All Is Calm

The Balham home of Ayshea McCormack, founder of The Small Home, is a masterclass in elegant understatement and never more so than at Christmas, discovers Jessica Jonzen

This Christmas, Ayshea McCormack and her family are breaking with tradition and doing something they’ve never done before. They’re spending it at home, on their own. ‘We’re going to sit in front of the fire opening presents, eat nice food and watch Christmas movies,’ Ayshea says. ‘We’re excited about it as it’s the first time we’ve done it. Normally we do lots of family things but I think it will be nice for us to be at home and enjoy being together.’

With such a beautiful home, it’s not surprising that Ayshea, her husband, Ben, and their daughters, Amelie, six, and Maggie, four, want to wake up there on Christmas morning. As the founder of The Small Home, an independent interiors, lifestyle and clothing website with a range of beautifully curated pieces made by craftspeople, Ayshea has a keen eye for detail and relaxed, understated style, which spills over in to the way she approaches her festive decorating.

‘I love surrounding myself with nature so, as well as the Christmas tree, I like to fill the house with as much scented greenery as possible because it smells so amazing,’ she says. ‘I buy lots of vintage handmade decorations, which I put around the house, and we burn beeswax candles that I sell on the website and have a lovely, warm scent. I light the fire and that’s my Christmas decorating done.’

Having worked as a fashion buyer for 20 years, and now sourcing products for her own business, Ayshea has an instinct for what will work in her home. ‘The aesthetic is very important to me; The Small Home and our home is very much the same thing really,’ she says.

Ayshea decided to set up the business after she had Maggie. ‘I knew that I wasn’t going to go back to the very demanding world that I came from and I wanted to do something different. Running your own business is very demanding, of course, but I wanted flexibility for the sake of my children,’ she says.

The Small Home is quietly establishing itself as a go-to site for unique homeware and fashion, and the brand’s Polish moccasins are selling like proverbial hot cakes. ‘I’ve only really been giving the business my full focus for a year, and so I feel very lucky to have a young business that’s thriving,’ says Ayshea. ‘It’s also wonderful to be able to work from home so I can be present for the girls.’

When she and her husband first saw their elegant Victorian terrace in the desirable Nightingale Triangle area in Balham back in 2005, it was one of the only houses in the area that hadn’t had all of its original features ripped out. ‘It was also unconverted, which was really important to me as I wanted a blank canvas so that we could create our own spaces,’ she says.

At the time, Ayshea was the buying director for a high street retailer and had little time to dedicate to the house. ‘The house was beautiful as it was and so we just painted it,’ she says. The couple did allow themselves some time to go furniture shopping though. The summer after they bought the house, they hired a white van and took it to their second home in the Bordeaux region of France. They drove to Paris visiting all the brocantes and flea markets along the way, filling the van with antique mirrors and chandeliers and the old armoire, which found a home in their sitting room. ‘It weighs an absolute tonne; we’ve not moved it since we brought it home, not even to decorate!’ she says.

After waiting 10 years for it, Ayshea finally got her dream kitchen when they did the extension two years ago. ‘After so long thinking about it, I knew exactly how I wanted it to look and what I wanted from the space,’ she says. Her architect drew up the specifications, the couple bought a kitchen carcass from IKEA and their carpenter made the fronts and painted them in Raven by Paint & Paper Library. ‘It’s like having a bespoke kitchen, only cheaper,’ says Ayshea.

The new part of the house has a deliberately different feel to the rest of the house. ‘I really hate remodels being made to look old – I think you have to embrace new modern design,’ says Ayshea. Exposed joists and steels and a concrete floor lend an industrial feel, softened with an oak counter top on the island. ‘It kind of modernises the quite traditional front of the house by having a very nice clean, light space at the back of the house. It’s the heart of our home and we all spend most of our time in it,’ says Ayshea.

She’s not planning to spend all day at the stove on Christmas Day, however. ‘I have young children who won’t be the most adventurous on the food front. We’ll probably do a turkey and keep it simple,’ she says. ‘We really like nice red wine so we’ll have a bottle of red and put our feet up, because we both need it.’ Wearing their Small Home moccasins too, no doubt.

Photography by Jon Aaron Green. Styled by Hannah Cork. With thanks to Ayshea McCormack

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