Magazines in their multitude: an interview with our Content Manager
“When one or both of us have had a bad day, we dance. We’ve had a lot of fun in this little space.”
It’s a real gift to meet people whose passion beams out of them. And Jess, Swoon’s Content and Social Media Manager, is the epitome of passionate – her joie de vivre, thirst for fun and obsession with magazines (definitely the magazines) radiates out of her like an aura. For Jess, life is a celebration.
Such energy is visible as soon as we step over the threshold of the South East London house she shares with her husband. Everything in their home is an adventure – a chance to delve into her obsession and step into her past. And everything has a memory attached to it – including their Graham & Green sofa, replacing a sofa bed which got too tatty. From dancing. All that dancing.
I’m keen to start off by exploring the whole house, but something tells me I won’t be getting up for a while. The worn green Chesterfield I’ve settled into with my notepad is hard to walk away from.
This armchair is gorgeous! Where did you find it?
Yes! This was a find on eBay – I like to have a mixture of old and new things. I like the feeling of repurposing things that are old – it feels less wasteful.
Eventually, I tear myself away from its gorgeously buttoned back and we start to explore all corners of this adorable abode. Jess takes us to a special place – one of two sanctuary spots she’s carved out for pursuing her passion.
Is this your writing spot?
It is indeed. I created this little working area with my Watts desk when I became a freelancer – it’s got a really nice feel to it and I’m really productive here. My husband bought me this vintage typewriter for one of my birthdays and it’s always taken pride of place here.
The curated bits and pieces she has on show really lets Jess’ warm personality and eye for design shine through. But I’m keen to know a bit more about her background – what made her the woman she is today. I decide to dig deep.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in South East London in a little three-bedroom terraced house. It was a bit of a hood but my mum’s still there and they’re now building the Crossrail there. I mean, it’s still a hood but it still feels like home.
What was your childhood home like?
Cosy! It’s a terraced house built in 1930s or 40s I think. My mum was always really good at making it feel homely and welcoming. My dad is a musician so we always had instruments around and music playing. My mum worked as a secretary in the city but she also somehow always managed to find time to make proper home-cooked dinners so the house always smelled delicious, too.
That’s lovely! She sounds so dedicated. What’s your first memory of home?
There are so many! Probably playing in the back garden with my brother or eating dinner around the table with my family. I was much more mischievous than my brother and I remember him convincing me to lay my fork on my plate and balance food on the end before bashing the other end to make the food fly in the air. My mum wasn’t very impressed but we thought it was hilarious.
It’s pretty funny! What is something you really love about your current home?
The first thing I noticed was the chaos of the pans hanging in the corner of the kitchen. I loved that – it immediately felt like a home. But I love the light in this house – it’s south-facing, so it gets beautiful light all day and the spaces feel bright and airy.
What is your most memorable moment in your current home?
Dancing in the living room. When one or both of us have had a bad day, we dance. We’ve had a lot of fun in this little space.
And their little space indeed feels like it’s seen a lot of laughter, life and joy. I feel like I’m in the best kind of museum. Every object speaks to a passion or a memory – from a love of cooking (cookbooks abound) to a school magazine her mum coincidentally contributed to, showing old photos from the area now inhabited by this happy, dancing couple.
What’s the best thing about living here?
The community. My mum grew up around here and my grandparents lived here so it really feels like home. We have lots of friends nearby but also the local community is just the best. People are so lovely and there are places we go to eat where people know our names and hug us. It’s rare to find that in London, I think.
What’s the most sentimental thing you own?
My dad is obsessed with photography and he gave me a vintage Rolleiflex camera when I was younger. I don’t have it here as I’m so scared of damaging it. I also have a pendant from my mum that I wear every day – it was given to her on her 21st birthday. And photos! Old photos are my treasure.
Feeling nosy, I glance around, seeking out an old photo of a young Jess that I can tease her about back in the office. But instead, my eyes fall on something a bit more unusual: the weirdest ever spelling of coriander.
Oh! This was a picture taken of an answer sheet of one of my old colleagues at a Christmas party game. We were tasked to jot down as many herb names as possible in 30 seconds and she misspelt some of them because she was rushing. We found it really funny so when I left that job, she made a poster out of it for me and wrote a lovely message on the back.
It’s yet another memory made object – a visible reminder for Jess of her lasting friendships and some good tyhmes.
It comes as no surprise, though, that Jess forged such strong bonds with previous colleagues – she’s a true friend to many at Swoon.
We talk more about Jess’ working life and it becomes clear that she’s got her priorities totally straight:
Ferociously pursuing something I love doing rather than money or a title has been the biggest career challenge for me. It was really hard jumping sideways and backwards when lots of my friends were progressing in job title, etc., but I’m so happy I did it.
We’re very happy, too. And as we move around the space, we discover more allusions to Jess’ life as a writer and content specialist – a piece for the portfolio:
This is really sentimental. It was the first thing I ever had published in print for Livingetc. We went to stay at a place called the Wild Rabbit and I wrote a review of it. It was just magical. Once it was printed, my husband got hold of a copy and framed it for me to keep.
You seem to have so many interests. What is your ultimate obsession?
Magazines, books, notebooks. Give me all the paper products! Even when I was little, I’d sit for hours making little books, buried in pens and paper and buying new stationery for going back to school was my favourite thing. Now I buy a notebook everywhere I travel to and have a stack of them that are yet to be written in.
A fact that I was able to verify as soon as I stepped into the house. It’s filled to the brim with stacks of books and magazines – the perfect recipe for a rainy day. One such mini stack takes pride of place atop a small chair – a really really cute, small chair. “This is my husband’s cello chair from when he was learning to play the cello as a child. I absolutely adore it”, Jess explains.
A content manager and a cellist – I’m starting to see why their interior is so charmingly creative. I also can’t help but be drawn to a bookshelf taken up almost entirely by magazines.
That’s quite the magazine collection, Jess!
Ha, yes! I still subscribe to Porter, Conde Nast Traveller, Elle Decoration and Livingetc and have to stop myself from subscribing to more. I’ve always loved them and have had to narrow down my collection. One of my favourite things to do on my lunch break is to go to the Tate Modern and flick through the magazines in the bookshop. I’m weird, I know!
A true obsession – we approve. And are there three particular things you can’t live without?
It’s so hard to narrow down to three but I’ll try. First would be Yoga – it keeps me sane. Second would have to be paper (magazines, books, places to write – I realise I’m trying to shoehorn more in here) and last would probably be mountains. I love mountain holidays – there’s just nothing like the air and headspace you get there. I have a dream of escaping to live amongst the mountains one day.
As our interview draws to a close, I’d like to know where Jess gets her relentless optimism – what’s her driving force?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum has always said: “You can have anything you want if you put your mind to it.”
Jess’ mum seems to have a special place in her heart and her home – and it’s little wonder, given the stellar advice she dishes out to her daughter. And if pursuing a passion and building a beautiful home is anything to go by, it seems Jess really has put her mind to it.
We head out, back to the office, refreshed and with a renewed energy to follow our own dreams. Jess – you’re an inspiration. Now, when can we come back for dinner?
Get to know our other spectacular humans and their homes here.