The oracle of men’s grooming, Brendan Murdock founded his brand, Murdock London 10 years ago. It goes without saying that someone who makes his living helping others stay polished, should live in quite a beautiful place. And that he does, in Hoxton, London with his partner and their dog, Dodger. Here’s our chance to snoop around Brendan’s place.
How have you made this house your home?
I suppose what makes it a home is the combination of my personality and taste with that of my partner. It’s a pretty eclectic flat, because we’re both mini-hoarders and we both like ‘things’. My partner is a part-time potter, so there’s lots of pottery around, plus all the pictures we’ve collected here and there, which are usually attached to quite specific memories like holidays or whatever. The most important thing for me in a home is comfort – comfy furniture and a strong colour palette. So it’s a comfortable refuge for us, I guess it makes me feel happy, that’s the key to everything.
Where’s the heart of this house?
A couple of years ago we extended the flat and added an extra room by taking over a bit of the garden. The garden is now half the size, but it’s a lovely town garden with lots of green and some roses. Big sliding glass doors connect the extension room to the garden. The idea was to link the outside and the inside as much as possible, so the big green velvet sofa faces the green of the garden outside. We spend most of our time there. You’ll find the tv, fireplace, bookshelves, lots of cushions and the view outside. Living in Hoxton can be a bit intense, but this little garden room provides welcome relief from the very urban world outside.
Is this your perfect habitat?
For now, it’s a pretty perfect habitat. But I think what a person wants and needs in a home changes over time, so we’ll see about the future. I never thought I wanted a room with big glass windows that overlooked a little town garden, but turns out I do! Because we live in a flat, I sometimes think it might be fun to live in a house with lots of floors. Vertical living! But for now, we love the flat and the neighbourhood of Shoreditch which is constantly changing. We’ve lived for 15 years, and it’s pretty nearly perfect.
So, what should I steal?
Probably, someone wouldn’t mind stealing a signed Cocteau print from 1959 (my partner has a keen eye for auction bargains!). But one of my favourites things in the flat is a collection of new drama scripts accumulated over the last 20 years. One of the great things about London is of course its theatre and we go a lot. At places like the Royal Court there’s a long and noble tradition of selling the play script for new plays really cheaply and we’ve got a mini-history of the last 20 years of drama as a result. It’s great and they look lovely assembled together on a bookshelf.
Do you love your job?
Yes, in so much as what I really enjoy doing is creating something from nothing, so building a business from scratch has been amazing and fun (and stressful!). Before launching Murdock in 2006, I owned and ran a restaurant in Hoxton for five years. That was a real learning experience and I loved doing it but it was brutally hard work. But the rewards were similar – taking an idea, making it happen and engaging with the public all the while.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Working with creative people to translate the ideas in my head into tangible realities. I have a really great team around me who help me take ideas from the ‘in Brendan’s head’ phase to something real, whether that’s a marketing campaign or a new skin product or designs for a new shop. I’m also really good at taking inspiration from my daily life and I’m good at noticing things around me. I love to travel and encounter new ideas, people and cultures.
Are you a Habitat Voyeur?
I’m Irish and we have a snooping tendency so I’m definitely a window-gazer. I peek through homes to check out a neighbour’s interiors, and am always peering through shop windows. Design is one thing, but how people live and work with design is another. I’m keen to see not just what’s great to look at, but also what’s great to be in and be a part of. The environment for retail is really important to me, so I spend a lot of time talking to shop assistants and things like that, observing how customers spend time in retail interiors. I also love a hotel foyer, there is something special about watching people move through a hotel, where they are coming from, going to.
What does Habitat mean to you?
Since I was a student at university, I’ve always bought things at Habitat and still do, most recently a set of drinking glasses for our cottage in Suffolk. To me Habitat always means high quality design at good prices, and it manages to feel very current without feeling faddy, which isn’t easy. I also admire Habitat as a brand – it’s iconic and has been a design leader for decades, which is no mean feat.
I grew up in Northern Ireland and had limited access to Habitat when I was young. Lets just say Northern Ireland for a time was lacking colour, but that’s all changed today. Anyway visiting the Habitat store on Tottenham Court Road in the summer holidays with my parents was kind of a pilgrimage. I remember from a young age being really struck by the sheer array of colour throughout the store and it really was unlike anywhere else. You can wander around Habitat for ages quite easily. I also remember buying lots of things at Habitat when I bought my first flat in Greenwich – so it has always been linked with home for me.
What Habitat products to do love and why?
In our little cottage in Suffolk, we have a pair of Oken Blue Slate tray tables next to our old sleigh bed and we love them. They’re just the right height and size and they’re sturdy. I like tray tables – they gesture towards old colonial furniture in a way – and these are a clean, modern version of them. They hold a lamp, my monthly supply of magazines, a cup of coffee quite happily. I’m also really keen on the orange Bobby table lamp. Somehow, our flat in London has ended up with lots of green, pink and orange in it, so these lamps fit in well. I’ve also always loved Habitat mugs…I’m a great breaker and dropper of mugs, so I always have a reason to get a couple of new ones.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
More time! I always seem to be running out of time, or having to meet tight deadlines. Working with lots of creative people is great, but it often doesn’t go to plan timewise, so there’s often a feeling of rushing. Most weekends, we go to the Suffolk countryside and when driving back to London on Sundays I always wish I’d had just another day there. More time, please.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? And why?
Yves Saint Laurent, because he was a genius who turned an industry on its head and because he had an amazing eye for just about everything. Samuel Beckett, because he’d be a real laugh but in an existentially challenging way which would add some frisson to the dinner party. Beau Brummel because he invented the Regency dandy. Anna Wintour, because I think she’s probably a lot less cool in person than the sunglasses suggest and because I feel like I could learn a lot from her. And maybe as a wildcard, King Gillette, who was a socialist visionary and a madman and because he invented the safety razor for shaving.