Style | The Aesthete

Nigel Coates talks personal style

The Royal College of Art’s professor of architecture, Nigel Coates is one of the most innovative thinkers in British design.

April 05 2011
Maria Shollenbarger

My personal style signifier is my ring by Betony Vernon with a porcelain Fornasetti face – based on the original female face Fornasetti designed for his plate series. I thought they could use a boy in the series, so I made one – it’s number 333. You can buy the plate, but you can’t buy the ring. Only one other person has it, actually. I’m not sure I would call it a wedding band. It’s more “concentrated anima”. www.betonyvernon.com. www.fornasetti.com.

A recent “find” is Il Buco restaurant in New York. It’s a bit shabby, the food and wine are fantastic; it’s a great atmosphere. I enjoyed the crush and steam of the place. 47 Bond Street, New York 10012 (+1212-533 1932; www.ilbuco.com).

The books on my bedside table are Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, but I’m reading it in Italian so next to it is a massive, proper Italian dictionary. And The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason, a kind of imaginary series of fragments about Odysseus. It’s just brilliant, actually.

An object I would never part with is an Etruscan cup, in bucchero – their typical black earthenware – from the market in Arezzo. I didn’t ask about provenance... I believe it to be real, let’s just say.

The last music I downloaded was by Juanes – an album called Yerbatero. I wanted some South American rockabilly at the opening of [my furniture exhibition] Baroccabilly in NYC and my gallerist, who’s Colombian, suggested Juanes. I like music from as far away from me on the four corners of this earth as can be found – what we euphemistically refer to as World Music, which kind of sucks as a categorisation. www.juanes.net.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the Aegadian islands, off Sicily. Almost no cars on most of them, population 200 or 300 in the winter. They constitute the most unspoilt seaside place I’ve ever been to. The restaurants were mostly completely simple, but one in particular – and I can’t remember the name – was sensational. The flavours were just... from the Gods.

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home was bottarga, from the same islands. Salty, fishy, smelly. Not the easiest to carry. I really like food.

The grooming staple I’m never without is my Wahl beard clippers, professional ones. And I like the men’s Comme des Garçons fragrances – especially the one called Dry Cleaning. But I’m a fan of all of them; I switch between them. www.wahlglobal.com. www.comme-des-garcons.com.

The last thing I bought and loved is – and I’m going to be boring here – my iPad. Of course it is, right? How obvious. But I mean, I take it to bed with me; I really do. I get the news, I show pictures to friends. It really is like having an extra bit of brain in your pocket. www.apple.com.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is something I saw a friend of mine wearing the other night: a pair of gorgeous Balmain moto-style, or motorcycle jeans – I don’t know what they’d be called officially. They were black suede, sort of low-slung, with seams and panels here and there, but they just fitted like a glove. www.balmain.com.

An artist whose work I would collect if I could is Jack Pierson. And Ellen Cantor. I do collect her work, but would love much more. And there’s a young painter called Filippo Caramazza, who was at the RCA. He does paintings of origami animals he’s made from old prints. I have one of a rabbit fashioned out of a Dürer. He makes something frivolous out of something that has a weighty artistic pedigree, but then paints it in a technique, and with a precision, that is very serious – and he achieves a real light in the canvas.

The last item I added to my wardrobe is a beautiful black rabbit-felt hat by Reinhard Plank, from a little shop in Rome called SBU. It has this unbelievable property of being able to be completely screwed up, and then utterly regaining its shape. No label, no seaming; it is the perfect bare minimum of design. www.reinhardplank.com. SBU, Via di San Pantaleo 68-69, Rome (+3906-6880 2547; www.sbu.it).

My favourite website is the BBC. And I love Asos. Seriously; I think it’s wonderful. I don’t really use websites for inspiration. I don’t look at design websites. I’d sooner look at pictures of funny old chairs. www.asos.co.uk. www.bbc.com.

See also

People, Interview