Style | Diary of a Somebody

Bill Amberg – Day 4

The leather artisan reflects on his favourite London street

Bill Amberg – Day 4

November 30 2012
Bill Amberg

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

I set out early for Hampstead, where I will meet the joiners who are fitting cupboard carcasses in the dressing rooms of a beautiful and unusual house we are working on there. Picking my way through the dog-walkers on the Heath to get to the client’s front door, I feel rather nervous that the bundles of vellum under my arm will attract unwanted canine interest, but I manage to avoid becoming a dog chew and arrive unscathed. The cabinets have a walnut interior and vellum-panelled exterior, detailed with antique mirror and ebony. I’m looking forward to seeing it all finished early next year.

The architect Robert Dye and his wife, Lucinda, are waiting at the studio when I return. They want to discuss a leather floor for one of his new projects in London, as well as choose materials for a leather rug in their kitchen at home. I pull out all the examples of buffalo, bull and cow hide suitable for cladding floors – the key requirements being that it must be thick, strong, quiet and warm.

My mother and father died last year, and while clearing up the barn at their home I found their old bicycles: fabulous boneshakers covered in bird muck and straw. After a month of loving repair at Halfpipe on the Golborne Road they have been returned to me in fine order, their tyres pumped and ready for the off.

I love the Golborne Road. It’s my favourite street in London and I frequently go for a wander there, stopping off for a spot of Lebanese food in Baalbak, followed by coffee and a mini almond cake at Café Oporto. I bump into my friend Ibrahim, who has just won the Best Streetfood or Takeway award on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme. It is brilliant news for him – and his many fans – after 15 years of serving up delicious lentil soups, tagines and Moroccan delicacies.

Paul Firbank and his artist girlfriend, Lizzie Gosling, pop over in the afternoon to chat about their work. Their company, The Rag and Bone Man, is a fast-growing business making genius lights, chairs, hooks and hangers out of engines, springs, fire extinguishers and all manner of metal ephemera. We are concocting a new project together after the success of our last piece, created for Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home documentary that aired on Channel Four in the autumn.

Tonight we are to polish and generally love up the new leather flooring we’ve laid in Selfridges, so I collect my team to get them to the store for 10.30pm, where we clean, wax and finally buff up the surface. It’s truly eerie walking Selfridges’ hallowed halls after hours, with no crowds to negotiate, but it provides some useful research for my Christmas shopping.

See also

Bill Amberg, People