‘I call it Afro-Aristo’: the reinvention of a Georgian worker’s cottage

My interiors look was driven by a desire to celebrate our family’s dual Nigerian and Caribbean heritage,” says Kemi Lawson. Her new home is set in a Grade II-listed Georgian worker’s cottage on the northern edges of London. It was formerly a bakery providing goods to the estate of the Duke of Chandos and was built around 1750. Lawson lives here with her husband and daughters, and also runs her business from here – a home and lifestyle goods store, The Cornrow, a curated selection of items “tailored to a modern Black aesthetic”.

When the family bought the house, it had “good bones”, but was in need of an interior refresh. Lawson employed her passion for antiques and contemporary design celebrating African and Caribbean culture, styling it in a way that felt joyful and comfortable, but also confident and life-affirming. “I have two daughters,” Lawson says, “so I wanted to fill my home with positive representations of Blackness and Black womanhood.”

Inspiration came from a number of different sources, such as the work of interior designers Kit Kemp, Beata Heuman and Alidad. African Interiors, a book published by Taschen, highlighting designs from across the continent, was another source of inspiration. Lawson admires the typical West Indian front-room aesthetic, seen in her own grandmother’s house, as well as the Nigerian countryside style of her husband’s grandmother’s home, and Devon House, the 19th-century home of the first Black millionaire in Jamaica. Discussions with Jonathan Farrer of JF Design Assist also helped give Lawson valuable insights into the interior design process and supported her in confidently fleshing out her vision.

“I call my main concept ‘Afro-Aristo’. This is because a lot of the time an African aesthetic is rustic, safari chic and rural village scenes, whereas I wanted my interpretation to be synonymous with luxury, high-end interiors, because we have a right to claim these kinds of spaces, too,” says Lawson.

“Definitely no large pictures of elephants in the wilderness here.”

The design features a wealth of items that Lawson collected during her travels and shopping trips, from family heirlooms and eBay finds to auction purchases. Seagrass wallpaper in the living room is matched by custom-made sofas in fabric upholstery, and sisal and exposed timber plank flooring. There is an emphasis on natural materials and textures throughout, with colour accents adding a playful touch in places, such as the bright green bespoke kitchen cabinetry.

The ground level contains living spaces, a playroom and a guest bedroom. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms and a home office. Most rooms are ornately decorated. In comparison, the master bedroom stands out, feeling almost minimalist, simply made up of a bed and mural wallpaper that gives the impression of sleeping among the clouds. It is also Lawson’s favourite part of the house, for its dreaminess and tranquillity.

At the same time, the protected building’s historical character remains evident throughout. There are wooden beams, working fireplaces, exposed original brickwork and a selection of “random teeny windows, which simply wouldn’t be made in a modern house”, adds Lawson. It all comes together in a richly layered home that transcends time.

Extracted from House London by Ellie Stathaki and Anna Stathaki (Frances Lincoln, £35). Buy a copy for £30.45 from

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A hedonist with a great passion for food. I baked my first biscuit at the age of five, since then I cook every day and get real pleasure from it. I am fond of intellectual games, with great interest I study scientific works on history and medicine and at the same time I follow pop culture, fashion and beauty trends.

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  1. Last year I was in Ibiza, and there I met a man whose style of presentation was very similar to yours. But, unfortunately, that person is very far from the Internet.

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