Ilse Crawford talks personal style: Part Two

The design-world mover and shaker reveals more of her personal pleasures.

Ilse Crawford.
Ilse Crawford. | Image: Charlie Hopkinson

My style icon is my mother. She saw everything as a creative activity, whether it was having friends round for lunch or cooking for 10 with no money. It was just an opportunity to get everyone together. We grew up knowing that you could create your world and lack of money was no obstacle to imagination.

Hotel Boutique Agua in Cartagena, Colombia.
Hotel Boutique Agua in Cartagena, Colombia. | Image: Kiko Kairuz

A recent find is a hotel in Antwerp called Boulevard Leopold. It’s on the cheaper end of the scale, and owned by one of the Ann Demeulemeester gang and his partner. It’s totally stylish and original. And at the other end of the scale, a crumbling but glamorous 17th-century house hotel, called Agua, in Cartagena. Both feel like being in someone’s special world. Boulevard Leopold, B&B Apartments, Belgiëlei 135, Antwerp 2018, Belgium (+3248-667 5838;; from €140). Hotel Boutique Agua, Centro, Calle de Ayos No 4-29, Cartagena, Colombia (+5756-649 479;; from about $299).


If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an architect. Perhaps someone like Lina Bo Bardi or Sigurd Lewerentz – or whoever did the remarkable and warm St Mark’s church in Stockholm, where the architect insisted that the bricks were not cut to fit but laid irregularly as a metaphor for mankind. It’s beautiful architecture with humanity.

Boulevard Leopold hotel, Antwerp.
Boulevard Leopold hotel, Antwerp. | Image: Verne

The grooming staples I’m never without are any and all skincare products by Aesop. Like good coffee, once you’ve discovered them you can’t go back. It’s run by Dennis Paphitis, who’s a brilliant man with total integrity. 91 Mount Street, London W1 (020-7409 2358;

Bavaria screen by Studio Job.
Bavaria screen by Studio Job. | Image: Robert Kot

The books on my bedside table are the Alice Waters biography by Thomas McNamee. Waters started in Berkeley with a strong gang of like-minded, passionate souls from her small restaurant [Chez Panisse] – which is still small, but has global reach ideologically. She is the unintentional radical mother of the new food movement. Also Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism, by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller – the economic version of what we do in design.

Borough Market in London.
Borough Market in London.

An object I would never part with is the ring my mother gave me when I was kid.


An indulgence I’d never forego is good wine; it’s the ultimate collaboration between man and nature.

An artist whose work I would collect if I could is [the furniture and product design team of] Studio Job. I’m not sure what category they fall into, but I know Job [Smeets] and Nynke [Tynagel] and I really respect them. I know how much care and culture goes into their products; they nurture long-term relationships with highly skilled artisans, and work very closely with them. And if only I could afford to, Yoko Ono… She’s not afraid to plough her own course, far away from the mainstream. and at Moss, 150 Greene Street, New York 10012 (+1212-204 7100; Yoko Ono, Galerie Wild, Kirchnerstr 2, 60311 Frankfurt am Main (+4969-296 833;

My favourite room is the kitchen, specifically the kitchen table; for meeting, eating, thinking, life.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Borough Market in London on a Friday morning. If you don’t eat well, nothing makes sense. Borough Market, London SE1 (020-7407 1002;

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Amsterdam or Cartagena. I actually can’t decide between the two. Amsterdam because I find the way the Dutch confront life head-on very modern and appealing. And Cartagena because Colombia is progressive in many ways – its ocean management policies, for example, and commitment to microfinance. And because I’m married to a Colombian.

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