At home and work with the interior designer behind one of London's best-loved pubs (2024)

Do you, like me, dream of having a local pub within walking distance, where you can sit at a table by an open fire, read your paper uninterrupted by muzak, enjoy wine from a well-selected list and an excellent meal made from local produce, lit by warm and inviting lighting and with walls hung with idiosyncratic art? Just such a place is The Carpenter’s Arms in Chiswick, run by Simon Cherry and designed by his partner Tamsin Saunders, who combined their individual talents to create a space that is now home to both their businesses.

Set up in 2012, Tamsin’s interior design studio, Home & Found, has been busy creating houses that are imbued with an easy elegance. She says that she is endlessly inspired by the original homes of artists, collectors, curators, architects and gardeners, and her interiors have an artful ‘undoneness’ to them that provides a relaxed backdrop to life. It is an approach that is very much in evidence at The Carpenter’s Arms.

Simon had previously worked as a photographer, but began pursuing his passion for food in 2004 when he and a friend acquired the lease for a pub in Chelsea, which they renamed The Pig’s Ear. On the back of that enterprise, Simon joined forces with another friend to open The Carpenter’s Arms in 2006. Having sold his share in The Pig’s Ear in 2015 (spurred on by an influx of foreign money and absentee landlords in Chelsea), Simon bought out his partners in The Carpenter’s Arms in 2017. He liked the idea of focusing on one establishment and asked Tamsin to help him transform it into the kind of low-key local they would like to visit themselves.

She trawled through every junk shop, market and auction room in the area, finding pieces that felt true to the place. An open fire and bench seating gives the pub a no-nonsense and no-frills feel, although it does have a cosy quality. It is certainly welcoming. In the winter, the outdoor courtyard is covered and lit with candles and fairy lights, decorated with branches of spruce and trailing ivy to create a magical winter garden.

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Tamsin’s appreciation for nature and beauty can be traced back to childhood. Both her grandfather and father were architects who championed restoration and reclamation. Growing up in the South Downs, long before these became buzzwords, she had a sense of the significance of nature, heritage, legacy and craftsmanship drilled into her from an early age. Meanwhile, her mother – a keen antique collector and gardener, and ‘the kind of mother who knitted her own yogurt’ – passed on her love of time-worn beauty and untrammelled nature.

Simon oversees the food and drink at the pub, devising a menu that changes every day, sourcing seasonal ingredients from independent farmers and suppliers who are as local as possible. Fish is delivered by Flying Fish Seafoods, a group of fishermen who drive up from Cornwall to deliver their catch of the day. According to Simon, ‘Nothing can beat a dozen oysters and a pint of Black Velvet if there is an R in the month.’

Tamsin read Spanish at the University of Edinburgh where she found herself inspired by the city’s architecture, gazing through the glorious windows of its Georgian houses: ‘It gets dark quite early in Scotland and I found that dusk – just when the lights are turned on but before people get up to close the curtains – was the perfect time for observing people and their homes, seeing how they live and how rooms are laid out.’

After graduating, she did months of work experience and some short stints freelancing at PR and marketing agencies, before eventually setting up her own communications agency specialising in pubs, restaurants and food. Among her clients were the Soil Association and Bordeaux Quay in Bristol – the first restaurant championing sustainability in the UK, with a menu certified by the MSC. During this time, Tamsin and her former husband bought and restored a series of rundown houses. A career change was prompted when Tamsin was approached by a neighbour ‘who asked if I could do to her house what I’d done to mine’. In 2012, she launched Home & Found and now works on just two or three projects at a time.

Tamsin and Simon first met in the Nineties when he came to photograph one of her pub clients, The Westbourne in west London. It was not until 2015, however, that they became a couple, drawn to each other by their shared love of food and art and also of travel and reading. ‘We both notice things that are special because they are beautiful and well made, not because they are expensive or flashy,’ she says.

Tamsin’s design studio, on the top floor of The Carpenter’s Arms, comprises two skilfully curated rooms in which every object tells a story. ‘It came out of my boredom at seeing the same things everywhere – I started thinking that I should just start collecting things I like and find a home for them,’ she says. ‘Collecting is an art in itself.’ It is now a by-appointment shop for people who wish to surround themselves with unique, functional and soulful objects that celebrate the mark of the maker and the charm of handmade imperfection.

At home and work with the interior designer behind one of London's best-loved pubs (2024)
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