The people I rely on for my wellbeing are the Land Gardeners, who grow the most sublime flowers and herbs in Oxfordshire and deliver weekly to our London shop. I am also lucky enough to have been going to the extraordinary Pilates teacher Dreas Reyneke for 15 years. Dreas was formerly a dancer with Ballet Rambert and opened his studio in Notting Hill in 1973. I derive as much pleasure from our weekly chats as I do from the physical benefits of the miracles he has performed to keep my back pain at bay. Body Conditioning Studio, 3A Ladbroke Road, London W11 (020-7727 9963). The Land Gardeners, www.thelandgardeners.com.
My style icon is Bunny Mellon, the famously private philanthropist, art collector and horticulturalist who only wore clothes designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy, and whose various houses and gardens were extraordinarily beautiful in the most understated and peaceful way.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the area around the border of Calabria and Campania in southern Italy. It has wonderful ancient sites such as the Certosa di Padula with its monumental cloister, and the well-preserved temples of Paestum. The area is also rich in dramatic coastal towns, pretty fishing villages and spectacular forests. We stayed with friends in a marvellously atmospheric house built by their family in the 1960s. The charming seaside town of Sapri was very near, and overlooks the beautiful Gulf of Policastro.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a watercolour of a horse that was hanging on the wall of a favourite café in Rome and which my husband bought on our first holiday together. It wasn’t for sale, but he persuaded the café owner to part company with it – it is nothing special artistically, but it does evoke very happy memories.
The books on my bedside table are always in a teetering pile as I read many at the same time. They currently include The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake, a fascinating exposé of Paris and the worlds of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld from the late 1950s until 1980; Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows, an elegant essay on aesthetics and the clash between the importance of shadows in traditional Japanese interiors and modern electrical light; Seven Ways of Knowing, by my uncle David Kottler, which has been on my bedside table longer than I dare admit due to my inability to grasp the maths behind his theories about abstract, ethical and religious knowledge; Last Man In, an autobiographical account by John Hare, the last recruit of the British colonial administration in Nigeria and the brilliant co-founder of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation; and Mrs Miniver, a collection of Jan Struther’s beautifully written weekly columns in The Times, musing on the everyday life of a middle-class Chelsea family during the second world war.
An indulgence I would never forgo is a long bath with Aromatherapy Associates or Olverum bath oils. Aromatherapy Associates bath oils, £45 for 55ml; www.aromatherapyassociates.com. Olverum bath oils, £26 for 125ml; www.olverum.com.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a silk dress with a low cross-tie back by Steven Alan from one of my favourite shops, Couverture & The Garbstore, in Notting Hill. It stocks a real breadth of designs from all over the place, and I always find something I want. Couverture & The Garbstore, 188 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (020-7229 2178; www.couvertureandthegarbstore.com). Steven Alan, www.stevenalan.com.
An object I would never part with is a portrait of my children, painted seven years ago by my friend, the artist Charlotte Johnstone. www.katiepertwee.com.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Matisse. I love the relaxed exoticism of his interiors and the fact that textiles play such a large part in his work. He marries together two of my great passions – orientalism and the south of France. My absolute favourite is Odalisque au Fauteuil Noir.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Notting Hill. I love the Admiral Vernon Arcade for its marvellous antiques dealers, who have survived the decimation of the old Portobello Market – particularly Clive Rogers for oriental rugs, Poppy Stothert for tribal art, and Don Kelly, my favourite book dealer in London; also the fruit and vegetable sellers on Portobello Road. I am always rushing in to Lyndons Art Graphics to buy something for my three children and end up buying yet more things for myself. I love Diptyque for its scents and the body creams are just as amazing as the candles – also the staff are second to none. I go to Couverture & The Garbstore and Aimé for clothes, because between the two I can find everything I love and want. And Pedlars for gifts. Admiral Vernon Antiques Arcade, 141-149 Portobello Road, London W11. Aimé, 32 Ledbury Road, London W11 (020-7221 7070; www.aimelondon.com). Clive Rogers (Saturdays only at Admiral Vernon), 01784-481 100; www.orient-rug.com. Couverture & The Garbstore, 188 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (020-7229 2178; www.couvertureandthegarbstore.com). Diptyque, 195 Westbourne Grove, London W11 (www.diptyqueparis.co.uk). Don Kelly (Saturdays only at Admiral Vernon), 020-7731 0482. Lyndons Art & Graphics, 216 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (020-7727 5192). Pedlars, 128 Talbot Road, London W11 (020-7727 7799; www.pedlars.co.uk). Poppy Stothert, by appt only, 07817-689 198 and 07921-357 649.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is the extraordinarily vibrant Istanbul. That skyline of domes and minarets is mesmerising. I could never tire of walking through the old city, where my favourite place to eat is outside at Balikçi Sabahattin, a wonderful fish restaurant that is always buzzing with local families. I love to amble through Cukurcuma’s narrow alleys where mosques, hammams and antique shops sit side by side. Then there is the magical short ferry journey from Kabatas to The Princes’ Islands, southeast of Istanbul. The largest island in the group, Büyükada, has a ferry building built in the kiosk style and a charming tile-decorated café, while 19th-century villas spill down the slopes of the hills to the sea. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon – best in the spring or autumn when you can avoid the crowds and cycle round the whole island. Istanbul has hundreds of astonishingly beautiful mosques. One of the loveliest is the newly restored Atik Valide Mosque, with its exquisite luminous tiles. Balikçi Sabahattin, 1 Seyit Hasan Kuyu Sok, Cankurtaran-Eminönü, Istanbul (+90212-458 1824; www.balikcisabahattin.com).
In my fridge you’ll always find milk for Cadbury’s hot chocolate, which I drink at some point every single day. Broccoli, salad leaves, mint and flatleaf parsley from Portobello Road Market. Steak – usually courtesy of Ocado. And at least one bottle of white burgundy – we buy all our wines, not just the burgundy, from Tuggy Meyer of Huntsworth Wine, who gives the most fantastic advice on what to serve with what. Cadbury, www.cadbury.co.uk. Huntsworth Wine, 108 Kensington Church Street, London W8 (020-7229 1602; www.huntsworthwine.co.uk). Ocado, www.ocado.com. Portobello Road Market, London W11 (www.portobelloroad.co.uk).
The beauty staple I’m never without is my scent, Tuberose Gardenia by Estée Lauder. I have worn it for years; it is the perfect combination of two of my favourite floral scents and yet not too sweet. Fragrance is such an evocative thing that I am always nervous to change it as I remember how, as a teenager, I was rather sad when my mother changed the scent she had worn since I was a baby. £60 for 30ml EDP; www.esteelauder.co.uk.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a museum curator in the Ancient Egypt & Sudan department of the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I spent three years studying Egyptology at UCL and have never lost my fascination for the subject. British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1 (020-7323 8299 www.britishmuseum.org). Egyptian Museum, Tahrir Square, Meret Basha, Qasr an Nile, Cairo 11516 (www.sca-egypt.org). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1,000 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10028 (+1212-535-7710; www.metmuseum.org).