An interview on maximalist style and how to decorate using bold pattern with the Founders of Divine Savages
Divine Savages was launched in 2007 by husbands Jamie Watkins and Tom Kennedy. With a mission to create exquisitely crafted wallpapers, fabrics and accessories for the brave and the bold, Divine Savages has become a modern heritage brand for natural maximalists and print-lovers everywhere. Inspired by everything from history to fashion and the natural world, their beautiful designs ensure that personality is championed throughout the home.
Sharing a love of maximalist glamour and an ethos to empower customers to decorate inspired by their personality rather than by following trends, Divine Savages was the perfect fit for the relaunch of our wallpaper collection earlier this year. After following the brand for the last few years, we were so excited to include some of their most iconic patterns into the Rockett St George range. To celebrate, we sat down with Tom & Jamie to find out more on the Divine Savages brand, where they look for inspiration and how to be brave when introducing colour and pattern into the home. Keep reading to discover their story…
1. Let’s start at the very beginning, tell us all about yourselves!
We are husbands Jamie Watkins and Tom Kennedy. We met many years ago in 2006 out on the town in London, and what started with a drink in a bar led to marriage and a business! At Divine Savages we specialise in creating exquisitely crafted wallpapers, fabrics, accessories and limited-edition art prints for the brave and bold. We’ve always had a shared passion for quirky interiors and styling but were determined to do it our own way. Our passion for interiors steadily grew over the years and in 2017 we decided to focus on creating an initial range of prints for wallpapers and fabrics, fine-tuning the look of Divine Savages that we now know to be flamboyant, eccentric, quirky and slightly edgy. We want to celebrate both the divine and the savage in us all and our easy to hang wallpaper is anything but ordinary. Our backgrounds in both fashion/branding and in marketing/strategy proved to be a great partnership. We’re now fondly referred to as Creative Director (Tom) and ‘All the other stuff’ (Jamie).
2. When did you first come up with the idea for Divine Savages?
We had just bought our first house, a two-storey apartment in a Victorian terrace in South East London, in much need of redecoration. We wanted to respect the design styles of the arts & crafts movement of that era but found those traditional prints weren’t quite quirky enough. We're avid collectors of curiosities and all things kitsch and wanted to inject some of this passion and personality into our home decor.
3. Where do you turn for inspiration when designing new collections?
We take inspiration from so many places - from history, culture, fashion and the natural world, but we like to create an eclectic mix of all of these influences. We have, to date, created a multitude of designs whose personalities come across just as much in their names as they do visually. Art deco definitely has a special place in our hearts too – many of our wallpapers are influenced by this period.
4. With so many gorgeous wallpapers to choose from, can you tell us a bit about the wonderful Divine Savages wallpaper patterns available to shop at Rockett St George?
We are thrilled that Rockett St George has chosen five of our favourite designs to stock! One of the first wallpapers we designed was a pattern inspired by The Great Gatsby. It incorporates both our love of cocktails. This design, Deco Martini, became the first wallpaper put into production and as such holds a special place in our hearts!
Kyoto Blossom is a design inspired by the Japanese gardens of Holland Park. It features delicate illustrations of cherry blossoms, lotus flowers, exotic birds and koi carp and is printed on luxuriously textured paper with a subtle and sophisticated sheen. This design has the power to transport you to a watercolour world, it creates a real oasis of calm.
Our Poochi paper is a contemporary take on a traditional flocked wallpaper, our cheeky twist on a classic polka-dot pattern. It features fluffy, tactile dog motifs dancing across a sumptuously textured base that's just begging to be stroked! Our Poochi wallpaper is available in a playful palette of Poodle Pink, Pistachiow-chow, Toto Black and Bichon Crème.
Quite often we turn to our brilliant customers to come up with quirky & original names for our designs. One of our favourites is Crane Fonda, a fabulously elegant grey-crowned crane who strolls amongst lush palm trees, and also Gershwing, inspired by the decadence of Art Deco.
5. How would you describe your own home?
We’re definitely Maximalist and we certainly don’t shy away from bold pattern and print in our own home, we really live our brand! A house is a home so it needs to be a place in which we can relax but we also wanted to create a boutique hotel vibe – a space where it felt a little extravagant, something special. Until recently we lived in South East London but we have just bought a beautiful place in Bath. It’s the perfect renovation project and is going to keep us busy over the next couple of years - watch this space!
6. As purveyors of maximalist patterns, what wallpapers feature within your own home?
Our Crane Fonda wallpaper in Coral packs a punch against the glossy white cabinetry in the ‘kitschen’ of our previous London home. We kept a consistent colour palette by using blush pink tiles too.
In our living room we mixed different shades of blue to create a warm and uplifting space. We used Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue as the backdrop, perfect for highlighting our growing collection of eclectic artwork - it really helps to make these pieces pop - and our own Deco Martini wallpaper formally zones part of the room and adds a dose of personality through print.
The clashing bold prints & layered textiles in our bedroom create a dramatic yet harmonious vibe due to the limited but rich colour palette. We chose our iconic Faunacation jungle wallpaper featuring tropical palms, lush foliage and big cats. We loved this in the bedroom as it adds a real sense of drama.
7. What are your top tips for experimenting with bold colours and patterns at home?
Don’t be shy. We’re on a mission to nurture a passion for daring design and to help others be braver in their choice of pattern and bolder in their choice of colour. Wallpaper has the magical ability to transform any space, with a superpower far greater than that of humble paint. Bringing bold colour and pattern into a potentially boring space that serves to be practical and functional can work wonders.
8. If the objects in your home could talk, which one would have the best story to tell?
We love collecting weird and wonderful things - from flea market finds to ebay bargains, shopping for quirky objects and unique pieces of furniture is one of our favourite pastimes! We found an old statue of a nun at Sunbury Antiques Market some time back and fell in love with her. She once graced the wall of an old church in the French countryside, so we think she’d definitely have some interesting stories to tell, overseeing all the saints and sinners!
Our new collection is coming soon – available across wallpaper, fabrics, cushions and lampshades, we are really excited to show you more! We’re also opening our very first showroom in the heart of Bath – we cannot quote believe this is actually happening, and cannot wait to welcome you through the doors. Make sure you keep an eye on our Instagram as we get everything ready, as well as behind the scenes on our home renovation – it’s all go here!
10. Finally, name three new Rockett St George products that you love!
Quick Fire Questions
I am happiest when… Deep in the design process, creating new prints for Divine Savages with my music playing in the background - Tom
Our dream holiday would be… We love South East Asia – the exotic wildlife, the yummy food, the incredible landscapes, the lovely people. Take us there now please!
Our ideal day would be spent… A nice countryside walk with our dog Newt followed by a few drinks in the pub with our mates – simple pleasures!
The last film we saw was… Death Becomes Her – ICONIC! Seen it like 20 times, but it’s so camp it always makes us laugh so much.
My guilty pleasure is… A tub of burnt butter ice cream with cherries on the side from Chin Chin – irresistible! - Jamie | A glass of PALE cold Provence Rose with an ice cube - Tom
My personal motto is… “Dance your cares away!” - Tom
The all-time favourite item from our home is… Tom has ‘Red’ Fraggle puppet replica from the iconic 80s kids series Fraggle Rock– she’s literally his fave thing!
In five years’ time, I want to be… Not colour matching Pantones - Tom
The three things we can’t live without are… Our pets, music, iMacs
A party isn’t a party without... A cocktail in hand
Shop Divine Savages at Rockett St George here!