Hum London was born during the first lockdown in 2020 when sisters Ellie and Hermione Gee found themselves moving back home with time on their hands. Fast forward a few months to August 2020 and the sisters launched a collection of nine lampshade designs, all of which are hand-painted by Hermione and can be also made bespoke. To celebrate their first workshop hosted by interiors brand OKA using Edward Bulmer Natural Paint, we talk to Ellie and Hermione about their growing business and plans for the future.
Please tell us how Hum London came about?
Our journey into starting a business was quite accidental. Looking for ways to spruce up my flat, I painted a pair of old lampshades that were knocking around at home – a fun way of passing a lockdown weekend. The end result exceeded my expectations, so Ellie and I soon began thinking about other designs and then wondered if other people might like them too.
The first lampshade was painted with watercolour, which we knew wouldn’t stand the test of time. We really wanted to create something that could be treasured for a long time, so we went down a wormhole looking into paints that would be as durable as they are beautiful.
The next step was finding a lampshade supplier. Thanks to the pandemic, this bit took a really long time but we are so happy to now be working with a great UK-based lampshade maker.
What were you both doing before?
E: At the time of launching Hum, I was working part-time at Common Objective – a tech platform a bit like Linkedin which caters for fashion professionals who are interested in sustainability. I’m now at CO full time, so my Hum time is limited to evenings and weekends but we make it work!
H: It’s a bit of a long story but before Hum, I’d been really quite ill as a student and ended up having emergency surgery on my stomach and my bad luck stretched to getting hit by a drunk driver 5 months later which sadly put an end to my university studies. After a year off I then interned at Studio Peake just before lockdown which I really loved and it opened my eyes to the world of interior design. So Hum has been an amazing opportunity for me to return to my design roots and get back on my feet.
You both have a fashion/design background – what designers inspire you?
We are very inspired by women who have created successful brands like Matilda Goad whose products are amazing and Barlow & Barlow who create colourful and patterned interiors. We are also inspired by fashion and interior brands that champion craftsmanship such as Soane, Alice Temperley and Studio Ashby (below).
Apart from lampshades, what other piece of homeware would you also like to sell?
Excitingly, we are actually launching a new product later this year which is a little foray into tablescaping… We would also love to be selling lamp bases by now but it’s proving quite tricky.
You hand paint all the lampshades. Did you have much experience of doing this beforehand?
E: The design process involves lots of water colour sketches on paper which we do together, but when it comes to painting the lampshades this is very much Hermione’s area of expertise!
H: I did a lot of art and textiles throughout school and studied at Parsons School of Design during my foundation year, so I’ve always been into painting and designing, although painting lampshades was new to me!
Photograph by Mike Garlick
Did Social Media play a big part in the growth of your company?
Definitely – we started as a lockdown project and didn’t have a website for a long time, so Instagram was our main outlet for all things Hum London. It’s also been a great way of connecting with people to work and collaborate with, and also a place for lots of support for other small businesses. It definitely has been a learning curve as neither of us had any experience of creating a brand through social media – it can easily become very time consuming if you let it!
Which part of London do you live in and why?
E: Ellie lives in Brixton and I’ve just moved to Clapham with a couple of friends – I need to do some exploring but it’s perfect for me with good rail links to get back to my studio.
Where are your favourite places to eat, drink and shop?
Eating and drinking: Lina Stores never gets boring. For a treat, Andrew Edmunds or Trullo.
Shopping: nothing better than finding second hand and antique home stuff or browsing in stores like Liberty. ChoosingKeeping is so dreamy for stationery.
Which are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow?
We really enjoy following @Moro Dabron – a candle brand who post the most beautiful photos.
We’re both a sucker for any home reno account so are eagerly following @LucyWilliams’ home and loved watching @LouiseRoe’s new house glow up too. We recently helped our mum to design her new house, and found the instagram account called @InSitu so helpful to see wallpapers and fabrics in real rooms. We also like our sister’s garden design account, @tabijgee_gardens
What do you hope to achieve in 2022?
H: I would love to be able to move my studio back to London! In the early days I was working from my flat which I quickly grew out of (lampshades actually take up so much space!), so I now have a studio at my mum’s house during the week and live in London the rest of the time – sort of a reverse commute. So I hope we can grow the business enough in 2022 to set up a studio in London.
Is there anybody/a company that you would like to collaborate with?
We would love to collaborate with other businesses that are also focused on slowly produced homeware as there is something so special about individually made pieces. On the other end of the spectrum, it would be amazing to do a collaboration with a fashion brand like Rixo – obviously this is a massive pipe dream though!
Tickets to the Hum London/OKA workshops on 7th and 8th October cost £50 including your own hand-painted lampshade, tote bag, coffee and cake and can be bought here. (The above lamp is a Hum London lampshade and an OKA lamp base.)