My style icon is Edward VIII. I was fortunate enough to buy a portrait of him painted by John AA Berrie in the same year he met Wallis Simpson, and wow is he dashing. I am also intrigued that he remains a controversial character.
The place that inspires me is Tobago. I was born in Jamaica but Tobago, having no natural resources to exploit, has been left to itself. It’s uncrowded and the uncommercial beaches are just palm trees and white sand. It’s the only place where I can completely shut off.
The last thing I bought and loved was a portrait of the Queen Mother, painted by Bernard Dustan in 1958 for the Royal College of Midwives. I bought it at Christie’s and also managed to obtain the letters from Clarence House over the commission. Not only is it a fantastic painting but the artist is still alive, and I have begun corresponding with him. I met the Queen Mother several times via her grandson David Linley, and she was passionate about architecture and design. www.christies.com.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is a Gauge 1 working miniature steam engine to pull the Great Western coaches I’ve just bought. I love the twilight world of steam trains, which rather stumps people when you talk about it – they’re never sure how to respond, almost as if I should have let all that go at puberty. I buy at the annual London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace. www.alexandrapalace.com. www.model-railways-line.co.uk.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Herculaneum and Pompeii. I’d read so much about it but never been. I have since started collecting books from the 1820s when the sites were being excavated, which show how much colour has since disappeared from the frescoes – I am gradually putting together my own Grand Tour.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose London’s St James’s. I love running round the streets like a wasp in a jam jar, buying shoes from Jeffery West, socks from New & Lingwood, three-piece suits from Duchamp, cufflinks from Trumpers and wonderful shirts from Emmet. Each is spectacular at what it does in an individual way. Jeffery West, for example, engraves poetry into the soles of his shoes, and Emmett shirts have details like polka dots hidden under the cuffs. Duchamp’s suits are contemporary in cut but come in colours, like a great Frank Sinatra blue, that are almost more than should be allowed. I don’t want to buy something you can get anywhere else. Duchamp, 68 Jermyn Street (020-7839 8430; www.duchamplondon.com). Emmett, 112 Jermyn Street (020-7925 1299; www.emmettlondon.com). Jeffery West, 16 Piccadilly Arcade (020-7499 3360; www.jeffery-west.co.uk). New & Lingwood, 53 Jermyn Street (020-7493 9621; www.newandlingwood.com). Trumpers, 1 Duke of York Street (020-7734 6553; www.trumpers.com).
An object I would never part with is a copy of the paper about the discovery of DNA that my father, the scientist Raymond Gosling, gave me just before he died this year. It was published in the Nature Journal in 1953 and contains an image he took called Photo 51, which is the first picture ever taken of the helix structure of DNA, a project he worked on with Rosalind Franklin. It’s signed by my father, Watson and Crick. It will go to a museum one day.
In my fridge you’ll find very little. I eat out all the time – at friends’ houses or my clubs, The Athenaeum, The Garrick or The Beefsteak Club. I also go to a lot of black-tie events and charity dinners most weeks. One day I’ll build a kitchen to cook in, but I like doing things well so it will have to wait until I’ve the time to learn. The Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, London SW1 (020-7930 4843; www.athenaeumclub.co.uk). The Beefsteak Club, 9 Irving Street, London WC2 (020-7930 5722; www.thebeefsteakclub.co.uk). The Garrick Club, 15 Garrick Street, London WC2 (020-7379 6478; www.garrickclub.co.uk).
The person I rely on for personal grooming is the fantastic Daniel Schofield, who cuts my hair. He’s not even an official barber anymore; he runs an antiques store in Clapham close to my home. When you’ve known someone for so long they can just get on with it, and we talk antiques.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is New York. It has that same excitement and thought-processes as London and is big enough to dig into. I have a great many friends there too, and love that it’s a constant discovery of new districts and places to go. My favourites are the D&D Building, which is full of interior designer showrooms like Zimmer + Rohde, as well as the great antiques shop Antiqueria Tribeca, which has original 1930s pieces; and I’ll always pop into The Rug Company to say hello as the founders Christopher and Suzanne are friends. If it’s Christmas I’ll bring an extra suitcase to bring back decorations from Bergdorf Goodman’s fifth floor – they’re just incredible. I stay at the University Club, which is stunning with its triple-height library and a dining room that makes you feel you are eating in the most staggering Olympic-class ocean liner. Antiqueria Tribeca, 129 Duane Street (+1212-227 7500; www.antiquaria.com). Bergdorf Goodman, Fifth Avenue at 58th Street (www.bergdorfgoodman.com). D&D Building, 1400 979 Third Avenue (+1212-759 5408; www.ddbuilding.com). The Rug Company, 219 East 59th Street (+1212-644 9200; www.therugcompany.com). The University Club, One West 54th Street (+1212-247 2100; www.universityclubny.org).
The books on my bedside table are composer Philip Glass’s new autobiography Words Without Music, and an original copy of Life in London 1823, which I bought at the Bloomsbury book fair, a secret dealers’ fair. All the illustrations in the latter are beautifully hand-watercoloured; I’m fascinated by the exploration of colour at that time, and how science and art converged. www.bloomsburybookfair.com.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an actor. I find performing a walk in the park compared to the stresses of producing a panto, which I do regularly for charity – last year it was held at the Bloomsbury Theatre. But mostly because design is about communication, and if I couldn’t communicate a story via a chair, I would want to do it via acting. I’m all about storytelling.