The Aesthete: John Harrison talks more personal taste

The Gieves & Hawkes creative director concludes his list of likes with superb Italian food in Mayfair, Patrick Caulfield’s art and his BoConcept chair

John Harrison at home in Surrey
John Harrison at home in Surrey | Image: Harry Crowder

My style icon is David Niven – effortlessly elegant, comical and confusing all at the same time. I’m reading his memoir The Moon’s a Balloon. I think he has this amazing, quintessential look – but there was always that little bit of disdain with it.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Iceland, for a photo shoot. It was staggering: you really get a powerful sense of rock and ice, fire and granite. It feels like the world developed from there. In Perlan, the glacier museum, there were these great graphics that showed photographs of glaciers from the 1990s – a photo a week, over 20 years – and ran them on fast play. You could literally see them shrinking. Perlan Wonders of Iceland Museum (perlan.is).

Harrison’s style icon, David Niven
Harrison’s style icon, David Niven | Image: Getty Images

In my fridge you’ll always find anchovy paste – so many uses; lemons – gin, again; mango chutney; Müller Corners for the kids; and bottled milk from the milkman – I like supporting that. If there’s too much in the house, we make a rice pudding; if there’s too little, we worry.   

An item of clothing I would never part with is my calfskin belt with a silver buckle. I’ve had it 25 years and I wear it most days. It was made at a factory – gone now – that we used to work with. Everything comes and goes, but the belt is always there. 

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An indulgence I would never forgo is Fortnum & Mason tea, usually Fortmason, a blend of Darjeeling and China teas. We have a lot of tea in the house. I tend to use loose leaf, and when I go to Hong Kong I always buy pu-erh and Keemun. Fortmason, £12.50 for 250g; fortnumandmason.com.

The best book I’ve read in the past year is How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger. I’m reading it slowly. It’s an addictive study of health and food. Everyone who visits me picks it up and wants to read it too. 

Iceland left a lasting impression on Harrison
Iceland left a lasting impression on Harrison | Image: Getty Images

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Patrick Caulfield – although we might need a bigger house first. I have liked Caulfield’s work for ever; it’s simple yet complex at the same time – a strong message pared down to graphic lines and block colours. I do have a small piece of his already – part of a run he did for a book. 

The best gift I’ve given recently was RHS membership to my wife, Anne-Marie. We both love gardens and RHS Wisley is just up the road. I think it was a very cheering gift for both of us. From £63; rhs.org.uk

Tea from Fortnum & Mason
Tea from Fortnum & Mason

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Murano in Mayfair: burrata with blood orange, mint and olive oil; pork belly and loin, chou farci, apple purée, mustard fruit; and herb agnolotti, morels, Crottin de Chavignol. Oh, and pistachio soufflé with hot chocolate sauce. Getting good Italian in the UK is not easy. muranolondon.com

My favourite room in my house is the kitchen: it’s a classic hub, always busy with family, and has great views of the garden. Or my bedroom, which has a massive corner window that looks out over the garden and an Egg-type chair from the Danish design firm BoConcept where I can sit and read for hours. 

Pork belly at Murano in Mayfair
Pork belly at Murano in Mayfair | Image: John Carey

The last music I bought was a selection of jazz: E.S.T. Live in Hamburg by the Esbjorn Svensson Trio; Empirical by Empirical; TV Sound and Image: British Television, Film and Library Composers 1956-80; and Reflections & Odysseys by Rymden. The message I take from this is that I’m happy to listen to repetitive rhythms.  

For personal grooming I rely on Toni & Guy: I tend to go there because living outside London it’s a safer bet. Although my last haircut was in a local Bramley barbers. It was good – I’m quite pleased and I might go back. The Barber Shop & Studio, Bramley (01483-898 588). toniandguy.com.

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If I didn’t live in Surrey, I’d live in Florence – although maybe just for a year. I’m saying that because I’ve been there a lot and I’ve always thought how nice it would be to pop into the great restaurants like Trattoria 13 Gobbi or Perseus, but primarily to really soak up the art, to deeply educate myself. You could spend a lot of time in the Uffizi, as opposed to having just one whirlwind-like day. Le Gallerie degli Uffizi (uffizi.it). Ristorante Perseus, Viale Don Giovanni Minzoni 10/R, 50129 (+3955-588 226). Trattoria 13 Gobbi, Via del Porcellana 9R, 50123 (+3955-284 015). 

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a Porsche designer. Mechanically, my expertise would be in tractors – that’s what my dad had, along with old cars and bikes – but I wouldn’t necessarily be into the hard engineering; more the styling, the interiors and the finish.

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