HOME, A Love Story
Wander a little north of Islington and you might find yourself at HOME, the creative space founded in 2020 by photographer and designer Ronan Mckenzie to celebrate the work of BIPOC artists. Stepping into the space is much like entering a sanctuary - warm and inviting, it is replete with exquisite pieces of furniture that encourage you to sit and stay awhile. Perhaps you might peruse one of the books from the library, or simply take in the artwork hanging on the walls, which play host to regular exhibitions from both local and international artists. Maybe you’ll be offered a tea, and strike up a conversation with one of six very impressive women, known fondly to one another as “The HOME Girls”. These are the women who make HOME what it is; the team who have transformed this space into one of London’s most exciting creative hubs. As they take the reins of our Browns Focus: Series Two campaign, we asked them tell us about the magic of HOME…
Discover Browns Focus: Series Two
Please tell us what role each of you play at HOME.
Ronan Mckenzie: I’m the director and founder.
Joana Castro Pontes: I’m HOME’s studio manager - basically Ronan's right hand.
Courtney Mitchell: I’m Ronan's personal assistant, so I assist with HOME, SELASI [Ronan’s brand], Ronan's photography work and any other endeavours.
Haja Fanta: I work as a studio assistant at HOME. I provide support to Joana and Ronan with ideation, administration, hosting, programming and more.
Shadeh Kavousian: I manage the partnerships at HOME. Working together with Ronan and the team to find ways to create opportunities for our artists and fund the business. Basically - if you want to work with us in any way (from young creatives to big brands) send me an email!
Elif Yanya: I work as a host and studio assistant at HOME. I welcome visitors into the space and assist Joana and Haja in research or ideas, wherever I can!
When did you all join the team?
Ronan: I founded HOME in November 2020, and Joana has been with me from the very beginning. The OG ride or die HOME Girl since its conception!
Joana: I’ve known Ronan for almost nine years. When she invited me to work with her I didn't even think twice.
Ronan: Baby Elif I've known since she was 14 (hence the nickname), and she started working weekends at HOME in May 2021. Courtney changed my life in October 2021, and Miss Shadeh joined us in January 2022 (but we've been in touch since early 2020 when I began researching what it would take to start a creative space like HOME.) Then beautiful Haja joined us in February 2022 and we've been making magic happen together as a team ever since.
What is it that you love most about working at HOME?
Joana: The girls! We’re all so different but we get along so well. It’s such a happy place to work, and that ends up being reflected in the energy of the space. I love how transparent and true to ourselves we are and how people can feel that. I love seeing people using the space, being comfortable in it, treating it as if it belongs to them - because it does!
Courtney: I really love what HOME is. I love that people come to visit with their loved ones, sometimes grandparents, babies, sometimes on dates, and usually stay quite a while.
Haja: The team are genuinely some of the most warm-spirited and honest people I have met in my life. I feel so at ease working at HOME and, most importantly, comfortable enough to bring my full self to work, which is hard to find.
What makes it different from other places you’ve worked in the past?
Courtney: I have honestly never felt so invested in the progress of somewhere that I have worked before. I want to see it grow and I want to grow with it. I’ve never felt so happy to wake up early or get on an overcrowded train. I even come in on my days off to be with the HOMEies and work on my other projects.
Haja: There's no bureaucracy at HOME, and how we work is so intentional and honest. I think that’s why we are so productive despite constantly laughing with each other. We know what we want to do and we are committed to doing it.
Shadeh: We're all in it together, no competition or one upmanship. We all really believe in Ronan's vision and we are working together to achieve it. There is also space to play and crack jokes - I think that’s a really important part of making people confident in sharing ideas. Nothing is silly and everything is silly!
Elif: HOME is so special - I truly care for and love the space. I’ve never worked somewhere where I feel so at ease, and at the same time so stimulated.
How would you describe the energy of the team?
Courtney: The energy is unmatched. I think we are all in awe of the synergy of our little team. I can only describe it as magic.
Haja: Fun, dedicated, loving, inspirational and transparent.
Shadeh: The energy is contagious. We just get on so well! It's a bit mad. Drunk on HOME girl love!
Elif: It’s genuine, plus I'm surrounded by pure comedians!
Please recount one project you’ve loved working on with HOME and why.
Ronan: On Love, our current exhibition, is such a special show, because it feels like a new chapter for HOME in terms of implementing our learnings so far and creating a show we're so proud of.
Courtney: I really love our open mic afternoons where people stop by and share poetry or writings. The fact that people are comfortable enough to be so vulnerable is really a testament to the type of environment that has been fostered in our little space. It's community, it's warmth - it's HOME!
Shadeh: I'm actually really looking forward to Browns Focus. It's really important to us to do partnerships that have longevity and feel honest and mutually beneficial.
Please recount one funny moment from your time at HOME, or something silly that makes you laugh.
Courtney: Our team seems to be permanently in a silly goofy mood. Often when one of us is on a work call, Ronan ends up cracking jokes and laughing hysterically (the simplest of things might tip her over the edge), so we all end up unable to breathe, trying to laugh silently whilst the person on the phone struggles to hold it together.
Elif: This was probably more chaotic than funny at the time, but looking back it makes me laugh. Part of the roof of HOME had blown off from storm Eunice and me and Courtney had been in the space for around an hour. I only noticed when I felt rain on my head, mid-conversation with a visitor. "How is it raining inside?" I thought. Then I looked up and saw the sky! We spent the next half hour trying to cover it frantically with bin bags and tape.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from working at HOME?
Ronan: Teamwork expands dreams beyond anything I could ever have thought of on my own, and makes those dreams happen.
Shadeh: Girls really do run the world!
Elif: That people really do care, and creating space is essential.
Please choose one of your co-workers and describe a special quality or unique perspective that they bring to HOME.
Ronan: Shadeh, is such a beautiful, fiery soul that has brought this amazing straight-up energy to our team - she comes in and taps away with her nails and just gets shit done! I admire her pragmaticism, flexibility and confidence to ask questions and demand better for us.
Joana: Elif, our baby! She is the sweetest and the calmest of all.
Courtney: What is there to say about Ronan? She's incredibly generous, kind and caring. She's also a strategy, planning and visionary queen, with her feet planted firmly in the ground, always confident in the knowledge that everything is going to work out. That energy motivates all of us to dream, big, work hard and play hard, all the while remaining calm and collected.
Haja: Outside of being very, very funny, Courtney is great with words and communicating (I beg her to read all my difficult emails). She’s also super thorough and precise, which I think is really important when generating ideas.
Shadeh: Joana is so committed to HOME's vision and bringing it to life. She has a maternal energy that is really comforting to be around. Sweet and protective of all of us - she brings a lot of heart to the team and the space.
Elif: Sundays at HOME with Haja. We’re always laughing or chatting away about something. I remember leaving after the first day we worked together feeling like I’d known her for years!
What are your hopes and ambitions for HOME in the future?
Ronan: I hope that it won't be a struggle to keep HOME alive. People always assume that we've got everything organised and sorted out because we're so thorough and work so hard, but it's really difficult - especially financially, and that weight falls on my shoulders. So my hope for this year is that we continue to grow, build, and find financial stability so that we can continue to serve our community.
Elif: I want HOME to be forever! It’s going to continue being this wonderful space, creating opportunities and growing.
Shadeh: To continue to grow in a positive and impactful way and continue to achieve our purpose. I want to manifest connection, mutual support and actualisation of our ideas and dreams. But also, we've achieved so much already. Now is a nice opportunity to pause, absorb and reflect on our blessings.
Visit HOME by Ronan Mckenzie Wednesday to Sunday 10am-6pm at 399 Hornsey Rd, London N19 4DX.
Given their great taste, we asked each of the HOME girls to pick a few of their favourite items from Browns, both for themselves and one another…
See All Stories: