Meet Niko Dafkos and Paul Firmin – the duo behind cool-as-cucumber home fragrance brand Earl of East – at their laid-back new build in London
At Home With Earl of East
What’s the story behind your home?
We bought our place in late 2015, and moved in just five weeks after the viewing. It was a bit of a whirlwind, buying a new build wasn’t in our plan – but after searching for almost a year, and with career changes afoot, we just went for it. The area was perfect, and a sale had recently fallen through so the owners were looking for a quick turnaround. We’d been looking for somewhere to renovate, but a new build offered a completely blank canvas that we could add to overtime. Our business (Earl of East) was expanding at the same time, so the lack of essential work required ended up being a godsend.
What was your inspiration for the design?
We have both always loved interiors, and wanted to house the be a reflection of ourselves. The laid-back style of California was a big influence in the interior design and decoration. When our friends from the US come to visit, they often comment on how we’ve created our own little LA here in London.
Do you have any interior brands that you love and always go back to?
We have a real mix of things, many from the brands that we work with. Ferm Living is great for home accessories and furniture, and we’ve built a collection of ceramics from local makers like Lazy Eye as well as from further afield, with brands like Hasami (which is Japanese). That said, many of our most treasured pieces are vintage finds.
What’s your favourite room in your house and why?
During the winter months, it’s definitely the living room. Although it’s not blessed with the best natural light, we worked around that and made it a cosy space for the evening. We recently upgraded our old sofa to an oversized cloud style from Arlo & Jacob – sinking into it at the end of a busy day is a real pleasure.
Does your house in any way reflect your business?
Our home is very connected to Earl of East. We shoot a lot of our own brand imagery in it, and our buying is guided by the things we would love for our own home, or based on our next project. If you know the stores you’ll recognise a very distinct link to the overall aesthetic of our home. Scent also plays a huge role – we always road test our latest products whether it’s a scented candle, bath salts or a room spray.
What’s your best view?
The kitchen doors open out into our garden which is very private and evergreen, with large bamboos, grasses and lots of seating. We designed it to be an extension of the home, and in the summer months we spend a lot of time out there, cooking, eating, and relaxing. It’s very much a sanctuary away from the city – which has been perfect for the past year.
What’s your signature dish – can you share the recipe with us?
Niko is the chef in the house, so we always have a lot of Mediterranean-inspired food like dips, souvlaki, homemade pitta, and salads (also the perfect entertaining food too as it’s simple and shareable). His aubergine dip is his grandmother’s recipe, and the perfect summer side dish:
- 3 aubergines
- Olive oil
- Chilli flakes
- Coriander seeds
- Fresh parsley
- Mint tahini
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil dressing
Slice an aubergine in half lengthways, drizzle with olive oil and season with plenty of salt and selection of spices. Wrap the whole aubergine in foil and bake in an oven (200c) until the flesh is soft and velvety, for around 30 minutes. For a delicious smoky flavour roast over barbecue coals. Drizzle with tahini dressing and top off with fresh herbs. Then serve with flatbread.
Share your top five books with us if you were to start a book club – and why:
- Simple Fare Spring/Summer, by Karen Mordechai – the perfect book for seasonal recipes
- Rebel Ideas, by Matthew Syed – for business guidance
- Another Now, by Yanis Varoufakis – for an alternative world theory
- World of Apartamento, by Omar Sosa and Nacho Alegre – one of our favourite interiors titles
- Why We Make Things & Why it Matters, by Peter Korn – a must-read for anyone thinking about a career change
Share your must-see TV and movie list:
In no particular order: Ozarks, The Crown, Sister Act II, I May Destroy You.
Describe your office space?
We’ve begun to find a rhythm to working from home now. Making time blocks helps to structure the day and increase productivity, and also allows for some quality time at home in the evenings. We’ve also found that working separately helps us. I (Paul) need to have a proper set up in the office, and Niko prefers the kitchen table overlooking the garden, but we come together for Zoom meetings. Storage is key for a home office space and you need a dedicated place for work that you can close off, screen, or easily pack away at the end of the day.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
We get up fairly early and keep the same daily routine. First, we take the dog out for his morning walk to the local park, and make our pilgrimage to the local coffee shop on the way. Then we make breakfast (always eggs of some sort). If we’re both working from home, after that we tend to retreat to different parts of the house to work.
And how do you love to spend your evenings?
An evening walk with Piper the dog, followed by dinner and time on the sofa. Our living room is a work-free zone, so even if we’ve been working late, we’ll still spend some time there after to wind down.
If you were to throw a party at home, what are the key ingredients to make it go with a swing?
Laid-back music, simple, informal food, good company, mood lighting – and of course, great scents.
What gadget could you not live without in your home?
Our Transparent Speaker, not only is it great to look at, but the sound quality is amazing. It plays the first tunes of the day as we get ready, and sends us off to sleep in the evening with a podcast or headspace.
Whose home would you like to be a fly on the wall in and why?
Our recent obsession with The Crown means it would probably have to be one of the royal houses – just to see if it lives up to the screen version!
Has lockdown made you reassess your work and home life balance?
We launched Earl of East while both holding down full-time jobs, so a work-life balance went out of the window a long time ago! Instead, we’ve championed a more integrated approach. The new normal, sans office, has made us appreciate simple things like breakfast at home and time in the garden, and a slowed down pace of life. We definitely appreciate what we have more, which includes being lucky enough to work for ourselves and spend time building our future together.
What makes a house a home?
The people you share it with.