Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith; Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence; Gilbert and George. Creative couples have produced some of the world’s most influential artistic work, drawing out the strengths and brilliance in each other’s talents. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we’re exploring the place where romance, collaboration and imagination meet by profiling four creative couples.
Tatjana von Stein and Gayle Noonan are the creative minds behind Sella, an award-winning studio responsible for everything from hotel, hospitality, retail, residential and set design to branding and curation. Not only visual tour de forces, Sella creates timeless and meaningful spaces with a distinctly human-centred approach. Radiating warmth and buoyant energy, Tatjana and Gayle’s appreciation for people, places and the world around them is as clear as their love for one another. After we’d finished swooning over their dreamy studio space, we sat down to discuss the intricacies of work and life for the creative pair.
How did you meet?
G: I’ll never forget the moment we met – if a meeting can be defined by our first encounter? Tatjana walked into a sunny café in Clerkenwell, and completely changed the narrative of my life. I was immediately arrested by her presence and beauty. I remember it so vividly.
When did you start working together?
We started working together in February 2015 on a concept store in Clerkenwell for an investor. Then a year later, once the project was complete an operational, we launched Sella.
Tell us about the work you do?
T: We are a creative studio and work on various projects from concept stage to design in its purest form.
We focus on designing retail & hospitality spaces as we are both fascinated by the influence space, materials and layout can have on human psychology. We consider the energy & flow within a space, every material and minute composition – almost ‘still life-like’ to encourage and promote certain behaviours and emotive responses by really analysing the brand, the target audience and the environment of the space we work within.
In an ideal world, we get to immerse ourselves fully in a brand from concept stage through to delivering its complete visual identity in interiors and branding. Essentially, we design experiences!
What is the most special part of working alongside your significant other?
G: It’s a very special moment when we can celebrate a big win for Sella that we’ve both created by combining our separate skills. It’s the moment we sit at the bar and enjoy that “we did it” drink – this creates a real sense of harmony. Also, a close second is the front row seat I occupy, watching my wife creatively flourish and kill it by embracing her unique style and confidence. It’s really sexy.
Are there challenging elements to working with your partner?
G: Of course, it’s a relationship within a relationship! Tatjana and I worked together before we fell in love so our first relationship was a working one and we saw that it was really complimentary. The key is to identify, separate and celebrate your individual skills. When we started out, we made the error of thinking we should be collaborating on everything equally, and once we realised that this wasn’t the reality, we started to adopt a much more sustainable approach.
Which of your achievements has been the most fun to share and celebrate together?
G: Standing under a 600-year-old tree, on a hilltop, in sunny, rural Spain, witnessing the love and support worn on our family and friend’s faces the day I married Tatjana. Nothing in life has come close to that sublime moment. That was my proudest day.
How do you find a balance between a romantic relationship and business? Do you have any rules when it comes to how you manage your time or what you talk about outside of work hours?
G: I’m not going to pretend we have a work curfew, we don’t. I think there’s a lot of common sense required; date night might not be the best time to discuss logistics!
What advice would you give when it comes to collaborating with someone you love?
G: You always need to keep a perspective of both your work and personal relationship. The overview is essential. Life is so fluid, and no matter what boundaries you think you may have in place to protect each aspect of your life, humility will give you the guidance to avoid overstepping and affecting the other.
What exciting things do you have coming up in 2020?
T: The future is exciting on a personal note in terms of family aspirations and professionally as our work is taking us abroad, starting with a new client NYC, while also focusing on hotel design and having just launched our first furniture collection. The business is definitely entering a new chapter, and we are ready to go!
Images by Claire Posthuma