Style | The Aesthete

Seth Stein talks personal style

Seth Stein’s eponymous architectural practice has won many accolades, including a RIBA Award in 2009 for Pencalenick House in Cornwall.

August 31 2010
Emma Crichton-Miller

My personal style signifier is my Aston Martin DB6, which is just a ridiculous and beautiful thing. It’s from 1970 – it’s the one that came after the James Bond car, but before they went angular and hard-edged.

The last thing I bought and loved was an artwork by Bob Law from Karsten Schubert gallery. It’s basically a portrait of two dogs scratched onto a lead plate. It’s quirky, but I love the materials of it – building materials. It’s a sweet piece.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the last year is the Fujiya Ryokan in Ginzan Onsen, an area of healing hot springs in the Japanese Alps. This is a 350-year-old inn redesigned by the Tokyo-born architect Kengo Kuma. The setting is beautiful and everything is incredibly delicate and refined. There are green stained-glass panes by Masato Shida, and bamboo screens created by Hideo Nakata, tatami matting and these beautiful baths. It was an image in the FT that inspired me to go there.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a tiny pottery dog that is nearly 3,000 years old. As it happened, my wife, Susie, and I found ourselves in Jerusalem for the day. We stumbled across an Arab antiques trader opposite the Sixth Station of the Cross and I bought it from him. It’s so very ancient and yet it has a simple, vital energy – it could be by Picasso.

The grooming staples I am never without are Kiehl’s products and Noxzema shaving foam – quite retro stuff, that doesn’t smell.

The last items of clothing I added to my wardrobe are a bunch of Jil Sander shirts, for an unbelievable price; we all went along to Uniqlo and I bought the ones she’s designed for them.

A recent find is a new bookshop on Kensington Park Road, Lutyens & Rubinstein. They [literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein] wanted to run a bookshop for people who love books and so asked all their friends for their favourite titles. They sell scent by CB Perfume – smells that evoke memories like Proustian madeleines – and serve tea and coffee too. I have also found a fantastic Belgian ironmongery company, Van Cronenburg, which casts historic and contemporary hardware. Its designs are very simple and tactile. I now have all my numerals done there. They work as well in the Georgian schoolhouse we are restoring in Wapping as in a contemporary building. Lutyens & Rubinstein, 21 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (020-7229 1010; Van Cronenburg, Moeistraat 53, 9830 Sint-Martens-Latem (+324-7569 8827;

The last meal that truly impressed me was at The Dock Kitchen. It started as a pop-up kitchen last September, set up by Stevie Parle of The River Café, and specialises in well-sourced ingredients from all around the world. It’s just round the corner from my office, in Portobello Dock. 342-344 Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Road, London W10 (020-8962 1610;

The book on my bedside table is The Summer of the Bear (Mantle) by my sister-in-law, Bella Pollen. And then I have a stack of unread New Yorkers – you would have to be in prison to have enough time to read them all.

In my fridge you’ll always find – on a good day, anyway – one of those little bottles of Pom juice, and as Alastair Little’s delicatessen, Tavola, is just around the corner, there is usually one of his hot dinners – simple and of the season. Tavola, 155 Westbourne Grove, London W11 (020-7228 0571).

The last music I downloaded was Otis Taylor, the American blues musician, to whom my son Hoagy recently introduced me.

My favourite website is currently YouTube, where I go to see this guy called Lev Yilmaz, a cartoonist who posts very short animated comics – maybe each a minute long – called Tales of Mere Existence, with titles such as A Typical Conversation with My Mom. He draws as he talks. I find them compulsive.