At home with Jack Guinness: inside The Queer Bible author’s east London apartment after a colourful, DIY renovation

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Jack Guinness
    British writer, model, and presenter (born 1982)
 (Juliet Murphy)
(Juliet Murphy)

Find someone who talks about you as lovingly as Jack Guinness does his east London apartment.

Sitting in his kitchen, the style connoisseur huddled over the dining table and me on his grandmother’s carved wooden bench, he beams when recounting the moment he laid eyes on the one-bedroom Victorian conversion in Clapton.

“I knew it was the one. Within about 15 seconds of viewing it I made an offer. I went to bed every night looking at pictures, dreaming of what I was going to do to it, for four months. Then there was a bidding war and I managed to get it. I’m so grateful.”

The model and founder of LGBTQ+ community and book The Queer Bible, Jack Guinness doesn’t disclose how much he bought it for; that would ruin the romanticism. But he does say it took 15 years of working non-stop to save for it and that the lack of affordable housing in London is a travesty.

Back to the love story: “I remember one of my friends saying that when she saw her husband, she knew marrying him was inevitable. I felt like this about my flat. Buying a home is like falling in love. This was always going to be my first home. Maybe I’m married to a flat.”

Jack grew up in south London, the son of a vicar. His glamorous career, coupled with a butterfly-like personality, made him a centrepiece of London’s socialite scene. Prior to his first step on the property ladder, he rented house shares which doubled as party pads.

“The last place I lived was a huge warehouse with a bar called Jack’s. We’d throw legendary Christmas parties where we would build a stage and get friends who were in bands to perform.”

Secret place: Jack in a reading nook of his  east London sanctuary (Juliet Murphy)
Secret place: Jack in a reading nook of his east London sanctuary (Juliet Murphy)

Florence & The Machine belted out All I Want For Christmas one year, Harry Styles rocked up another. His 30th had a Stars In Your Eyes theme with a smoke machine puffing out surprise singers.

It’s a world away from the serene environment we are in, cup of herbal Teapigs in hand, with the kitchen door leading to a sweet north-facing garden patio. All very grown up.

“As you get older, you want a haven. I travel so much and go to night events so I want my space to be much more private and homely. Because of the pandemic, I haven’t really had many people over. It is my little secret place where I recharge and watch Real Housewives.”

Jack completed just before lockdown. Brushing up on his DIY skills, he painstakingly sanded and stained the floors.

After knocking a hole in the wall, intended for a fireplace, he ran out of money so he filled it with candles. Hours were spent painting sample colours on to scraps of paper to uncover the perfect match.

For the kitchen it was Farrow & Ball’s Dutch orange: “In bright light it is very orange but in low light it works beautifully. It creates a sense of happiness. I really wanted my home to reflect my personality but also to elevate my mood.”

He kept the original Seventies beige kitchen tiles to break up the black wooden units and accessorised with a brushed brass tap and deep sink.

Seventies tiles meet Farrow & Ball’s Dutch Orange in the kitchen (Juliet Murphy)
Seventies tiles meet Farrow & Ball’s Dutch Orange in the kitchen (Juliet Murphy)

Chrome plug points were replaced with coloured ones; pink, blue, beige. The playful toaster and kettle are by Hay. Coffee sets from his Welsh grandmother are on proud display.

“She left me beautiful Portmeirion sets and every time I use them, it makes me feel like she’s still part of my life.”

They sit alongside Oka animal-print tumblers.

Downton Abbey actress Daisy Lewis, who Jack describes as the queen of The Saleroom, has him hooked on the online auction site. He loves blending old and new, and likens passing through his flat to a walk down memory lane.

“When I’m away, I will always buy something weird. I was just in Italy and saw this incredible Murano light. I didn’t know how I was going to get it back to London but I had to. I’ve got a donkey stool in the sitting room from Africa.”

Jack designed the Angelina sofa with Love Your Home (Juliet Murphy)
Jack designed the Angelina sofa with Love Your Home (Juliet Murphy)

After a trip to Afghanistan, Jack returned laden with rugs, now sitting prettily alongside his great-grandmother’s threadbare mats: “In my imaginary world I love the idea that my grandkids or nephews will inherit my interiors.”

He has a vase obsession which he hopes to control before needing the floral budget of Sir Elton John. Curbing the William Morris homeware enthusiasm has proved an exercise of restraint. Who doesn’t love those Liberty cushions?

He wanted the bedroom to feel masculine. Farrow & Ball’s railings conjures the ambience and changes from a dusky mustard to a warm green throughout the day. He is in desperate need of a new mattress though, as it still has the imprint of his ex-boyfriend.

The living room is cute. Jack designed the sofa with Love Your Home and a pal likened it to something from LA’s sumptuous members-only hotel Chateau Marmont.

“I need to do some work on the bathroom,” he says. “My job is to think about how I look but I’m surprisingly not vain so I don’t spend a lot of time getting ready.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t love a long soak; his dream is to purchase an Edwardian roll-top and pamper himself with his favourite Santa Maria Novella oils from Florence.

Jack wanted the flat’s bright colour scheme to create a sense of happiness, reflecting his personality but lifting his mood too (Juliet Murphy)
Jack wanted the flat’s bright colour scheme to create a sense of happiness, reflecting his personality but lifting his mood too (Juliet Murphy)

According to Jack, the best thing about his place is the storage.

There are sliding doors all the way up the corridor where he keeps clothes and art books. Artist Tomo Campbell and close friend Alexa Chung like to have a rummage. Don’t tell Alexa he still has her mannequin.

The corridor is also a showcase of his photography passion, where Bruce Davidson pictures sit alongside a Steve McHugh. The original artwork from The Queer Bible, Jack’s brilliant book of essays by the likes of Elton John, Graham Norton and Munroe Bergdorf, add a sentimental touch.

As I soak up the Diptyque Amber scent, I am mesmerised by the deeply personal nature of this flat. It’s a mishmash of styles, eras and emotions but it works. In his words, it’s the home that Jack built.

Order The Queer Bible book via queerbible.com. Follow Amira @thedesigneditor

Get the look

Diptyque Ambre candle, £49, from Diptyque

Sowden kettle, £99, from Hay

Sowden toaster, £95, from Hay

Tree of Life cushion, £156, from Liberty

Angelina sofa, from £2,127, from Love Your Home

Glass goblets, £55 for set of four, from Oka

Botanic garden tea set, £138 for six-piece, from Portmeirion

Dutch Orange paint, starting at £52 for 2.5 litres, from Farrow & Ball

Read More

Sixties swing again: How one couple transformed their once-lacklustre home in Forest Hill with some mid-century magic

Inside the maximalist south London house of a lifelong antiques collector

How renovating a Victorian train carriage in Dungeness into a seaside cottage uncovered a fascinating history

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting