Walk into Becky Okell and Huw Thomas’s flat and you’ll find a living space-meets-studio-meets office (and depending on the time of year, a lot of jackets).
The couple, who are founders of small batch brand Paynter Jacket Co, are used to making space for both work and relaxing in their home, especially after a lockdown and quarantine together.
With our shared ethos of quality manufacturing in Portugal, we were excited to hop into (virtual) bed with Becky and Huw and find out more about their bedtime rituals, tips on getting out of the office-mindset and why they love their space so much.
What’s it like working with your partner? Are there any rules you’ve had to put in place to separate work and home?
B: I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but for us it’s just great. We’re both very self-motivated and love what we do everyday. It hasn’t always been this way though.
When we started Paynter, we lived 100+ miles apart and both worked full-time so we set up the business long distance, on evenings and weekends. It took over a year of working at it and making sure things were working well before we both jumped in full-time.
If we’d gone in too soon, not only would it have been hard financially, we wouldn’t have had full enough roles, or known what we were good at. Taking the time to get to know ourselves and each other within the business helped a lot.
Becky and Huw at Paynter's Mill in Portugal
What have you learned over this period of lockdown living in a flat that’s also an office and makeshift photography studio?
We’ve always worked from home and done everything from photography to shipping from our rented flat here in London, so our learnings have probably been about getting outside whenever we can!
Whenever we want to chew over an idea, work out a problem that needs fixing or if we’re feeling flat, we go for a walk up the canal and back. We’ve got a 100% success rate of feeling better after some fresh air and time away from the office, and it’s almost always where the best ideas begin.
While we’ve been in lockdown (part 1, and now bracing ourselves for part 2) we’ve tried to keep work and home separate in where they take place in our home. We’re very lucky to have a second bedroom that’s our full-time office so we can close the door at night. Obviously, conversation follows us wherever we are, but just closing the door and lighting an incense stick really helps the workday feel like it has an end point.
Becky and Huw's home in London
As small-business founders (like Bedfolk!) you must be pretty busy most of the time – what does a day-off-work look like versus a normal work day? How do you relax and step away from the office?
A day-off will almost always involve exercise. Probably a run into Victoria Park, a coffee from Violet Bakery; a game of ping pong on the table in London Fields. Obviously seeing friends was a huge part of our weekends so we can’t wait to have people over for dinner again!
This lockdown Huw has been learning film photography, with help from Jim Marsden who shoots all our Paynter campaigns. On the weekends he loves walking into the city when it’s empty and learning film photography against an incredible backdrop of old and new architecture.
Becky and Huw sleep in Linen in Ink
Who is the bigger homebody out of you both?
We’re both as bad as each other!
Which part of your home are we most likely to find you chilling out in?
Definitely our living room. We’ve got stacks of books in front of the window which are a constant invitation to delve into if we find ourselves without a plan.
Linen in Ink - effortlessly stylish & irresistibly soft
What’s the best thing about your space and why?
The location and the windows. We’re only renting here, but we were lucky to find a great place that came up during the first lockdown. We viewed it on Zoom and the first time we saw inside was when we got the keys. Luckily we love it. It’s an old school with big windows so there’s tonnes of light and it’s very quiet, which is unusual for Hackney.
Pair of ears by artist Lucy Page
What makes you feel most at home?
It’s got to be the objects associated with memories. They’re not expensive things necessarily, but they all have their place. For example, an incredible pair of ears by a brilliant new artist Lucy Page, an old ornate octagonal Indian table that I rescued from a car-boot sale, or my framed Oyster card signed by Sir Paul Smith from student days!
Becky and Huw's Lie In List
Just Kids - Patti Smith
My Name is Why - Lemn Sissay
Elinor Oliphant is completely fine -
The War of Art - Steven Pressfield
Who Cares Wins - Lily Cole
Do Photo - Andrew Paynter
Luke Sital-Singh - Call Me When You Land
Everything on The Modern House’s YouTube channel
My guilty pleasure: Ambulance on iPlayer