She's a Rainbow
Featuring Emily Johnson
Photographyby Shana Jade Trajanoska
Words by Aaron Peasley
Always on the lookout for the unexpected, Margot got a personal tour of Emily Johnson’s characterful home, a highly personal refuge as vivacious and creative as its owner.
Before our visit, Emily Johnson, the founder and creative force behind British ceramics firm 1882, had hinted that her recently renovated house might come as a shock to our preconceived ideas about British decor, even using the unexpected phrase “Mexican fiesta,” to describe the home’s unexpected ambiance.
And she was right, in the most delightful way. If you’re lucky enough to be invited inside Emily’s private domain, it’s as if life has suddenly gone from black and white into Technicolor. There’s the vibrant Designer’s Guild color palette which extends throughout, layers of handmade ceramics and treasured artifacts, and other idiosyncratic design elements added by Johnson. It’s a house that exudes pure colorful exuberance.
Much like the home she has lovingly created for herself and her son Jake, Johnson is warm and optimistic, emanating an infectious enthusiasm that would convert the staunchest minimalist. And she is clearly not the kind of person that shrinks from a challenge. “When I moved in, I was quite pregnant and it happened to be ten days before lockdown,” she says, recalling the property’s challenging pandemic-era metamorphosis from a fairly staid London house into its current day polychromatic life. “It was definitely a labor of love,” she says, “My son was born in April and in August we started the building work, which involved major structural changes throughout.”
Those same traits - tenacity, creativity and determination - have also been instrumental in the ongoing success of 1882.
When she founded the company in 2011, Johnson, a trained ceramicist herself, had a prescient vision that involved combining traditional English techniques with cutting edge contemporary design. In the years since, the Stoke-on-Trent based company has achieved just that, forging successful collaborations with international artists such as Bruce McLean, Snarkitecture, Barnaby Barford, Philippe Malouin, Benchmark, Faye Toogood, Maria Jeglinska, Martyn Thompson and Pinch.
Johnson is rightfully proud of the work she has produced at 1882,(her collaboration with Max Lamb is now housed in the permanent collection of Arts des Decoratif at the Louvre) and her home also functions as a kind of mini-museum of the company’s greatest hits. Many of these treasures take pride of place on the home’s first floor, which Johnson designed as a large open-plan expanse that would be child friendly and chic.
Sun streams in year-round through a large atrium, giving the large room a distinctly SoCal ambiance. Anchoring the room is a one-of-a-kind dining table and chairs created by friend and cherished collaborator Max Lamb. “Max designed it specifically for the house,” Johnson says, “and it’s just perfect and really lovely. And of course, my toddler loves playing underneath because it looks like a volcano. He’s in seventh heaven.” A Penny vase, created by Martyn Thompson for the company, is another prized piece.
Johnson’s embrace of wonder and play is also evident in the home’s unexpected yet highly specific color scheme, which references the work of iconic Mexican architect Louis Barragan. “After it was all done it became clearer where the influences really came from,” Emily says. “there’s always going to be a Los Angeles influence because of the years I spent there amongst the wonderful Spanish and Mexican architecture and design.”
“Funnily enough, my previous apartment was a slick white box with clean lines and minimal furnishings. When I first painted the door pink, everyone looked at me like I’d lost it,” she remembers, “but I think maybe it was because I was having a baby and I just thought, you know what let's have some fun with this. And once I started, it was just sort of like opening up the floodgates. We had lots of fun with it.”
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