“Until we had the shop space, we worked from Caroline’s Grandma’s old house, which was an amazing experience. There’s an incredible conservatory at the back which we used as a studio space.”
RoCo is a London based company founded by Rose Ray and Caro Langton, whose partnership was inspired by a shared love for plants. Their signature style and ability to bring life and an exotic twist to urban spaces has earned a client list including; WGSN, M&C Saatchi and Folk Clothing. We stopped by at their store in North London to chat to Rose about inspiration, styling assignments and weird cacti.
How did RoCo come about – have you always had a passion for plants?
I’m originally from Buckinghamshire and studied fashion design in Nottingham where I met Caro. Having grown up with my mum as a garden designer, Ive always been surrounded by plants and have always kind of nurtured them. Caro is exactly the same, the house that she lives in is her Grandma’s old house and she has lots of weird, old cacti she had to care for. At some point I went to San Francisco and naturally out there, they have a lot more succulents in their landscape – it’s incredible! In San Francisco It’s much more part of daily life to be surrounded by plants. I went into a shop called ‘Paxton Gate’ and they had these incredible terrariums, I had just never seen anything like it. I was aware that there was nothing really like that in the UK and could see that it was a massive trend in America. Generally America leads with these things, so I just thought, it’s going to happen at some point and I want to be part of it.
So, how did you start your RoCo adventure?
I lived up in Sheffield at that time and would often go out to collect lots of weird, old antique objects. I started planting them up with ferns and pileas and tried selling them on a stall at Broadway Market in Hackney. The first week went really well and I just knew that it was something I needed to do… I think it’s just that sense of having a connection with a plant that attracts us to them. Both Caro and I wanted to work together on it and it just kind of went from there.
Can you take us through your creative workflow?
At the start, Caro and I used to do quite separate things. I was focusing on the terrariums and worked on our concrete pots. At one point we designed our own concrete pot, using a light weight concrete recipe – we’ve got that recipe featured in our book as well by the way – It has some really beautiful results! So I used to do that, but now we’re just both involved in the design of all the products. I tend to do more of the styling work such as weddings and events, which I really enjoy doing. People come to us for something a little bit different, we’re not your traditional wedding decorators. We tend to use our copper himmeli and air plants for such events, but eucalyptus and crystals are also products we love using.
Where do you find your inspiration and what is your work most influenced by?
At some point, we wanted to do something with copper. We found an article about copper himmeli and then we just kind of went onto Pinterest looking for it and thought, this is amazing! When we designed the Himmeli DIY Kit, that was just purely the result of having conversations with our customers. Besides this, we definitely find that collaborating is a big part of our business. There is a small network of companies, especially in East-London, that we just kind of talk to… This really inspires us and you learn as you go along.
You have a list of impressive clients that have recognised your styling such as WGSN, M&C Saatchi and Folk Clothing. What’s been the most exciting project that you’ve work on so far?
For the MC Saatchi project they had built a tree-house on the South Bank. We had to cover the outside in foliage, which was quite a task, so I was up in the cherry picker stapling foliage all-over. It looked pretty awesome!
What projects are you working on currently?
We love styling weddings and events and we really enjoy doing our workshops as well, it’s definitely something we like to focus on. We did a workshop for Ikea, which was really good – a flower pressing workshop. The concept is based on the fact that everybody buys flowers at some point and rather than just getting rid of them again, we love pressing, keeping and doing something beautiful with them. We just built a big hydraulic press in our conservatory so we can press loads of plants, flowers, leaves and other things, all in one go… It’s really fun! So that’s our new project that we’re working on, we really kind of love dried things.
You’re based in London, how does this urban environment influence your work?
I think there is definitely a lot of people doing green things in London and it’s cool to see what they’re doing. I’m inspired by places like Kew Gardens, it has an amazing tropical conservatory. London as a place to live and work is inspiring in a way that it forces you to work with small spaces – the himmeli are perfect for that. Caro and I are actually mostly inspired by the countryside, particularly by the American landscape. Most of the tropical plants and succulents that you can find out there, don’t naturally grow in the UK.
How did the shop space come about?
Until we had the shop space, we worked from Caroline’s Grandma’s old house, which was an amazing experience. There’s an incredible conservatory at the back which we used as a studio space. When we started work on the book, that naturally became our main focus and meant we couldn’t run the market stall anymore. So we didn’t have anywhere apart from our work-space, to retail our products. Tom, who owns the lifestyle brand Odell’s, found out about this shop space and approached us for a collaboration. We really liked the idea and took it from there… it was just naturally the next step for us.
Can you share a good business tip that you have learned whilst starting up RoCo?
When you have your own business you make many mistakes along the way. You just have to learn to be very efficient and when to say ‘no’ to things. This is actually really hard, especially when you’re starting out because you feel you should take the most of every opportunity.
What do you love most about your job?
It’s just so amazing to find something you’re passionate about and there is so much to learn about plants. Caro and I are self taught, so we love having conversations with people about plants.
What do you think is the most under-rated houseplant?
The Aspidistra, because it’s basically absolutely impossible to kill. The color of the leaves is absolutely incredible, a deep dark green. It sends out lots of different shoots, it’s really elegant and the way the light passes its leaves is just very beautiful. It’s not necessarily a very trendy plant, but I think it’s very nice – especially when you’re grouping plants to create some height. It’s actually easier to care for lots of little plants if you put them together, as It increases the humidity surrounding them.
What’s your ultimate tip for plant lovers who are looking for a low maintenance, yet awesome houseplant?
That should be the Xenographica which is a type of air plant. It’s absolutely amazing, very sculptural. It’s good because you can put it anywhere as it can take several light conditions and temperatures. You just need to run it under the tap now and then. Every three years it sends out a pink flower – so cool!
Do you have an ultimate plant care tip?
Observe the space within a room and see where the light falls at different times of the day. Make sure that your plant is getting the right amount of light.
I absolutely love the Monkey’s tail cactus! He’s so soft and a real conversation starter.
Nothing particular, Caro’s pretty good at that, she’s more the music lady.
Best coffee table book?
I’ve got two: One, Bauhaus – I saw an amazing exhibition at the Barbican, really loved it and bought the book. Two, Gee’s Bend – an amazing book on quilts.
Best coffee spot in town?
Prufrock is really good, but to be honest I’m more of a tea person. Go to Tiosk, Broadway Market – really delicious teas!
Ultimate insiders tip to London?
Hampstead Heath, definitely. Take a dive in the pond!
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