Martin Waller talks personal taste: Part One

Martin Waller founded his home interiors brand, Andrew Martin International, in 1978; today it is sold in 63 countries and counts the Queen among its clients

Martin Waller at Andrew Martin showroom
Martin Waller at Andrew Martin showroom | Image: Shamil Tanna

My personal style signifier is a pair of RM Williams boots. I have several pairs, in black and brown, made from suede, leather and kangaroo. They’re very comfortable and the elasticated sides give them a 1960s quality. I wear them with everything and, happily, they still look fine when battered. From £225; 102 New Bond Street, London W1 (020-7629 6222; www.rmwilliams.com.au).

The last thing I bought and loved was an Aston Martin Corgi toy I found on eBay for £150. It’s the Goldfinger version with an ejector seat, and it’s a masterpiece, with moving parts that still work after nearly 50 years. I have huge admiration for toy designers, and I’d rather have this than a real Aston. www.ebay.co.uk.

RM Williams suede boots, £265
RM Williams suede boots, £265

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a first edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. Wilde’s life is so poignant and this particular children’s tale resonates with his own tragic story.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Siberia. I was hunting mammoth remains with friends; we set off by plane from Irkutsk, then took a helicopter into the frozen wastes where melting ice has exposed 100,000-year-old tusks and bones in the riverbanks. It was unbelievably beautiful and so remote that it really impacted on my thinking.

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The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a hat from Nagaland, north-east India, with skulls of monkeys and birds attached. Skulls are a big decorative element in Naga thinking, because they demonstrate prowess. I like the “otherness” of this way of life. It’s the quintessence of what you read about in adventure stories.

An indulgence I’d never forego is coffee. I drink it all day, every day.

Waller’s Aston Martin Corgi toy
Waller’s Aston Martin Corgi toy | Image: Shamil Tanna

The grooming staples I’m never without are King of Shaves AlphaGel, a magic potion that makes shaving almost enjoyable, and Molton Brown’s Vitalising Vitamin AB+C shower gel, a simple luxury that puts me in a good mood. King of Shaves AlphaGel, £3.39; www.shave.com. Molton Brown Vitalising Vitamin AB+C, £18; www.moltonbrown.co.uk.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Phidias, the great Greek sculptor, painter and architect who lived in the 5th century BC. He is thought to be the overall designer of the Parthenon. A contemporary choice would be Antony Gormley because he makes huge, ambitious, difficult things.

Marble relief from the Parthenon
Marble relief from the Parthenon | Image: Getty Images/DeAgostini

The books on my bedside table are Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Eric Newby’s compendium A Book of Travellers’ Tales and Shane Leslie’s biography of my great-great uncle, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise: the Founder of Borstal. I’m also enjoying Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Madethe City that Made the World. Like much of Boris Johnson’s prose, it’s exuberant and witty.

The best gift I’ve given recently was Hong Kong dollars with serial numbers to match the birth date of my daughter, Dominique. I bid for the opportunity to have them specially printed by Standard Chartered at a charity auction, and won. As they are legal tender, she can choose either to spend them or keep them.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

And the best one I’ve received is a copy of Kit Kemp’s latest book, A Living Space, which she sent to me in a specially made box. I’m a big fan of her designs – she really puts her own mark on interiors – and I thought this was a charming gift.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose London’s Portobello Road, as it has everything I like, from antiquities to vintage toys. Alice’s Antiques has an essential mix of random vintage stuff, while Chloe Alberry has a huge selection of door and cupboard handles, plus a host of other quirky things. There’s also the Hummingbird Bakery, with its wonderful handmade cupcakes and other treats that make the sugar-rush seem less like pure piggery and more like gourmet sophistication. Alice’s Antiques, 86 Portobello Road, London W11 (020-7229 8187). Chloe Alberry, 84 Portobello Road, London W11 (020-7727 0707; www.chloealberry.com).Hummingbird Bakery, 133 Portobello Road, London W11 (020-7851 1795; www.hummingbirdbakery.com).

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