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.
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.
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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.
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 bed knobs and frame.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.