My style icon is Paul Smith. Non, non, non, non, this isn’t a hard one at all. Paul Smith, full stop. He has brought that metrosexual dimension out to the whole world – which is a good thing. It’s OK to bring colour and wit and something light and fun to style. The purple hidden lining, the lapels. It is feminine, really – not so square. www.paulsmith.co.uk.
The site that inspires me is Hôtel Le Saint Paul, in the town of Saint-Paul de Vence. It contains the entire history, the artists, writers, painters, everyone who’s passed through there. I know it’s a very touristic place now, but that doesn’t take away from it as a place or a site or an experience. It’s still to me a place where art is beating at the very centre. 86 Rue Grande, Saint-Paul de Vence, Côte d’Azur 06570, France (+334-9332 6525; www.lesaintpaul.com).
An object I would never part with is my IWC Schaffhausen watch. I bought it 20 years ago. It’s fairly elegant and has huge multifunctional facets. You can bang it around and you can dive to 50m with it on. I also had a Cartier, but I lost it sailing. www.iwc.com.
An indulgence I’d never forego is time. It is simply consumed by work now, and media and technology – it is taken away from everyone more and more. To sit and read a book; to say, even if I know I should be doing something else, I will steal an hour out of my day and just be with a book or with Natalia – it is more and more a real luxury.
If I didn’t live in Oxford, the city I would live in is Paris. Because we now have this fantastic, miraculous transporter – the Eurostar – which makes coming and leaving so easy. There are also a great number of Brits in Paris. And I’d want to live in the Marais. It has such a thriving nightlife, it’s very bohemian, artistic and vibrant. And it’s physically so beautiful. OK, yes, there’s a bit of tourism, but who cares? Tourists come there because it’s beautiful. So if I decided to live elsewhere, it would be there. But I’d always keep my house in Oxford.
A recent “find” is the chapel in the cathedral in Beaulieu, in which there are Matisse works. It is very special and stunning. It’s less well known than the one he did in Saint-Paul de Vence, which is a town I love completely, so it’s even a bit more special for that.
The last item I added to my wardrobe was a gorgeous jacket that arrived recently by delivery. I received a package from a lovely lady called Elisa Rusconi, who is the daughter of Dr Natale Rusconi, former managing director of the Cipriani in Venice. Elisa was with Corneliani, and this package was a jacket by a new designer there, and she wanted me to try it and perhaps buy it. Well, no one chooses my clothes for me, so I was very sceptical. But I loved this – it was really tailored and very modern, but not new-age or high-tech. The cloth is like denim or canvas, but lined with suede. You can take the whole inside suede bit out if you wish. It was such a clever piece, so well made and involving such engineering. I would go back to them and buy a load of stuff. So, mission accomplished. www.corneliani.com.
An artist whose work I would collect if I could is, oh, Klimt, I suppose. He was extraordinary. But, really, my artist would be Chagall. Such whimsy, it is extraordinary. There is a great deal of fantasy – the fantasy he liberates all over the canvas. I have his lithograph Le Peintre et son Double. I love these colours in my home. So dreamlike.
My favourite room in my house is my sitting room. First, I should tell you my house is all white – very different from Le Manoir, except for the Blanc de Blanc suite, of course. The room is painted with a just-off-white eggshell emulsion; with this and a bit of lighting you create incredible drama. It’s white, about 20m long, with a grand piano. And I bought lots of things in Shanghai that are in there now: furniture and ceramics. The inspiration in that room has come from everywhere.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Paris, Paris a million times: the eighth arrondissement, the Rue de Faubourg St Honoré. It’s just so beautiful, hotels, restaurants, all the designers – Chanel, for Natalia, of course, but also Gaultier, YSL, all the others.
The people I rely on for grooming and style are my trainer, David Healy, who’s totally fantastic and has the strongest arms ever. For my haircut, I go to my local barber, Peter Morris, at Edge in Oxford. It’s an unassuming little barbershop, but I think he’s the best haircutter in all of England. Natalia has just completed a postgrad diploma in nutrition at Oxford Brookes, so I have a full-time nutritionist at home. And I occasionally go to a little place in town called Cannelle, where they have a nice range of treatments, very good massages and things like that. Edge Barber, 101a Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6EB (01865-558 570; www.edgebarber.com). Cannelle, 1 Oakthorpe Road, Oxford OX2 7BD (01865-511 960; www.cannellebeaute.co.uk).
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be... Well, for years I thought I would be a pianist. About 18 years ago, before I was here, I started to play the piano. I bought myself a nice little piano, and every night I would play. At the time I was at a restaurant in Oxford where all the great Christchurch students came. I decided I should cook for them while they recited poetry, and play music when I had cooked, a sort of exchange. I’d finish at 1am and go downstairs in my little house and play the piano. So once I recorded myself playing one of Beethoven’s sonatas, and gave it to a well-known organist at Christchurch. He listened to it, and apparently said to his friend, “Whoever he is, this man should stop; he is a butcher of music.” I was heartbroken and I never played again. But, you see, it all came from vanity. One always fancies that oneself is something elevated, like that. To answer your question, I am so lucky to do what I’m doing; I touch art, food, chemistry, ethics, politics, architecture, design and gardening. I have it all.