Style | The Aesthete

Stephen Bayley talks personal style

Writer and cultural commentator Stephen Bayley was the first director of London’s Design Museum.

March 02 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

My personal style signifier is my Charles Eames aluminium Group Office chair. Until someone discovers a new material or there are evolutionary changes in human mechanics, there will be nothing better. It is perfect: no more neophiliac experimentation in chair design is necessary. From £1,450, Vitra, 30 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1 (020-7607 6200; www.vitra.com) and stockists.

The last thing I bought and loved was a Smart Passion Cabrio in black with black leather interior and the clever micro hybrid drive. It’s a car with many faults, but it’s thrillingly intelligent and useful in central London. And it has that magical quality of being endearing. From £11,415, www.smart.com for dealers.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is nothing. Apart from the Porsche I can’t justify and the Provençal house I can’t afford, my material needs were satisfied long ago.

My favourite room is the kitchen, although it’s also the most uncomfortable. We’ve got a large house and a garden, and spend all our time in a space more cramped than the bathroom of our first flat.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home recently is a very fine oversized whisk I found in the brocante at Puget-Théniers, Provence.

The people I rely on for grooming and style are Heinz Schumi, a Chelsea institution, for hair. His “salon” doubles as an artist’s studio; £40 a cut, electric clippers, never varies. Also David Chambers, an itinerant celebrity tailor, and Tim Little for shoes. He abandoned advertising – heroically – to become a funky cobbler. Heinz Schumi, 18 Britten Street, London SW3 (020-7352 6504). David Chambers, 07973-616 018. Tim Little, 560 King’s Road, London SW6 (020-7736 1999; www.timlittle.com).

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Polpo, a slightly hokey tilt at a Venetian bacaro, but roaring with energy and empathetically priced. I also like Olivomare: brilliantly original Sardinian-style fish in brilliantly odd architecture. And lots of bottarga. Polpo, 41 Beak Street, London W1 (020-7734 4479; www.polpo.co.uk). Olivomare, 10 Lower Belgrave Street, London SW1 (020-7730 9022; www.olivorestaurants.com).

The best gift I’ve given recently was quite some time ago; my wife has rather tired of exciting and unusual presents. But I always look out for Miriam Haskell 1950s costume jewellery – baroquely convoluted, ornate designs, lots of pearls, nacre and gold. I mostly love her because she democratised luxury for the masses. At Glitterati, 148 Columbia Road, London E2 and see www.houseoflavande.com and www.miriamhaskell.com.

And the best one I’ve received was 20 pairs of Falke socks. My vision of depraved luxury is to have new socks every day. From £6, 020-7493 8442; www.falke.com.

The artist whose work I would collect if I could is Rogier van der Weyden. Or Jan van Eyck. I adore Northern Renaissance art for its stillness and clarity. I concede that this is an unrealistic ambition but sometimes, reach should exceed grasp.

My favourite websites are BBC News so I never, ever have to watch television; and BBC Radio Three so I can bluff that I know what’s playing. www.bbc.co.uk/news; www.bbc.co.uk/radio3.

In my fridge you’ll always find generic white burgundy. I like the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well. Currently it’s Louis Jadot’s Mâcon-Villages. Lots of it. Plus some Actimel. www.louisjadot.com.

An object I would never part with is a painting called The Death of St Francis. I bought it as junk when a student in Liverpool; much later I had it ruinously over-restored. Now it turns out to be a ruined minor masterpiece.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Nice, because it can be so many things. It’s a big, cultured French city if you want, or it’s a grimy, romantic port. Italy is next door and Provence up the road. I’d want to live in a fisherman’s hut opposite Castel Plage, and lunch at Coco Beach. I rather wish I were there now.

See also

People, Interview