The habits of successful men: Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead, interior designers
Getting a foothold in the creative industries is tough. Behind every famous musician, designer or director there are years of graft, unpaid work experience placements, off-the-clock-networking and freelance jobs paid in “exposure” that have all led up to the career they have. So it’s little wonder that, as we progress in one career and gain additional responsibilities, it can feel increasingly hard to break away to do something new. But that’s exactly what Jordan Cluroe, 38, and Russell Whitehead, 40, did around seven years ago. Both successful actors in their own right when they met at friend’s party (they married in 2011), the pair had always been interested in interior design while they were working in the West End. However, after Jordan was crowned the runner-up of the first season of the BBC’s Great Interior Design Challenge in 2014, they both made the decision to pivot to home decoration permanently.
Together they founded 2LG Studio, their interior design consultancy, which has now transformed homes across the capital and the surrounding counties, we well as creating the showhome for the recently renovated Brualist icon Balfron Tower in Poplar, East London, working on numerous collaborations and recently publishing their first book. In short, these guys are busy.
The pair run their booming empire from their home in Forest Hill, South London. This house, totally gutted and renovated by the duo over the past few years, is the embodiment of their attitude to interiors and to the way they work.
Bursting with colour and fun, it shows that there’s a way to be minimalistically-minded without living in a monk-like white box with three sticks of furniture. Spaces are open, breezy and functional, with their joint office space in the open-plan kitchen/dining room sliding away behind floor-to-ceiling green doors when it comes time to relax in the evening. This attitude also carries over into their wardrobes - in fact, as well as their official instagram account @2LGStudio, the pair also run a style-focussed account @2lovelygays dedicated to their love of colour-popping clothes.
As a couple that works together, lives together and changed careers together, we caught up with Jordan and Russell to find out more about how they forged new careers in their thirties and the habits that have made them successful.
The Other Saint: For a lot of people, changing careers is a daunting step. How did you manage that change - and at the same time?
Russell: It is daunting, but also freeing. We often felt in our first careers that we were incredibly hard on ourselves and firmly in a mindset about what was right for us and what we could achieve. It was limiting. Once we took the leap and began to build our own business, it opened up a huge amount of possibilities and gave us the chance to try things that we had never thought possible. That didn't happen overnight and it had many challenges, not least learning to work together and to communicate in a new way, but knowing that we were building something for ourselves gave us huge energy.
Jordan: We are very much of the opinion that if someone else can do it, then why shouldn't we be able to achieve that? Doing it together has involved moments of conflict, as well as long hours (and zero holidays), but it has also been powerful because we both knew where we wanted to take it and had belief in each other even in the moments when we lost belief in ourselves.
Do you have any advice for other guys thinking of changing careers that would have helped you?
Jordan: Ask for help. Begin as soon as you dare. Run your own race. Be positive, but know that there will be some big hurdles. These are things we have got better at as we've gone along.
Russell: We still haven't managed to work out how to take holidays, but we do try to keep our weekends for downtime now. Maybe we are just not holiday people? Do whatever is right for you.
You work together and live together - a position that many more of us have found ourselves in since earlier this year. How do you navigate this?
Jordan: When we first began working together I remember friends and family taking us aside and telling us it was not a great idea and that people don't do it for a reason. But we love a challenge and we love spending our time together. Obviously, that has its moments, as in any relationship, but the key has been to talk often and not be afraid to speak our minds. There are so many big decisions to make everyday and we don't shy away from making them together, no matter how different our opinions can be, we work through that.
Russell: Give yourself time and know that you won’t get it right all the time. It is hard, so be kind to yourself and to each other. One thing that we have found helps us is a morning dog walk in the park to give us a moment together before the day begins. This can help to get things off our chests and clear our minds. It's good for the soul and eases us into the working day. We also have something called “the marriage veto". This is only allowed to be used in extreme situations if one of us has a really strong feeling on something, but as we move forward we seem to be using it less and less. I don't know if that's because we have found our groove or if we just know each other better than ever. Either way, it has been a useful tool in the back pocket.
How do you make sure you’re productive when working from home?
Russell: Jordan is better at that than me. He has the most incredible work ethic and if he has a single email in his inbox he can't bear it, so he likes to respond quickly to everything. He's so driven and unafraid to leap. Whereas I'm more of a thinker and risk assessor.
Jordan: Russell likes to dive deep into the “why” of everything and the story, so he takes time to get it done - but when he does, he smashes it, so I've learned to be patient. Sometimes. [Laughs].
Russell: Jordan is a great influence on me because he makes me more productive and perhaps I make him stop and smell the roses as often as I can. I believe that taking time to enjoy the little things, a walk, a homemade lunch, makes you all the more productive. So maybe I slow Jord down a little, in a good way. It's a balance.
Jordan: We don't have any issues working in our comfys with the dog on our lap. As long as you get the work done, whatever works for you.
Do you have firm boundaries between your time on-the-clock and off-the-clock?
Russell: Our miniature dachshund, Buckley, is very good at telling us it's time to stop working. At a certain point in the day, usually around 5.30 to 6pm, he will start shouting at us and wagging his tail and that means he wants us to down tools (laptops) and go into the sitting room for some cuddle time on the sofa. Not sure if we taught him that or the other way round, but either way, it's a good end point to our working day.
Jordan: We try to make sure that work stays out of the sitting room or the bedroom and only happens in the kitchen/studio space at the back of the house. That part of the house is open plan, but we have kept the front part separate so we have physical separation from work. When we are 'off-the-clock' we are usually relaxing with some TV and our log burner in the front room. It gives us some boundary and helps keep most of the work separate. But when it is your own business, you are never fully 'off-the-clock' at any time. It comes with the territory.
Describe the vibe of your interiors for us?
Russell: Our design work for clients is all about them. Giving you (the client) the best version of your home for who you are and how you want to live.
We let the architecture and key functions needed inform us to begin with. Then it is about bringing in colour and materiality to accentuate the feeling each space gives you and how you want to use that space. They are all tied together.
Jordan: Yes, we are all about how a room makes you feel and what that room needs to do for you. We are instinctively drawn to colour and interesting materials to bring that to life. We often get told we are “bold” with colour, but we prefer to say that we are free. We like to use our creativity to free spaces and bring out their potential.
Russell: Your everyday experience of a space - the journey through it, the moments of joy within it, the textures you touch and the colours you feel. That's our style.
Jordan: All in our new book, Making Living Lovely - Free Your Home with Creative Design. [Laughs].
Say I’m living in a modern, new-build apartment. If you could encourage me to try one new thing with my interior space, what would it be?
Russell: Commit. Don't let your space be a “non-space”, as we call it. Often when you feel uninspired by a space and you have a busy life and you don't want to waste time making the wrong choices, you end up making NO choices.
So try to commit to the space, for however long you will be there. Living in a space that you have cared about will make your experience of living in it better.
Jordan: A rug is a great start. It can add instant impact and comfort. And you can take it with you. Go big and go bold with a rug.
What is the definition of success to you?
Russell: That has changed so much over the years and particularly now. There have been milestones and we have tried to mark them and be appreciative of them as they happen, so I suppose success is about being open to new things, living in the moment and being as true to our creative selves as possible. But it is also about being safe and being able to choose who you want to spend your time with.
Jordan: Being able to buy myself my first Paul Smith coat (it’s bright turquoise), then meeting Iris Apfel in New York and having her hug me and tell me she loved it - that was a pretty memorable moment, that felt like success. Sorry for the name drop. Clang. But it was one of those moments you save in the bank.
Do you have any habits as a part of your morning routine that help you get ready for the day ahead?
Russell: Black coffee for me and an oat flat white for Jordy on our morning dog walk.
What’s one habit that helps you relax in the evening?
Russell: Taking time to cook a meal for dinner
Jordan: And a cup of camomile tea later on. Who even are we?
What’s a habit you can’t give up?
Jordan: Watching Sex and the City… and shoe shopping online.
Russell: Belting along to a good musical. Current faves are still Six and Dear Evan Hansen.
What’s a habit you’re proud to have given up?
Jordan: Milk Chocolate and fruit pastilles.
Russell: Cruelty. [Laughs]. But seriously, we have been vegan now for over three years.
What habit would you like to cultivate?
Russell: Running. I have just never been able to get into it. And hoovering, because that would make Jordan very happy.
Jordan: Consumer restraint. Russ made me say that.