Where the word ‘homework’ would have once elicited reluctance, procrastination and tiresome refusals, the brand of the same name – founded by Stephanie Hannington Suen and her partner Ross – evokes a much calmer, more pleasurable reaction. The London-based lifestyle brand is rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which Stephanie grew up with, as well as the natural, earthy properties of scent. Whether that’s in the form of aromatic tea blends that waft from the kitchen or the fragrance candles inspired by traditional rituals that remind Stephanie of her heritage. These are the things we build our homes around: scent, sensation, and the pursuit of balance.
Her own home is filled with good scents and sensations; Steph routinely muddles herbs together and lets them brew on the hob, while her husband Ross – the chef in the house – is more likely to be found pulling together hearty dinners. And there’s always one of her favourite Homework candles or oil blends burning. Stephanie admits she’s not the primary cook (although is partial to comfort-cooking dumplings in batches), she is an excellent host. Think low-lighting, a fragranced reception and of course, plenty of candles. It is quite literally part of her brand, after all.
We caught up with Stephanie to talk about home rituals, favourite dishes and the passed-down ordinary object that holds special meaning in her kitchen.
Can you tell us a bit more about why the home is so important to you and also your business, Homework?
I believe that the home is such an important part of everyone’s life. Personally, it’s my safe place to retreat. I’m definitely the kind of person who prefers a night in at home rather than an evening out. I named our brand, homework, with the core belief of finding balance between home and work life and the importance of making time for yourself. Living in a time where people are overworked, I wanted to create a collection of products which would help people find balance between the two.
Homework is focused around scents but also incorporates Traditional Chinese Medicine, which you’ve grown up with. How do both of these aspects of your business contribute to your home life?
Both of these heavily contribute to my home life. Scents play a key role in our home, I like to use different fragrances for certain moments of the day. For example, when I’m needing to concentrate, I’ll burn citrusy oils to feel uplifted and alert or if I’m wanting to feel relaxed, calming floral scents.
The key concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine is all about balance of your yin and yang energy and living in harmony with the seasons and nature. I always try to find balance everyday through what I’m eating, how I’m sleeping or exercising.
How do you unwind after a day in the studio?
After a day in the studio, before heading home, I like to take our dog Sonny for a walk to reset and to get some fresh air. Once back at home, I love putting The Woods essential oil blend on as I find it so grounding.
Christmas is coming up and we’re thinking about gifting. What is your go-to gift for close friends and family?
Our go to gift has to be a candle. I do wonder if friends and family get tired of receiving them from us!
You’ve mentioned to us before that your partner does most of the cooking – what is he usually cooking up for you in the kitchen on a weeknight?
His classic weeknight dish would have to be Thai Larb. It’s so quick to make, fresh and full of flavour.
What does hosting at home look like for you?
Whenever I'm hosting, I love to create an atmospheric environment in the home with lots of candles and low lighting. I also like to make sure that there’s plenty of food.
Do you have a favourite recipe or dish that reminds you of home?
I’m not the best cook but I love making dumplings. It’s great to make a huge batch to freeze and to be enjoyed later.
Can you tell us about an ordinary object in the kitchen that has a special significance or story?
I have a woven basket that I have up as decoration on the shelf in the kitchen. It’s very special to me as it used to belong to my grandma. She used to use it back in Tai Po, Hong Kong to dry out the plants and herbs she would collect up in the mountains.
What's your favourite Monoware piece?
I love the candle holder pair, I’m obsessed with having candles on in the evenings and the shade of these work perfectly with beeswax candles.
What’s a dish that reminds you of home?
Our family congee recipe, a warming savoury rice porridge dish that whenever I would go back to Hong Kong my grandma would make for me.
Now I have it whenever I’m feeling ill or run down as it reminds me of the comfort of home.
Your favourite cuisine?
It has to be Chinese, in particular my mum’s cooking. Watching her cook, it’s incredible how you only need a few key ingredients to create a vast array of dishes. It’s also so impressive how she can cook a table full of dishes in less than half an hour too!
Best song/album for a dinner party?
Whenever we have people round for a dinner party, I always put on one of the Chill Pill compilations by Public Possession.