October 16 2009
My style icons include Winston Churchill, because he knew a good cigar. And he was so well spoken, had great sartorial sense, was conscious of having a whole persona in a way that was so appealing – and all that in extraordinarily difficult times. And Gimmo Etro, the founder of the Etro fashion house, which is so innovative and evolving at great speed, yet you never feel the aesthetic link is lost. Etro is unafraid to experiment, and absolutely doesn’t follow trends. Etro, 14 Old Bond Street, London W1 (020-7495 5767; www.etro.it).
A recent “find” of mine is John Sandoe bookseller, off London’s King’s Road. The guy has a near-photographic, near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the books he has in stock. He has a computer database, but he only ever uses it to confirm what he’s saying. It’s also just a beautiful shop, with a wonderful patina of age, and time. 10 Blacklands Terrace, London SW3 (020-7589 9473; www.johnsandoe.com).
The site or place that inspires me is the Lubéron. It’s an English-countryside beauty, but with the heat, smells and light of France – and the wind, that incredibly wild and poetic sirocco. It’s an introspective place, but at the same time the locals are extremely genteel and courteous. I find exactly the kind of privacy I like there.
An object I would never part with is a pencil, this one by Caran d’Ache. It was given to me by a very nice lady when I moved to London. Buying for yourself can be much less significant than when someone buys for you, and the choice of thing is out of your hands. When you have the money and the time, you perhaps notice what you buy less. When someone else chooses something for you, you see, and continue to see, the object quite differently. That’s where its significance comes from. www.carandache.ch.
An indulgence I’d never forego is using my Dupont double-flame lighter to light a cigar. I’d never forsake that aspect of that habit – the object or the ritual. The whole act of cigar smoking is such a ritual of pleasure; for me, this is the key element of it. ST Dupont Ligne 2 lighter, £565 (www.st-dupont.com) from Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1 (020-7730 1234).
My favourite room in my house is my living room because it has a double-height ceiling. I do the most amazingly productive thinking in there; it’s like the ideas go up, up, turn in the air a bit, and come back down more clarified and complete. It’s about the volume and the shape of the room, not at all about the design of the room. My house is a blank page; it’s totally undesigned.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Chelsea. Because you have literally everything you want at walking distance. And when you stop and look around, it’s a beautiful little village. There is the butcher in Elystan Street, which has been there for decades and decades. And the fishmonger in Chelsea Green. It’s always reliably quieter on the little streets, whether Monday or Saturday. And it’s minus the folkloric aspect you get in Notting Hill, Portobello Road, all that. It’s more business as usual, which I Iove. Jago Butchers, 9 Elystan Street, London SW3 (020-7589 5331; www.jagobutchersofchelsea.co.uk). Chelsea Fishmonger, 10 Cale Street, London SW3 (020-7589-9432; www.chelseafish.co.uk).
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is New York for the buzz, the sheer outsized-ness of it. It’s so vertical; you feel tiny in a good way. You think, “If man can build something to such huge scale, what can’t he do?” It’s a landscape of power and intelligence, yet one can still – one does – find one’s own village. That said, I’d far rather stay in London. It’s a greener, simply more beautiful city.
If I weren’t doing what I do now, I would be an investment banker, and simultaneously a watercolour artist. In the end, I chose architecture, which I suppose falls somewhere in between.