My personal style signifier is my shoes. I always wear English, handmade leather shoes from Harry’s of London, Church’s or Tricker’s – its tan Country brogues [£340] are a favourite. I buy one pair at a time and wear them out. I like the image of the roughed-up aristocrat; worn at the elbows. I’m not very Italian-cut in my style. www.church-footwear.com. www.harrysoflondon.com. www.trickers.com.
A recent “find” is Dukes Hotel. I’m not sure how it passed me by before. I like the atmosphere; slightly old-fashioned and stuffy. If you come to London, it’s important to really experience the city, and Dukes is very London. 35-36 St James’s Place, London SW1 (020-7491 4840; www.dukeshotel.com).
The one artist whose work I’d collect if I could is Edward Bawden. His paintings have a calm and English charm about them, which belies the fact that many were produced during the second world war, and he’s also famous for his wallpapers. The Fine Art Society sells his work. 148 New Bond Street, London W1 (020-7629 5116; www.faslondon.com).
The last thing I bought and loved was an antique insect-collector’s cabinet at an auction near Chippenham. It’s got dozens of narrow mahogany drawers, which are full of carefully pinned and labelled beetles and bugs. I like pragmatic taxidermy – the bugs are ugly, but they’re educational. Gardiner Houlgate, 9 Leafield Way, Corsham, Wiltshire SN13 9SW (01225-812 912; www.gardinerhoulgate.co.uk).
And the thing I’m eyeing next is a proper home. Quite how I have existed without one for over 10 years is beyond me. I live in Stockwell at the moment, and before that I lived at my old studio in Victoria, but I am ready to find a house to pour my eight container-loads of possessions into. I’ve considered a boat on the river, or one of those ugly new things on the south bank of the Thames that have a great view. I think a home is 99 per cent about the views.
The site that inspires me is Claridge’s. I love the five-star hotels of London. Their fantasy and histories give me ideas and energy. I like the permanent sense of occasion at Claridge’s. And The Fumoir is the best bar in London. I’m also inspired by The Jane hotel, which is in New York’s old Seaman’s Friend Society building, where the survivors of the Titanic went when they arrived in 1912. It has tiny rooms, shared bathrooms and a dimly lit nightclub with curious stuff, including giraffe heads, on the walls. Claridge’s, 49 Brook Street, London W1 (020-7629 8860; www.claridges.co.uk). The Jane, 113 Jane Street, New York 10014 (+1212-924 6700; www.thejanenyc.com).
The grooming staples I’m never without are from Santa Maria Novella. I particularly like the classic eau de cologne and the shaving cream. A friend took me to the shop in Florence; it’s such an amazing building, and the product is so unique. The packaging is bold and simple, as if untouched by progress. www.smnovella.it.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be something high up at the National Trust. I love history and architecture, and I’d like to develop ways of making places come alive. www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
The books on my bedside table are James Delingpole’s Welcome to Obamaland and Niall Ferguson’s Empire. James is a friend and he gave me his book. I’m a terrible reader, though, because I’m always working and can never find the time. I’m often still working at 2am.
In my fridge you’ll always find vegetarian ready meals from Marks & Spencer. I buy about 10 a week; I don’t cook anything from scratch. www.marksandspencer.com.
The last music I downloaded? I don’t download or buy music. I don’t have music on my iPhone or my laptop; I listen to Radio 4. It just never occurs to me that there’s a silence I need to fill up with music, although I like Radiohead, the Penguin Café Orchestra, Björk and the occasional show tune when I hear them. www.bbc.co.uk/radio4.