Paul Firmin and Niko Dafkos founded Earl of East London in 2015, launching a range of hand-poured scented candles. In 2019 their line has evolved to include a variety of signature scents, incense and chocolate available worldwide. Having worked closely with artists and brands alike they also teach candle making across Europe. With scent clearly being the main driver in their lives we caught up with Paul and Niko in their East London home to find out how this influences their personal environment.
On a busy residential street Paul and Niko’s modern townhouse stands refined and elegant amongst other period properties. From the moment you step into the small front garden formed of rustic paving stones and structural planters there’s a sense of being that only resonates from a home that is loved, it’s as though you are leaving the city behind. This feeling is continued as I am greeted warmly by Paul and Oscar the French Bulldog in what is a spacious, well edited hallway. We walk through to the open, minimal kitchen where I meet Niko, who is working calmly from the dining table surrounded by scented candles. It feels like a private oasis and somewhere time spent together is described as “precious” by Niko.
The house is arranged over three floors, meaning the boys have plenty of space to curate the objects from their time together over the last seven years “We are really lucky that we have the same taste so creating 'our space' has been really straight forward and problem free.” Wherever you find yourself in the house there are interesting details and comfortable corners, in which they both congregate “We work constantly so many of our evenings are spent catching up on emails. We try to dedicate parts of the home to work versus rest, with our living room and bedroom being off limits for emails and work.”
Away from their home, Paul and Niko have created Bonds, a workshop and retail space to incorporate and collaborate Earl of East London with other brands that they’ve connected with in some way. “It allows us, and our team to talk about the products in a much more meaningful way, and we hope that really resonates with customers.” Although this approach is applied from a business perspective, Paul explains that “Our home is no different, it is literally filled with artefacts that mean something to us. Some of our favourite items are finds from our travels or are made by people we know. They are all really special to us in the same way that the brands we stock in our stores are.”
When they aren’t working Niko and Paul take great pleasure in travel, which is the inspiration for all of the Earl of East London products “Each of our scents is inspired by a place we love and our newest line is inspired by Japanese Bathing Culture.” Being somewhere new allows them both to observe everything differently, which they carry with them when returning home “We often move things around to accommodate new finds or to reflect an emotion we felt when away.” Although not work-focused, the break away allows for creative exploration “A holiday is a time to plan, we also try and pair traveling with work, often holding workshops with stockists in that location or introducing our brand to new stores. We try and meet local makers, do studio visits and search for new products for Bonds.”
Paul and Niko’s enthusiasm for Earl of East London’s development has enabled others to create a unique atmosphere in their own homes, which the duo are amazed and humbled by “As our portfolio of products grows it’s nice to see people post about using them, and to see the positive feedback.” Especially as they didn’t start out wanting to launch their own brand “It kind of just happened but there is nothing quite like the feeling of hearing customers in our stores saying a scent is their favourite and they love burning it at home.” Earl of East London.
Words and photography by Joseph Walker