So what are your top picks on The Cornrow right now?
AIt's so hard to choose as you can imagine! But...ok..if I have to.. .. I love the cushions and throws in The Cornrow Heritage collection. We worked with two design houses, Shine Shine studios in South Africa and Yael et Valerie in Haiti who have produced the most wonderful textiles that tell powerful stories in such beautiful and visual images. We have them in different colour combinations and as cushions and throws and I am so super proud of this collection!