In an age where home has become synonymous with ‘working from’, Molly & Joel – founders of really fancy pyjama brand Desmond & Dempsey – are more about making a celebration out of a life spent at home. It’s also a brand that celebrates the excitement of travel and how it can be captured in your daily space. A pair of pyjamas emboldened with jungle prints might transport you to Central America; their Great Outdoors collection, a portal to the vast landscape of New Zealand. Meet Molly and she’ll weave stories from their travels and all the talismans and objects that went with them. As such, their Brixton house is brimful of keepsakes from far-flung places, thanks to Molly being a perennial collector of anything that fits into her suitcase. As our second House Guests, we asked Molly about what celebrating life at home looks like for them, their favourite moments at the table and the ordinary objects that have special significance.
You’re the founders behind the brand that’s all about celebrating life at home. What does that look like for you when you’re not working?
Messy! Organised chaos without the organisation! We’re both from big loud families. Joel is one of four siblings and I grew up never owning a key to our front door. Celebrating life at home for us is coming downstairs after a big night to leftovers. The quieter moments of celebration are usually in the mornings when we’re pottering around. The hard truth of the matter is I love things despite every attempt to be a minimalist. I collect shells and pots and anything that fits into my suitcase and seem to spend my life finding the perfect home from them. I could spend whole Sundays just re-arranging the shelves in our home.
You’re having a dinner party: what kind of hosts are you? What are you serving and who’s cooking?
Joel’s cooking and I’m setting the table. We are usually short of chairs so I’m rustling those up too. The dinners are usually shared and loud and, on a really good night, end with a boogie. Food? Joel makes an excellent stroganoff and nails a BBQ. One of my best friends is Spanish and she introduced me to ‘sobremesa’ which I understand as the lingering moments after the food. For us, that’s the most important thing about the dinner.
What’s one of your favourite ‘gathering at the table’ moments, memories or stories?
I think all my favourite memories involve being around a table. The night before our wedding, we had both families and the wedding party at my parents’ house. Dad made spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread – my mum was slightly mortified at this – and I remember sitting back and thinking: all my favourite people are at one table, under one roof, in one country. When you live on other sides of the world, having everyone in the same time zone, let alone at a special dinner, is pretty special.
What dish or meal reminds you of your childhood?
My dad did most of the cooking growing up – he was a meat and two veg kind of guy. I’m not sure he even knows what an eggplant even is. Looking back now, I laugh at what dad gave us. He would take my brother and cousins to the beach and we would go out surfing first thing. On our way home we would stop at the bakery and have a meat pie (very Aussie) and chocolate milk for breakfast. I never understood why it had to be our ‘secret’ breakfast until now….
What’s a dish or meal that reminds you of home?
In Australia, our version of a pub is a surf club. They’re usually on the beach and are graded on their parmigiana. Be warned there is nothing Italian about this parmigiana, but it is absolutely delicious and usually served with fries. Sitting at the “Coolie” with salty skin, a cold drink and a parmigiana watching the sun go down is what makes me miss home so much.
Can you tell us about a particularly special object from your kitchen that has sentimental value, or a story that ties you to it?
This is hard. I have carried suitcases full of things home from my travels so everything is sentimental (and nothing matches).
The first are some stacking cake tins. They were given to my grandparents at their wedding, who then gave them to me. Growing up, they were always filled. The first tin with a chocolate or fruit cake, the second one with anzac biscuits or jam drops and the last a slice – either muesli or chocolate orange.
The second is a hand-written recipe from a friend. We became good friends when she was working with us at Desmond & Dempsey. Every birthday she would bring in a tortilla – it’s my absolute favourite. When she moved to LA she gave us the recipe and handed on the tradition to me and Joel. We haven’t quite nailed it yet but we remain determined.
The last is a wooden mortar and pestle from Mexico. We had been at the markets all day and as we were walking home, I spotted a stall. It wasn’t particularly special but I remember loving it. When we got back to the hotel I mentioned it to Joel and cursed myself not for stopping. Joel, not a keen market-goer, stayed quiet. The next day, I had a call with work so Joel went for a walk before dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant the mortar and pestle was on the table. It was the wrong size and colour and is actually not the most useful thing but I just love that he went and got it for me.
What’s your favourite piece from Monoware?
I love the chalk sets! I have lots of printed table linen so a simple plate nearly cleanses the palate before the food.
Portrait of Molly & Joel by Lucy Laucht