In the pink
Living Etc Magazine|November 2021
Creative couple Gemma Ruse and Xavier Sheriff have designed their dream home – one that juxtaposes the patina of age and contemporary lines absolutely brilliantly
By Mary Weaver. Photography by James Merrell

When two designers live, work, eat and sleep together, you’d expect things could get a little intense. If you throw ‘doing up a large Victorian house’ into the mix, the pot might just boil over. But not for Gemma Ruse and Xavier Sheriff, who seem to operate with a zen-like calm, while channelling creativity and productivity. The couple have been together since art school days at Central Saint Martins. Six years later, they founded their display agency, StudioXAG, creating groundbreaking retail installations for clients around the globe, such as Christian Louboutin, Anya Hindmarch, Liberty and Selfridges. When it came to renovating their own house, not surprisingly, it felt a bit like work at times. ‘The challenge was that we’re both designers with strong aesthetics and quite fussy, too, so while I led the project, we agreed Xavier would have the power of veto if he really disliked something,’ Gemma says. ‘There were no real fallings-out. He tended to come round if I was passionate about a decision – or I simply showed him just my chosen version,’ she smiles.

Gemma is creative director and Xavier managing director of the company, which now, 11 years in, employs 25 people. ‘The studio set-up plays to our strengths and was reflected in the renovation with Xavier more involved on the technical side,’ says Gemma, who had a clear vision, influenced by the property’s tall ceilings and air of faded grandeur, right from the start. ‘I wanted it to look authentic, a juxtaposition of the old and the new, rather than a fake Victorian house,’ she says. ‘It was about mixing clean modern lines with the patina of age and creating a home that felt calm, cohesive and contemporary, while respecting what had been there before.’

Missing period pieces, such as fireplaces in the living room and the couple’s bedroom, were found on eBay and reclaimed radiators were installed. ‘All the interventions we made were deliberate contemporary contrasts, like the oversized doors, concrete kitchen and the Japanese-style courtyard that sits in it,’ she says. Previously, Gemma and Xavier had been living in a maisonette nearby and building up their business, when they embarked on a lifestyle change that saw them getting married, buying the house and having a baby… all at the same time. ‘We managed to move in for six months to get a feel for the space, find an architect and get planning permission, then move out just before the building work started and I gave birth!’ Gemma laughs.

The couple had viewed similar houses in the area, lured by their 2,500 square footage. ‘We saw many homes that gave us inspiration for layouts and ideas for when we finally bought this one,’ she adds. ‘We were looking for a project, but I don’t think we fully appreciated what we had taken on,’ she says of the house, which came with 1970s decor and strip lighting. ‘I think we estimated about half the time and half the cost of what it ended up taking.’

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM LIVING ETC MAGAZINEView All

Across the divide

Swedish photographer Kalle Gustafsson turned his hand to carpentry to create the ultimate in broken-plan living

9 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021

Blue and Green

The dreamiest of colours, these two shades are oh-so soothing to live with, as shown in Sally Denning’s new book

2 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
November 2021

Fresh perspective

Andrea and Giuseppe’s classic Milanese apartment has had a deft mid-century makeover that includes a few joy-inducing master strokes

3 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
November 2021

In the pink

Creative couple Gemma Ruse and Xavier Sheriff have designed their dream home – one that juxtaposes the patina of age and contemporary lines absolutely brilliantly

7 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
November 2021

THE LOWDOWN ON BUILDING A KITCHEN EXTENSTION

FROM NAVIGATING THE PLANNING PROCESS TO THE CORRECT PROCEDURE FOR BUILDING REGULATIONS, ARCHITECT JAMES DALE OUTLINES THE BEST APPROACH

4 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021

Better-lived life

KIT KEMP ON THE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR HOUSE A HOME

2 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021

MATERIAL OF THE MOMENT... EXTERIOR GLAZED TILES

THIS COLOURFUL AND HARD-WEARING OPTION HAS MADE ITS WAY FROM THE DESIGN LANGUAGE OF COMMERCIAL PROPERTY TO RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS

3 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021

The scene

LONDON RESTAURANT SUCRE IS SERVING SERIOUSLY GLAM STYLE ALONGSIDE ITS LATIN AMERICAN FOOD. FOUNDER GREG GODIK SHARES ITS DECOR SECRETS

2 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021

Little Gem

Small but beautifully formed, designer Christian Bense’s London apartment heralds a high-low approach that sparkles with original ideas and festive flourishes

6 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021

How to... dress your home with foliage

FRESH AND FRAGRANT, EVERGREENS AND SEASONAL STEMS MAKE FOR A SENSATIONAL CHRISTMAS SCHEME – OUR EXPERTS PICK THEIR FAVOURITE IDEAS

3 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
December 2021