The Aesthete: Ben Evans talks more personal taste

The London Design Festival co-founder and director continues his list of likes with the Dutch Golden Age, evocative Tuscan wine and the spirit of Soho

Ben Evans at home in London
Ben Evans at home in London | Image: Kate Martin

My style icon is my friend, the effortlessly chic filmmaker John Maybury. He wears fantastic combinations of old and new, such as a Vivienne Westwood Pirate collection shirt underneath an immaculate black Yohji Yamamoto jacket. He has a wonderful selection of shirts – always an admirable trait in a man. 

An object I would never part with is my Richard Hamilton print, Five Tyres Remoulded, which I bought from the Alan Cristea Gallery and gives me daily pleasure. It came with the mould used to make the tyre prints and sheets of tracing paper that, when you lay them on top of each other, create the technical drawings for the piece. Both the drawings and the print hang in our library in non-reflective frames so that they look as if they’re just floating in space. 43 Pall Mall, London SW1 (020-7439 1866; alancristea.com). 

Evo Box O’Bollox Texture Paste, £24
Evo Box O’Bollox Texture Paste, £24

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Ikeda in Mayfair. The food here is quite traditional, but the cooking and the quality of the ingredients take you to another level of Japanese cuisine. I ate grilled squid legs with ginger and tataki-style beef so thinly sliced it melted in my mouth, accompanied by fantastic sake. 30 Brook St, London W1 (020-7629 2730; ikedarestaurant.com).

The last music I downloaded was Take Five by King Tubby. It’s a dub version of the Dave Brubeck jazz classic. I enjoy that contrast in styles. 

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The artists whose work I would collect if I could would be from the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century – they produced the most sublime still-lifes. They are all of museum quality, which puts them out of my reach, but I would love to own something by Jan van de Velde, or Adriaen Coorte. The latter’s intimate Still-Life with Asparagus would be amazing over the fireplace. Our main room is a 185sq m space with white walls and a double-height ceiling, and we made a deliberate decision to hang only one picture in there, but perhaps I could make an exception…

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a few bottles of Boscarelli Nobile di Montepulciano 2007, which I first drank at a friend’s house in Tuscany and enjoyed so much that I got the local wine store to ship some home to me. Its full richness is a nice reminder of Italy. About £60 a bottle; Enoteca Molesini, Piazza della Repubblica 3, 52044 Cortona AR, Italy (+3905-7562 544; molesini-market.com). 

Evans’s library – his favourite room in his house
Evans’s library – his favourite room in his house | Image: Kate Martin

An indulgence I would never forgo is my Arsenal season ticket. Football is a lifelong commitment and I go with a group of about 18 friends I’ve known for 40 years. From £891; arsenal.com

The last thing I bought and loved was a set of 120 Staffordshire bone-china plates and bowls made for us by ceramics company 1882. Each plate has our initials on it in a different place. It took us two years to get the design right – we were a bit embarrassed by the idea of monogrammed plates – but the end result is subtle and beautiful. 020-3002 8023; 1882ltd.com.

Prawn and vegetable tempura at Soho restaurant Koya
Prawn and vegetable tempura at Soho restaurant Koya | Image: Per-Anders Jorgensen

And the thing I’m eyeing next is some Georgian silver cutlery. I’ve been inspired by [the architect] John Pawson and his wife Catherine – their set is so beautiful, both to look at and to use, that I thought it would be nice to have some too. I like the idea of bringing something from the past into our very contemporary home.

And the best one I’ve received recently was a pair of John Lobb black leather ankle boots. I have slightly odd-shaped feet so, for my last birthday, Amanda treated me to a bespoke pair. They’re English style, rather than Italian – which I think means they have a slightly higher heel – with red-leather lining, making them both subtle and distinct. From £5,316; 9 St James’s St, London SW1 (020-7930 3664; johnlobbltd.co.uk).

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre

My favourite room in my house is the library. It has a matching pair of fireplaces lined with pink marble and 99m of super-thin shelving, designed by Amanda, for all our books and records – I have 2,000 albums. It’s a really nice place to sit and read or play Scrabble. 

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Soho in London. I love the diversity and energy of this area and even though people moan about how much everything’s changed, I don’t think its spirit has been diluted. There are still lots of interesting independent shops such as the Italian delicatessen and Old Compton Street institution I Camisa & Son, which sells perfect pumpkin ravioli; the Japanese noodle bar Koya on Frith Street, where I have the specials every time; and the tailor John Pearse on Meard Street. Pearse is one of London’s great characters – go in and there’s every chance you’ll find him measuring someone like Eric Clapton for a five-piece tweed suit. And no visit to Soho would be complete without a visit to Gelupo – it serves the best ice cream in London. Pumpkin ravioli, £17.50 per kilo; I Camisa & Son, 61 Old Compton St, W1 (020-7437 7610; icamisa.co.uk). Gelupo, 7 Archer St, W1 (020-7287 5555; gelupo.com). John Pearse, 6 Meard St, W1 (020 7434 0738; johnpearse.co.uk). Koya, 50 Frith St, W1 (koya.co.uk). 

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The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre. The story of Britain’s most important cold war double agent, it reads like a fiction thriller yet it’s all true.

The people I rely on for my personal wellbeing are my Pilates teacher Merry Holden and yoga instructor Sonja Perreten. When my doctor told me I needed to be more flexible following a bout of sciatica seven years ago, I booked some private sessions. It was only supposed to be until I was good enough not to embarrass myself at a group class but, of course, I’ve become addicted to the bespoke experience. They come to the house three times a week and it works. I no longer have a bad back and I sleep better too. Merry Holden, merryholdenpilates.co.uk. Sonja Perreten, yogawithsonia.com.

The grooming staple I am never without is Box O’Bollox Texture Paste by Evo. It stops me having a bad hair day.  

If I weren’t doing what I do now, I would be an architect, which I almost was, or – in my fantasy life – a fantastic musician with a No 1 album and a symphony to my name.

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