Homes: Behind the scenes with Bury's House of Bo
“For me, design is storytelling; to bring the home to life by creating a story.” Jenny Alton, founder of new Bury St Edmunds interior design brand House of Bo, is creating spaces which are as beautiful to live in as look at, as she tells Alice Ryan
In the beginning
I have always had a passion for design, whether that be fashion or interiors, art or architecture - it all draws me in and makes me buzz.
I grew up on the west coast of Sweden. Lysekil, my hometown, is a gem definitely worth visiting in the summer: stunning pink cliffs surrounded by the bluest of oceans.
I studied fashion design in Sweden for three years, then spent a year in London studying Art & Design. I always knew my heart was in design, in one way or another.
For a few years I travelled with my eyes set on furthering my design in Denmark. Denmark didn’t happen. . . But children with my English husband happened!
In 2005 I moved to Bury St Edmunds. My plans took a different shape and, whilst on mummy duty, I refurbished a couple of houses to both make a living and satisfy my creative side - plus it taught me tons.
When the children started school, I worked in the upstairs boutique at Javelin in Bury St Edmunds. I also had the pleasure of being Javelin’s window dresser - a job which I still do and love! I really enjoyed styling the lovely customers at Javelin, but wanted to pursue my love of interiors.
I had this idea of creating something that would bring beauty and style to your home; to give your home that little bit extra, so it makes you FEEL that little bit extra! The result is House of Bo - ‘Bo’ is my nickname and also means living in Swedish.
Taking the leap
As risky as it may seem to have started an interior business during the pandemic, I also think that people are more appreciative of - and see the importance of - their home environment now; having spent so much more time at home both working and living, they realise that the home is worth investing in 100%. Not just as a financial investment, but an investment into wellbeing and quality of life.
I love interiors that show personality, rather than having that ‘showhome’ type feel. I like to add an edge and, if I can, mix in vintage design pieces. I love playing with that mix of old and new but without it looking antique-y or dated. I have a contemporary style so it has to be a new take and look current.
I steer away from going down the route of a design being dictated by a trend, as trends come and go. I believe it is far better to dig a bit deeper and explore different styles incorporated within the bigger scheme. Interiors are there to enjoy, to make us feel good and give a sense of satisfaction, and also reflect who we are.
For me, design is storytelling. To bring the home to life by creating a story through colour, textures, artwork, furniture, decorative and functional objects, patterns and forms that are full of beauty, adventure and soul - that is what design is about!
When working on a project I am always led by the client, but I aim to take their personal style and preferences to the next level through my eyes and filter. My job is to offer ‘the dream’ the client didn’t see but will hopefully love.
Art of design
I get inspired by all sorts: nature, a piece of furniture or clothing, art - always art! In my view, art is what brings a space together. There are different ways of including art; it doesn’t always mean a picture on a wall. A wall mural, wallpaper, textiles, a sculptural piece of furniture or light fitting can make a huge impression.
I feel today we get inspired by others all the time: hello Instagram and Pinterest! We consciously or subconsciously ‘borrow’ and/or grow ideas born out of others.
A favourite designer currently has to be the ‘California dreaming’ Kelly Wearstler. I admire her mix of old and new and bold interior choices that are completely fresh and current but that I can see will keep their style and cool for forever and a day!
I also adore Lenny Kravitz’s interior designs and way of thinking. He told Architectural Digest: “I thought about myself living there. Of course, you have to make it work so it’s appealing to a large group of eyeballs, but I thought, if I were to live here, what would I do?”
That is it, I guess: people come to me because they like the style I offer and then we work together to showcase their own likes and style, but seen through my eyes.
I am very lucky that the clients I have worked with have been incredibly trusting and open-minded. Because I work quite closely with them, they end up becoming friends and that makes for a double win - I get to work on style and design and spend time with wonderful people. I feel very fortunate and humbled by the fact people appreciate what I do. At the end of a project, when you see the client falling for their space? That is what makes my day!
Sourcing items takes up a huge part of my time when designing a space and this in turn led me to open the House of Bo Shop, to offer my finds to other people.
My constant goal is to find those special vintage pieces where the design of an object just stands out and has that special something about it. House of Bo is not your traditional antique shop. I will only source things I truly fall in love with - the century it is from feels less important.
Apart from the obvious benefit vintage has - reusing being eco-friendly - one of the best things about vintage pieces is that they all have a story to tell. The craftsmanship, style and design all tell us something about our collective history and the signs of age, where patina has developed over time, makes them even more special.
Ultimately, the reason that vintage piece is still here is because it can stand the test of time. Good design doesn’t age and doesn’t get dated-if is forever relevant.
As our homes have to work for us in many different ways, interiors are changing from all open plan to open plan but with dividers - in place all the time or that can be easily set up when desired - that zone the space while retaining that open feel.
Nature is also featuring heavily; we thrive on nature and the heightened mood that this provides. So expect a lot of greenery and natural materials and paints that offer a more natural feel such as limewash paints.
Colour is also having a huge presence whether in natural shades or more daring-colour is there to make us feel and is a total mood changer!
Always go for what you love the most - because that is the home you will want to live in.
Read moreHomes and Gardens
More by this authorAlice Ryan