Glass interviews the duo behind London-based design firm 2LG

Joy divisions – Glass interviews the duo behind London-based design firm 2LG about collaboration, loveliness and bringing joy into homes

JORDAN Cluroe and Russell Whitehead – the duo behind 2LG Studio – see themselves first and foremost as creatives. Their work sits right smack on the blurry line between design and interior architecture, and their vibrant colours, whimsical concepts and attractive shapes create spaces quite unlike the  quiet, subtle backdrops we’re used to seeing in design magazines –  they’re events in themselves.

This makes sense when you discover that Cluroe and Whitehead have a background in theatre. For them, their work is “almost like painting in 3D”.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
A kitchen designed by 2LG Studio

How does your background in the performing arts inform your design work?
Whitehead: We were trained in getting into character and I think that is so applicable to design. We love finding out about people and what makes them tick; trying to get into their mindsets. So although [theatre and design] may at first seem quite different as career choices, there are many similarities. Even when we’re working in the studio together, we often talk about the “characters” we’ve met and how we can enhance their lives and bring their stories out. That’s the same process as an actor,  working on a character or a script that you’ve been given.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
By 2LG Studio

How do you tap into the character of a client outside of just simply understanding the “oh okay, they have two kids so they’d need two bedrooms” kind of thing.

Whitehead: We always try to meet with the client in the space that we’re designing for because we feel architecture is hugely important to informing the designs, and we would never design without seeing what the architecture has to offer.

Cluroe: We often get them to take us on a tour of their home so it’s sort of in their words. We try and do as little talking as possible the first time that we meet. We also love to look inside their wardrobe.

Whitehead: Silent cues come from fashion and Jordan, in particular, takes a lot of information in – from the shoes they’re wearing and the colours they’re wearing.

Cluroe: Actually, a lot of our clients tend to be creative people themselves, which is very exciting, but often they lack the confidence to translate their creativity into their own home. I think people in general struggle with the idea of committing to something, so often we are that kind, friendly, forceful hand that guides them.

Whitehead : Enablers, we are definitely enablers. Very often people are much better at defining their personal style in terms of the clothes they wear and they find it hard to apply that same thought process, or confidence, to their interior.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
Design by 2LG Studio

Why do you think that is?
Whitehead: I suppose it’s because we all have a more personal relationship with the clothes that we wear on a daily basis, because we dress ourselves every day.

Cluroe: Also, if you make a mistake with the clothes that you wear, you can change them very quickly. You go,  “OK, maybe I won’t wear that again”, or “I won’t wear that combination of clothes again”. But people are nervous to commit to something on a larger scale because things are slightly more permanent.

Whitehead: There is an instant payoff if you put on a new top—you know how it makes you feel and you can see what it looks like on you. So it’s easier to learn the  cues than perhaps it is with an interior, which may for some people only happen two or three times in their lifetime, maybe more, but it’s not a regular occurrence to re-dress your home.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
Interior by 2LG Studio

Does a particular type of client seek you out because their personalities align with yours, or do they want the 2LG voice to speak through them, for them or to them?
Whitehead: In the beginning we were an unknown entity and we were designing specifically for the client, and our style ego was not in the room. But I suppose the more known our style gets, the more people come to us for it.

Cluroe: I don’t feel like we’re tied into just one style because what we do is so much about other people; our ego is very often left at the door. People come to us because they like our style and they see our portfolio of work. But hopefully with each client the process that we go through is lengthy. It doesn’t happen in 48 hours. We have worked with a lot of our clients for over a year. It’s very much about realising things that they love. Some projects have become more well-known than others.

But if you look at our work, there is quite a variety in styles and the common thread  for us is a kind of architectural approach to the use of colour and material, clean lines, reality, shape, form. We didn’t even realise that we were doing something different with colour until other people told us [laughs].

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
Interior by 2LG Studio

Could you give an example of a space that really exemplifies the voice or the personality of a client?
Whitehead: The Hither Green project, which we did last year. We’re actually working with that client again. Their family has doubled – they’re having two children – and they brought us in to build an extension. Straight off the bat, they were super confident, they were really bold with what they wanted. As a couple, they both had polar opposites.

The really nice thing about that project is that we arrived at a style that was something different for both of them, so that they could both move onto this new phase together. The first time we worked with them was when they had just got married, so rather than create a compromised version of their styles, we created a style for them as a couple.

Cluroe: A lot of people think that in order to have a successful interior, they both should compromise in some way. We always take the approach that neither of them compromises – and that is the sweet spot.

Whitehead: We’re kind of naughty cherry-pickers, aren’t we? We basically take the best bits of our clients’ personal styles, and we go, “What if we put both of them things together?”

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
Interior by 2LG Studio

Your work is super Instagram-able and it taps this current zeitgeist. Where do you stand on social media trends versus just exploring new possibilities for interiors?
Whitehead: We’ve just written a book, Making Living Lovely, about this very thing. And it’s from a perspective of two people that love all the possibilities of Instagram and how small it’s made the world. I think Instagram is a massive enabler. It’s allowed people to be more confident and it’s also a great visual tool in trying to work out what it is that you like.

But inevitably you also get bombarded with imagery and so you end up feeling completely confused and frustrated, not sure which way to turn, so you lose a sense of your attachment to things and your personal style. We wanted to write the book as a kind of way through that.

The book is an attempt to tap back into yourself, your local references and the architecture you actually live in.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
Interior by 2LG Studio

What is also striking about your work is the collaboration between you two. Would you say that collaboration is at the heart of your practice and, if so, what is so important about the process?

Whitehead: It definitely is. It’s inescapable for us because we are working as a duo.

Cluroe: Well, we’re married [laughter].

Whitehead: We’ve had to learn the skills of collaborating with each other. I always say this: working in the theatre industry or working in a theatre community or acting with people in school makes you a better person  because you have to be open to other people’s ideas. You have to listen to each other. And I do think theatre makes the world a better place. Collaboration is something that’s in us, we couldn’t work any other way.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42Interior by 2LG Studio

Your work exudes fun, joy and humour, something that is often missing from a lot of the spaces we live in. What can you tell me about joy and your process?
Cluroe: First of all, that’s such a lovely thing to say – thank you very much. You have no idea how much that means to us. That is what we set out to do. The world can be a miserable, horrible dark place, and we all just want to feel a little bit better, a bit lighter and happier. So joy, in particular, is something that we always strive to create.

Whitehead: When we began this and we were discussing what we wanted to do with our own business, the first things we said were important to us were positivity and creativity. We wanted to be a force for good. That can sound so cheesy and sometimes people attack you for that, strangely, but it’s what we chose to do. It’s amazing how challenging people find the concept of loveliness. I think people are thrown and intimidated by it because they’re, like, “what do you get out of being lovely?” They sort of don’t understand it.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42
Interior by 2LG Studio

2LG stands for “two lovely gays”. What does the word “lovely” mean to you, because I don’t think it’s just an adjective but rather like a motor?
Whitehead: It is. We very much believe that there’s no reason why something lovely has to be seen as gentle or soft, and there’s no reason why gentle or soft have to be seen as inferior to hard and strong.

Joy Division, Regner, architecture piece issue 42Interior by 2LG Studio

by Regner Ramos