Beloved old furnishings become like old friends, so most of our things are antique. We found this chair in an antiques centre on Norman Road in Hastings. When we first bought our house we went there a lot. It’s a big old shop that’s on several floors and is full of wonderful things.
I couldn’t resist this large winged chair. Before we did the needlepoint it had very boring upholstery but I liked the idea of redoing it because the high back makes a tremendous canvas to work on. Needlepoint coverings are one of the best ways to add a personal touch to a room, though what with the back, the seat cover and the arms, it’s no wonder that it took three of us six months.
The design came to me when I was thinking about the house. I feel like our Hastings home demands a soft sugared-almond palette. And I love large flowers, especially peonies – the queen of flowers. The mossy-green background seemed an ideal colour to go with the pale pink walls.
The needlepoint method is just delicious. It’s like making a beautiful little mosaic of glass beads. I’ve been doing needlepoint since the seventies – my first commission was for Lord and Lady Harlech. It’s addictive and so enjoyable as it’s being made that it’s almost disappointing when it’s finished. You put the last stitch in and see that it’s a flower, but before that it’s this magical fragmented thing.
I am a textile collector as well as creator. Fifty years in the textile business means that you come across a lot! From 1940s swatches right back to old Chinese designs and Japanese kimonos, I keep pieces in drawers and trunks and lose them constantly. Suddenly, I’ll have to move something and I find a whole stack of fabulous fabrics in the back of a closet. My house is full of surprises!
Now I only get to go shopping when I’m travelling. We romantic Americans love to collect the bijoux of the world. It’s very common to come across a great collection of oriental antiques or some fabulous patchworks in America. And, of course, I always go to the Houston Quilt Market. It’s a Mecca for quilters all over the world.
I feel like I was born on Portobello Road. When I first came to London I accidentally settled right next to it on Lansdowne Crescent. I kept going round to antiques shops that were open during the week and asking if they had cheaper versions of this or that, and they would say: ‘Wait for the market’. When the market opened, I couldn’t believe it. I used to go every weekend.
Having old-world items teaches you about harmony. I love finding an oriental jar or painting and letting it guide my thoughts on colour. I’ve been to Japan and Vietnam but I’ve still never been to China. It’s so high on my bucket list. Imagine the antiques I’d find…
Kaffe’s new book, Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms, is out now (Abrams, £21.99)
Interview: Alice Hancock
Portrait: Jan Baldwin