When Charlotte and Angus Buchanan, both 37, bought their home in northwest London’s Harlesden neighborhood in 2019, the garden was so overgrown they “could hardly see the end of it,” Charlotte recalled recently. The couple, who met in their teens, began dating in their 20s and started their design business, Buchanan Studio, in 2018. At work, Charlotte is the C.E.O. and Angus is the creative director, and they applied a similar delineation of tasks when it came to renovating their townhouse — and turning that unruly backyard into something navigable, with anoutdoor kitchen and dining area, complete with a rope swing, where the thicket once lived.
On a recent Thursday evening, 14 of the couple’s friends filled the garden for a barbecue, some sinking into one of a pair ofstriped Studio chairs, the pillowy seats that the couple released in 2021 and which have since become a signature of their company. As guests arrived, Angus charred Padrón peppers over a custom Country Fire Kitchen grill, housed in a covered wood patio, which, despite having a roof and walls on three sides to combat the English weather, feels airy thanks to its white-painted interior. “We design restaurants, which has led to the kitchen being the way it is,” explained Angus of the professional-grade barbecue setup. In addition to restaurants, furniture, fabrics and brand identity projects, Buchanan Studio produces a few over-the-top events each year. After staging a four-day celebrity wedding, making dinner for a crowd at home feels relatively easy. “Our stress management is probably quite good because of it,” said Charlotte.
Retractable shades and a chimney over the wood-fired grill make the outdoor kitchen a four-seasons entertaining space.Credit…Andrea Urbez
The occasion for this gathering was summer itself. Londoners have a reputation for staying in town for most of the season, or at least until August. But even though the “evenings are long,” said Charlotte, the Buchanans’ friends — many of them also designers — have work lives that require their attention at odd hours. Luckily, the couple takes a relaxed approach to arrival times and impromptu additions to the guest list. “We knew we’d cook for fifty, rather than twenty, because that’s what always happens,” said Angus. And the couple have a similarly laid-back strategy for ending their parties. “Even before we had children,” said Angus, “we had bunk beds in one of the spare rooms upstairs, so that people could stay over, rather than have to go home far too late.”
The Attendees: The guests included the designers and creative consultants Matilda Goad, 33, and Violet Dent, 35 (Angus’s sister); the food stylist and creative consultant Kirthanaa Naidu, 28; the filmmaker Pietro Birindelli, 46; the photographer Lily Bertrand-Webb, 34; the magazine editor Dipal Acharya, 35; the creative director Abisola Omole, 31; and the creative director George Yandell, 40, and his wife, Natalie Sytner Yandell, 36, the founder of the ceramics line Bettina Ceramica.
The Table: “We’ve got the widest table you can possibly get,” said Angus, who was afraid a narrower one would force the family into the formality of plated dinners. Mismatched glass jugs of pink and peach English roses, picked up from the flower market in Covent Garden around 5 a.m. that day, decorated the table’s center. English roses also featured on the heavyweight Belgian linen tablecloth, whose pattern — a mess of pink blooms against charcoal stripes — Buchanan Studio designed in collaboration with Dent. Votives and a few bergamot-scented candles from the specialty grocer Daylesford Organic filled any gaps. The napkins, explained Angus, were made from scraps and samples of the company’s linens — mostly in a ruby and dusty pink version of their Studio Stripe print.
The Food: Charlotte, whom Angus admits is “a much better cook” than he is, gravitates toward family-style platters of Middle Eastern-leaning dishes. “There’re always dietary requirements,” she said. “And this way there’s something for everyone.” She inherited a palate for, as she put it, “loads of garlic, tahini and pomegranate molasses,” from her Lebanese grandmother. Accordingly, she pooled saffron yogurt on top of grilled sliced eggplant and tossed new potatoes in herbs and olive oil. A shower of pomegranate seeds finished several dishes. “They can hide anything,” said Angus. Not that any sleight of hand was necessary when it came to the spiced pulled lamb shoulder that Charlotte slow-cooked for six hours before Angus finished it on the grill to add a smoky note. “It’s a well-rehearsed house classic,” she said. For dessert, Naidu brought one of her pandan Basque cheesecakes. To make it, she blends fresh pandan leaf with water to make a juice, which she then folds into coconut milk and cream. The resulting cake has a grassy, nutty scent — and under a toasted brown top, it’s bright green.
The Drinks: As guests walked through the kitchen, a bartender, clad in a one-of-a-kind rose-printed Belgian linen Buchanan Studio apron, suggested either a spicy margarita or a nonalcoholic premixedspritz called Arva. The latter, which is flavored with yuzu and pear, was created by Omole. During the meal, guests passed round bottles of Della Vite prosecco, for which Buchanan Studio developed the brand identity.
The Music: “It’s an ever changing and growing playlist,” said Angus of his genre-hopping music choices. “But I quite like that at some point during the night, someone else will connect to Sonos and take on the D.J. role.” Sometimes, having a task makes a guest feel at ease, he pointed out: “People like being involved; they like helping.”
The Conversation: Acharya had arrived at the house so early that she had time to walk around the block. “I ended up going to the corner shop and picking up cigarettes,” she admitted. Half the party guests put down their Juul pens to partake. “It’s so rare to see real cigarettes now,” said Dipal. Earlier in the day, the Buchanans’ young son had fallen and needed stitches, mention of which brought the conversation to emergency room visits. Many of the guests are parents to school-aged children; they shared stories of the various scrapes their offspring had endured.
Entertaining Tip: One thing the Buchanans have learned through producing events is that no matter how big or small the gathering, moving the party to different spaces over the course of the night keeps it fresh. “You might start in one place for a drink and then sit by the fire, if it’s winter, before going to the dinner table,” said Charlotte. “It’s a nice way to get a flow to an evening and make it feel exciting.”
The Recipe for the Buchanans’ Slow-Cooked Lamb: “Lamb can take on so many different flavors — you can dial up the smokiness or the spice or the sweetness,” said Charlotte. While in the winter her version of the dish incorporates sweet potatoes into a sort of meaty dauphinoise, her summer version usually starts with garlic, anchovies and plenty of red wine and red wine vinegar. Here’s how to make it: Begin by searing a lamb shoulder on all sides before placing it in a deep-sided roasting pan. “Then, add masses of garlic and masses of anchovies,” said Angus. (“A recipe might say put five anchovies, and we probably add three tins,” said Charlotte.) The seasonings can change — for this rendition, the couple used fennel seeds, bay, sage and chili powder. Red wine vinegar “takes the edge off,” according to Angus. But the real secret ingredient is good aluminum foil — to prevent the liquid from evaporating while the lamb cooks. Once the roasting pan is well wrapped, the Buchanans put it in an oven on low heat, or over indirect heat on a wood-fired grill, for up to seven hours. It can be kept warm while guests arrive, then shredded and topped with herbs or pomegranate seeds right before being served. “Being able to keep it warm on the fire” is key, said Angus. “There’s nothing worse than one of you being stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having a nice time.”