The Aesthete: Matthew Hilton talks more personal taste

The furniture designer concludes his list of likes with David Byrne in concert, shopping in Porto and artist Takesada Matsutani

Matthew Hilton at home in London
Matthew Hilton at home in London | Image: Mark C O’Flaherty

My style icon is Steve McQueen. I like how simple his style was. It was very American: T-shirts, jeans and chinos. Slightly scruffy, but he always looked good because he kept himself in shape. I love the simplicity of his look, but also how rugged it was.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a beautiful handmade canoe, scaled down to about a metre long, made from glued lathes of what I think might be larch. I found it in a market in Brighton. It was a gift to my girlfriend’s great friend, who is a guitarist. It was fitting because he owns canoes, but also because it has the feel of an instrument. 

The Barber Club in Brighton
The Barber Club in Brighton

And the best one I’ve received recently was a ticket to see David Byrne in concert in Brighton. It was such an upbeat experience and the staging was impressive – minimal with good lighting, as if it was a set for modern dance. Everyone on stage wore a grey suit in a slightly different cut and it was all beautifully choreographed.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a piece of rusted metal I found on the beach at Shingle Street in Suffolk. I really like it – it looks like a mask or a figure in profile, or perhaps a kind of helmet. At some point I am going to mount it on fabric and frame it.


The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a navy-blue down-filled jacket from Uniqlo, which fulfils all my most practical travel criteria – it is lightweight, water- resistant, packs away small and is super-warm. From £59.90;

An object I would never part with is a ceramic mug my son made me when he was about six or seven years old that has “Happy Birthday Dad” engraved on the side. 

David Byrne in concert
David Byrne in concert | Image: Redferns

My favourite room in my house is the lounge, where my TV and music are. I have a grey modular Togo sofa from Ligne Roset, which I chose because I don’t have high ceilings and it sits low to the floor. It is constructed from foam, so I can move the pieces around easily. It’s a design classic. Togo small sofa, £2,057;

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the area around Clérigos in Porto. I first started going to the city over 10 years ago and there has been so much renovation since then. I miss the beauty of some of the decay, but it’s still amazing. I like the Portuguese-made goods at A Vida Portuguesa – they’re all packaged in such a decorative way, using great colours. There’s the incredible art nouveau bookshop Livraria Lello and a stationery store with a similarly handsome vintage interior, Araujo & Sobrinho. Vista Alegre is a famous ceramics company that makes crazy things with cabbages and frogs on them. It’s bonkers but it’s great. Araujo & Sobrinho, Largo São Domingos 55, 4050-545 Porto (+351-9173 85220; A Vida Portuguesa, Rua de Cândido dos Reis 36, 4050-151 Porto (+351-2220 2105; Livraria Lello, Rua das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto ( Vista Alegre, Rua das Carmelitas 40, 4050-161 Porto (+351-2220 04554;

Christian Dior Eau Sauvage,  £55 for 50ml EDT
Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, £55 for 50ml EDT

The person I rely on for wellbeing is my personal trainer, Annamaria Credenzone, who I see once a week. She was a professional fighter and British Thai boxing champion.

The grooming staple I’m never without is Dior Eau Sauvage, because I like how classic and unfashionable it is. I also use Nivea and a little hair wax that I get from my hairdresser, Fourth Floor. Dior Eau Sauvage, £55 for 50ml EDT; Fourth Floor, 4 Northington Street, London WC1 (020-7405 6011; 

Steve McQueen in 1968
Steve McQueen in 1968 | Image: Photoshot/Getty Images

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Brighton. It’s the perfect size and it has the sea, which has a great effect on me. There are good restaurants and you can easily get away to the countryside. I like going to get my hair cut at The Barber Club, which is a contemporary, Shoreditch-style barber. Marmalade is one my favourite cafés – it has superb coffee and good food, and the interior is really nice. It has also just taken over a little shack opposite and converted it into a coffee stall. There’s the Royal Pavilion, which I have mixed feelings about but is still very interesting – it’s a fantasy building, and despite being a palace, it feels like a theatre set that might be temporary. Food for Friends is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, with an excellent vegetarian menu.The Barber Club, 4 Bartholomews, BN1 1HG (01273-271 660; Food for Friends, 17-18 Prince Albert Street, BN1 1HF (01273-202 310; Marmalade, 237 Eastern Road, BN2 5JJ (01273-606 138; Royal Pavilion, 4-5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton BN1 1EE (03000-290 9900;

The best book I’ve read in the past year is A Matrix, which is a collection of work by the artist Takesada Matsutani. I went to his show at Hauser & Wirth in London recently and was impressed with how direct, powerful and abstract the work was. I’m ashamed to say I don’t really read fiction any more, but I buy a lot of art and design books.

Tinned seafood in Porto’s A Vida Portugesa
Tinned seafood in Porto’s A Vida Portugesa | Image: Alamy Stock Photo

In my fridge you’ll always find minced beef and Parmesan and the other ingredients to make spaghetti bolognese. My son lives with me half of the week and I feel guilty about buying ready meals. He loves pasta.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a fine artist. I do a lot of work that is not practical design and I draw all the time using my iPad, creating prints and ideas for sculptures that I intend to have a show of one day. For now I just have an iPad full of ideas, but I did give a small number of prints to friends at the start of the year.


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