Fashion designer Eudon Choi excels at taking the precise nips, tucks and pleats of tailoring and translating them into womenswear.
So it’s no surprise that his Hoxton home is a similarly deft combination of crisp, clean lines and unexpectedly creative twists at every turn.
For a start, the apartment is tall and thin, built up instead of out. ‘It’s a modern version of a townhouse,’ Choi muses. But rooms here are not stacked in an orderly Georgian or Victorian style. Instead, spaces seem to pivot from a central staircase, peeling off into half-level mezzanines with balconies that look into rooms below and above, so all the spaces feel linked. ‘You can always find privacy, but it’s a very flowing home where you feel connected,’ he adds.
Choi lives here with his partner Neil Byrne, who runs design communications company, Tomorrow PR, and their miniature schnauzer, Barney. They’ve been here over a year, having watched building work progress from their previous flat, which was around the corner. ‘Even before it was finished, you could tell it was going to be an interesting design, with windows of varying sizes set at different levels,’ says Choi. ‘I’m nosey, so I couldn’t wait to see inside.’
This Escher-like puzzle of five interlocking and split levels was dreamed up by Jaccaud Zein Architects for Solidspace. ‘The unusual layout might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works perfectly for us. We immediately loved its character,’ says Choi. What the apartment lacks in long corridors it makes up for in vertical space, light and colour. In the super-tall living room (it’s six metres high) a cluster of George Nelson pendants hovers at a midpoint and sunlight flows in through a scaled-up window.
This relaxed space forms one section of the ground floor; the other half is their kitchen-diner, with double-height doors out to a walled garden. ‘We wanted an outside space for Barney, but with this place we also got height and views,’ Choi says.
The kitchen is where Choi begins his day — and he starts early. ‘I’ve always been an early riser, so I’m up before 6am,’ he says. He likes the calmness of that time before the bustle of London starts up properly and it’s when he can let his mind wander. Inspiration for his designs, he says, has come from myriad sources. ‘I’m always looking for an idea that’s slightly obscure,’ he says.
Previous collections have taken their cue from sources such as the St Ives artists’ colony and Japanese brutalist buildings. In fact, architecture has been a rich seam of ideas. ‘Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027 in France is incredible — I aspire to own one of her pieces,’ he says.
That said, Choi and Byrne have already amassed an enviable array of design classics. In the living room a Terence Woodgate for SCP sofa holds court and the organic curves of a Noguchi coffee table are echoed by Eames RAR rocking chairs and the amber orb of the Lighthouse lamp by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Established & Sons. There’s a strong showing of 1950s shapes around the apartment, too, from the George Nelson pendants to fashion photography by Lillian Bassman and a handsome mid-century Danish sideboard.
This is not a home that suits clutter, so ornaments are grouped in perfectly balanced arrangements. Iittala Ruutu glassware catches the light in the living room and, in the kitchen, lanterns designed by master of minimalism John Pawson for Wästberg sit alongside ceramics by Pinch x 1882 and Reiko Kaneko for SCP.
Then, nesting on ledges, sills and shelves all around the home are small decorative birds by Eames, Iittala, Lars Beller Fjetland and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. In this apartment of unconventional angles and levels, Choi and Byrne have discovered the joy of colourful modular furniture, including USM cabinets and Vitsoe shelving. ‘Both are ideal because they are easy to assemble in situ and we can add or subtract sections as we need to,’ says Choi.
A vertical jigsaw of storage in their dressing room was made bespoke by Uncommon Projects, with yellow doors that, en masse, resemble a giant contemporary artwork. ‘The company loved us because most people just want grey. But then we drove them to distraction when it came to choosing the exact tones,’ jokes Byrne.
Paintings by Vince Hart also add strong blocks of colour in several rooms. It’s fitting that Choi discovered this artist at his degree show, as he himself was talent spotted in a similar way. Having trained in fashion in Seoul and worked as a menswear designer there for four years, Choi then moved to London to do an MA in womenswear at the Royal College of Art.
He was snapped up by All Saints before he’d even finished the course, while his graduation designs were showcased at Dover Street Market. He launched his eponymous label in 2009 and his designs are now sold worldwide. ‘Tailoring was already a fundamental of my skillset, so it felt natural to take that into my womenswear,’ says Choi. The results, he says, are not androgynous designs — more a meeting of strong masculine and feminine elements. ‘At the end of the day I just want to create something beautiful,’ he says.
Photographs by Dylan Thomas