Dream jobs and decorating: at home with Annie Aveyard
It’s a bleak winter morning when we nip up to north London for a sneak peek around Annie Ayevard’s work-in-progress home. Our Head of Finance bought the two-bedroom Victorian house next to the Walthamstow Wetlands with her partner Tom Revill, who sells reclaimed wood shelves and industrial hardware on etsy (check out ANDCRAFTEDFurniture), in the summer and together, the pair have spent much of their spare time gradually decorating each room. “We really do enjoy DIY,” says Annie whose next project is tackling the bathroom and dining room. “It’s not just a case of getting it done so we like the way the house is. We stick some music on, get all the tools out and do the work ourselves.”
Born in Yorkshire, Annie studied maths at Leeds University before moving down to Brixton with a group of friends. Fast forward four years and she purchased her first flat in Walthamstow. “I knew I wanted to buy somewhere and couldn’t afford south of the river,” she explains, describing home as somewhere “you can be yourself with no expectations”. And while she doesn’t see herself living in London forever, right now she is happily settled in the capital. “I think we’ll eventually end up heading back to Yorkshire but not yet. Swoon is what keeps me here: I’m work obsessed.” Always intrigued to understand what makes someone tick, we settle down with a cup of coffee in the cosy living room with Annie and her rescue cat Ellie, to hear more.
What led you to working at Swoon?
I’ve always liked the idea of a product that I can see and touch so after I qualified as an accountant I went to work in the finance team at McDonalds for three years. I used to go to meetings about chicken nuggets.
We weren’t expecting that! Fast food to furniture, that’s quite a change….
I guess I got the idea in my head to move to a smaller growth business because of Tom who has always been an entrepreneur. When he finished university he set up a business with two friends selling fudge at festivals and food fairs, and they made a real go of it for two years. I wanted to meet him halfway and work somewhere with more entrepreneurial spirit but at the same time, still has quite a lot of structure. Swoon is perfect because the company is pretty established but still founder led.
Have you and Tom ever thought about going into business together?
I would like to take everything I’ve learned and maybe one day, start a business with Tom because I think that would be the only way I could love what I do anymore than I do already – it’s just coming up with the right idea. Looking at what Brian and Debbie, the co-founders of the company, have achieved has shown me that you can literally do anything you want if you try.
When you’re not working, how do you relax?
I struggle with relaxing but yoga definitely helps. I love doing a really hardcore yoga class on Sunday afternoon at East of Eden, a studio in Walthamstow, then coming home and having a bath. That’s when I finally feel relaxed. I used to say, as soon as we move to the house I’m going to do yoga at home because we’ll have more space but now we’ve got our things in, we don’t seem to. I did yoga in the bathroom the other day which is ridiculous.
That’s the great thing about yoga – all you need is a mat. Do you do any other classes?
Growing up I went to ballet and I’ve continued that on and off since living in London (my plan B would have been performing in musicals or a ballerina). I was an only child so I think my parents tried to keep me busy and I also did piano lessons, flute lesson and orchestra. I quit all of my instruments when I was 16 because I wanted to get a Saturday hairdressers job. People always say, you’ll regret it if you give up, and it’s true: I wish I could play the piano now.
I also wish I’d explored singing more. As a child when I sang extracts from musicals in performing arts, I was always part of a chorus. If I was ever asked to sing on my own I would freak out but I wish that I had just done it. I’m always googling acapella groups and musical theatre groups but I never quite get over the line with it.
What’s living in Walthamstow like?
It’s really nice having the wetlands nearby: we’ve been for a couple of walks around there and you don’t feel like you’re in London. It’s good for running as well. A group of us did a Swoon 10k for charity and I did a few runs on the Wetlands to practise.
The area is creative, especially around Blackhorse Road, where there’s the Blackhorse Workshop, a public access wood and metal workshop. Their cafe does a really good breakfast stack with hash browns, avocado and eggs.
In terms of design, is there any style in particular that you’re drawn to?
Since I was a child, I’ve always liked Victorian details and antiques. When I was 10 I was given £50 for my birthday and said to my mum, I want to buy an antique. She took me to an antiques fair and I chose a gold brooch with an amethyst in the middle. I remember saying at the time that I was going to keep it forever and that it would go up in value. My mum and I also used to play our own version of the television programme Antiques Roadshow, where I would pick up an ordinary vase say, and describe it as a 12th century vase with ribbed detail and she’d tell me what it was worth.
That sounds like a fun childhood game. Antiques aside, you also mentioned that you’ll soon be looking for more artwork for the walls. Any artists in mind?
The thing with artwork is that you can’t go and buy it all in one go; you’ve got to be patient and see what you see. I’m thinking of commissioning an artist called Alex May Hughes to make a piece: she paints on the reverse of glass with gold leaf.
Ooh, we’ll have to look her up on Instagram. What’s your favourite room in the house?
I like hanging out in the living room because it’s finished but it will probably end up being the dining room. Tom really likes to cook so I can sit at the dining table and chat while he makes dinner.
Does Tom have a signature dish?
Tom makes a good curry. We like Indian food a lot and went to Kerala last year, which was pretty nuts. We started out visiting the tea plantations and hill stations and ended up in this surf town called Varkala but we were there on the edge of the monsoon season so it rained lots.
Finally, we can’t leave without asking about Ellie the cat…..
I had a cat until I was about seven years old but thought I was allergic. We started looking at all these expensive hypoallergenic cats but then decided to go to the cat rescue centre anyway. My eyes were streaming and I said to Tom, don’t let the lady see because she won’t let us have one. Ellie was so tiny and terrified, in the corner of a pen, but she came to sit next to me. When we bought her home, she hid in her box for about a month until she started to trust us. She has changed my life: having a cat is amazing and really mindful. She helps me to take a minute to be present and I really like that.
Charmed by such a life-affirming happy tale and with a mental note to visit the Wetlands very soon, we reluctantly head back outside towards the hubbub of central London.