My Style Story: Kate Silverton on her passion for African art and buying antiques abroad

The BBC newsreader tells us about her passion for African art, buying antiques abroad and juxtaposing old and new pieces in her Victorian home

Kate Silverton

What drew me to my home was the original fittings and the working fireplace. Before my husband and I bought the house – a Victorian semi built in the 1860s – I owned a modern flat in central London. We didn’t live together until after we married so this house certainly feels like home.

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I love each and every room for different reasons but in the winter we spend most nights in the ‘withdrawing room’, as we call it. It contains sculptures and artworks that I have collected on my travels around the world. It’s a small room with an open fire, a sofa, a library of books and my writing desk. It is intimate, beautiful and cosy.

I collect artefacts when I travel as I love meandering among antiques stalls and galleries when I’m away. I once walked into a gallery in Bali and found a very old stone piece that the owner told me had been recovered from a temple. It depicted a pregnant woman and was incredibly heavy. It took five weeks to ship it home but I adore it. A few months later I miraculously became pregnant at the age of 41, after IVF had failed.

Kate treasures an African mask like this one from Ancestor Gallery. 

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At the top of my interiors wishlist has to be reupholstering the seat of an antique French chair. I have yet to find the right fabric – I’m looking for something pink or orange to contrast with the white walls in the hallway where it lives. 

The first piece of furniture I ever bought was a beautiful modern chair for my flat. It has square legs and arms and a soft cream suede seat with leather thongs as rungs for the back. It is so comfortable. It now sits in our bedroom and I like the juxtaposition with my antique furniture – also in the room is a very old French bed with the traditional bedknobs and frame. 

The artist I most admire is Patrick Mavros, a sculptor from Zimbabwe, who has a store on Fulham Road. He sponsors women with HIV in South Africa, so they can learn how to create the most extraordinary pottery. Their pieces have become so sophisticated that [luxury scarf brand] Hermès has expressed an interest. I have a crocodile jug that I keep high up, away from my exuberant four-year-old son, Wilbur.

At the top of my interiors wishlist has to be reupholstering the seat of an antique French chair.

I love making the connection between traditional and modern and blending the periods. For example, my kitchen is Scandi in its look but with a traditional Downton Abbey-style Tom Howley kitchen painted in Farrow & Ball’s Cornforth White. Then I have an African stool and a stone head from Zimbabwe that sit alongside in the area with a sofa. I love the pops of dark brown against the whites and greys. 

If my home were on fire, I would save my wooden artefacts – the traditional paddle I brought home from Borneo and the African mask I traded for a dress in Mozambique.

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The skill I wish I had is to restore furniture. All I can do is repaint my children’s Ikea playhouse table, but I enjoy it, and would love to be able to look after period pieces properly.