Style | The Aesthete

Amanda Levete talks personal style

Former Future Systems co-principal Amanda Levete’s current work includes a Naples subway station with Anish Kapoor and Bangkok’s Central Embassy Project.

November 09 2010
Janice Blackburn

My personal style signifier is a hair clip – any old plastic one, but mostly I buy the tortoiseshell ones from Boots. I’ve been putting my hair up, messily, in the same way since I was a teenager. Even after I have my hair blow-dried, I clip it up. My fantasy is to find a hairdresser who will convince me to break the habit.

The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of white Gerrit Rietveld chairs from the last Sotheby’s 20th Century Design sale in London. They are very rare, and quite exquisite – so timeless and modern you would be hard-pressed to put a date on them. They were actually designed in 1957.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a set of 1950s school chairs designed by [Swiss designer] Armin Wirth. They have flip-up seats that concertina into a horizontal stack. They’re very utilitarian and quite beautiful on their own, but when stacked they look like an incredible sculpture.

The grooming staples I’m never without are Crèma F moisturiser from Santa Maria Novella and Docteur Pierre mouthwash. Santa Maria Novella, 117 Walton Street, London SW3 (020-7460 6600).

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Casa Malaparte on Capri. Curzio Malaparte built the house himself, starting in 1939, with a local stonemason. It sits on a dangerous cliff overlooking the Gulf of Salerno, with a great swathe of red, reverse-perspective steps leading up to a huge roof terrace. There is something about it that provokes a desire for intellectual and emotional ecstasy.

The last item I added to my wardrobe was this great pair of Junya Watanabe pedal pushers [pictured]. The fabric is a photographic print of distressed denim jeans, but the funny thing is that the fake patched holes are exactly where they’d be if they were mine; they even have bits that look as if they’ve been coloured in with a pen, which is something I actually do on occasion. They are beyond ironic. Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover Street, London W1 (020-7518 0680;

The last music I downloaded... I wouldn’t know how to download music. I rely on my husband and children to do that. But one of my favourite songs, So Nobody Else Can Hear by Jimmy Cobb, they can’t find, so I listen to it on an old vinyl record, which is probably the best way. Another favourite singer is Cesária Evora.

The best gifts I’ve given are probably the Christmas stockings to our children. I enjoy collecting various bits of kitsch during the year: crazily decorated pencils and paperclips from Tokyo; pendants with their names painted onto a piece of rice from China; and Hawkin’s Bazaar catalogue for silly things such as an egg timer that sings Killing Me Softly. And Fortnum & Mason for delicious chocolate treats. Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1 (020-7734 8040;

And the best gift I’ve received was from my husband, Ben, who for no particular occasion bought me the silver characters “A” and “B” from Jacqueline Rabun, and put them on a piece of fine red ribbon. I love surprise presents. 32 Grosvenor Mews, London SW1 (020-7245 0524;

My favourite room is the bathroom in our new house. It’s double-height, top-lit and lined in pale blue Corian with curved corners. The bath, basin, towel rail and shower have been specially designed for us – by me.

The books on my bedside table are The Alastair Campbell Diaries: Volume 1; A Life of Picasso by John Richardson; My Paper Chase by Harold Evans; Too Big To Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin; The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion; Family and Kinship in East London by Michael Young and Peter Willmott – and Carlo Mollino’s monograph, but I bought it in Italian by mistake, so I just look at the pictures.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be what I wanted to be when I was young: a dancer, a scientist or a restaurateur. I’m sure I would have enjoyed any of them, but I found my true vocation many years ago.