Curiouser and curiouser…

We love new homeware brands and this one has the perfect amount of quirk! The Curious Department is new to the interiors scene and is perfect for fans of botanicals, bugs and beetles. We spent 5 minutes catching up with Chris, one half of the the design duo behind the department, finding out what it’s all about…

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Chris and Ross, founders of The Curious Department

Many will be curious about The Curious Department, tell us what it’s all about…

The idea (and name) for The Curious Department came from Ross a number of years ago when he purchased his first home in Borough, eccentrically decorated it, and filled his very own “cabinet of curiosities” with quirky antiques and decorative objects he had collected over the years.

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Once he blew through his budget on the basics (ie. an essential set of 1970s Zevvi chairs and a Romeo Rega coffee table) he realised there was a gap in the market for items that suited his aesthetic, and weren’t going to bankrupt him. Truth is, most homewares in his price range were mass produced and often lacked the charm and intrigue he had envisioned.

I had a similar journey when I mortgaged myself into oblivion for my first house in East London, and found it difficult to find affordable items to indulge in my own aesthetic quirks… so when Ross and I met last year we decided to found The Curious Department and set off designing our own range of homewares and affordable art!

There’s a lot of  interior mediocrity and design blandness out there, all neat and flatpacked. We really want to make it OK to embrace the eccentricity of clutter, pattern clashes and individuality. That’s why we only make limited runs of our prints and artwork, so everyone buying can feel a sense of discovery and individuality for themselves.

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“We really want to make it OK to embrace the eccentricity of clutter, pattern clashes and individuality.”

Have you always worked in design? What are your backgrounds?

Ross went to art school and graduated in Visual Communications. He’s worked in Advertising for about 10 years now, working across fashion & luxury brands as a Creative Director. He is a big believer in big ideas and places huge value of concepts and creative positionings. I think that shows with our product, everything has a story behind it, whether it’s playful twist, or a story of transformation there’s always a lot of cognitive thinking in the background.

I have an online marketing background, and recently held a senior position in a large global entertainment company. What I bring to the party is a keen and critical eye for detail, and an “everyman” sensibility that reigns in some of Ross’ more daring creative flourishes, to ensure our range of products remains commercially attractive and accessible. I guess I’m the killjoy that makes sure that at the end of the day, not only do we have a fun and collaborative project, but also a strong business.

What does a typical day look like for you both?

A typical day looks like an entire week mixed into one with sprinklings of butterflies, gold foil, and design fairs along the way. The Curious Department started as a side project, but as things gathered momentum and we found our passion it has become a full time commitment for us both.

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I mostly crack on with the logistical duties like contacting our suppliers and retailers, fulfilling orders and handling The Curious Apartment enquiries/ bookings, whilst Ross is toiling over anything requiring Photoshop or InDesign, but mostly designing our next collections. Usually all this happens whilst Great British Bake Off (poor Val!) or Grand Designs is on in the background. Although we work separately we are both very opinionated and know what we like, so we tend to call upon each other wherever a second opinion is required.

Poor Val indeed, bless her!

Anyway, your first collection, Metamorphosis, features butterflies, bugs and beetles. What inspired the collection?

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Ross and I bring completely different views and perspectives to The Curious Department, but one of our converging tastes is our love and appreciation for nature; we’re both fascinated by transformations in nature, like the butterfly metamorphosis (hence the name). But we also wanted to explore how some perceive insects to be “gross” or “ugly”, and so we wanted to see how we could transform them into unexpected mesmerising objects of beauty.

“We’re both fascinated by transformations in nature, like the butterfly metamorphosis”

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What’s your favourite piece in the collection?

Our favourite is the ‘Insect Mandala’ framed print. It’s a design that really catches the eye and invokes intrigue, but the detachment and flat imagery of the bugs allows the viewer to respect and admire the form and complexities of the creepy crawlies without being disgusted. And of course, in nature, the circular form is one we associate with life and vitality (ie. Sun, moon, etc) and the use of gold evokes luxury and glamour, and all these hidden layers and depth brings out an unexpected appreciation from all types of people. For us it’s just a gorgeous and complex piece that really titillates our curious mind, which is why we are expanding the design onto other items like our forthcoming bone china set.

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It really is gorgeous. Do you have a design hero that inspires these designs?

Always a tricky question to answer because the world is full of such great minds, we could easily name a classic furniture designer a pioneer or a household name, but to be honest it isn’t those people that truly excite us. We visited Top Drawer design fair last week and it’s always amazing to see where people place their passions and what they produce and the journey they have taken to give birth to their products. I suppose anyone who carves their own path, who does something unique, surprising or unexpected is our design hero, if there’s a splash of gold in there too that helps!

Like two magpies!

What’s next in store for The Curious Department? Can you give us an insight into collection number two?

Sure… so our most immediate next step will be to extend The Metamorphosis Collection across a wider and more diverse range of homewares- we’ve had so many requests for cushions, lampshades and even jewellery, and we’d love to get into lighting and furniture too, so if there are any designers and makers out there who’d love to collaborate, just get in touch!

We have also already been designing for our next two collections too, which will still find their inspiration in the natural world but in a very different way to Metamorphosis, injecting a lot more colour, but still keeping with our ethos to be unique, curious and affordable, but with a splash of luxury!

We’ll also escalate our idea of “The Curious Apartment”, which serves as both a fully functional central London short term rental for business travellers, out of towners and tourists, but is also a conceptual “apartment shop”, where our prints, artwork and homewares are on display and purchasable. Essentially where our guests are inspired by our quirky aesthetic and then allowed to “shop the look”.  We like to think that we’ll be turning lots of mediocre but functional Airbnb and short term rental properties into interesting and “curious” spaces. The Apartment is already up and running (it was fully booked this summer!) but we want to welcome other emerging stylists, designers and makers to feature their products in the Apartment too, and maybe even branch out to more properties across the city/ country/ world!


It all sounds fantastic and really exciting, don’t you think? A big thank you to Chris and Ross for taking the time to chat with us. We can’t wait to see more! 

If you want to treat yourself to a few curiosities of your own, click here.

David & Mark x

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