My style icons are Katharine Hepburn, Jane Birkin and Patti Smith. They are strong, independent women and their style is simple and androgynous.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a photograph I took of an old gate with a chain on, at the bottom of a lane on the way to the sea near to where I have a house in Suffolk. It was for my neighbour who, like me, goes to the beach for a swim before breakfast. The gate has now gone and I knew it would have a special meaning for her.
And the best one I’ve received recently is a very fine, very soft, very dark-navy cashmere scarf. I’ve worn it nearly every day since I was given it. It’s good for travel. But what I really like about it is its hand-woven texture – it feels luxurious without looking so. I can’t remember the specific brand and the label has now been removed.
A recent find is the coffee shop at the Royal Academy of Arts, in the tiny passage between the buildings. I am keen on good coffee, and this was really good: it was hot and strong, and nicely presented in a French press. It was a very pleasing experience. Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1 (020-7300 8000; www.royalacademy.org.uk).
The site that inspires me is the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank. I like its ambience and detailing. They used quality materials to build it – right down to the brass door handles. It opened in 1951 and has survived renovation. Everything was thought about when it was built, even in those austere times: there’s a little room set aside in the women’s loos where you can put your make-up on. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 (0844-875 0073; www.southbankcentre.co.uk).
An indulgence I would never forego is the total massage I have at the Hotel Okura every time I go to Tokyo for work. It’s something I really look forward to after the long flight. 2-10-4 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0001 (+813-3582 0111; www.hotelokura.co.jp).
The one artist I would collect if I could is Constable. I love his small sketches of Suffolk skies that are at the V&A. He said that if he hadn’t been born under Suffolk skies he would never have been a painter. The skies are something I particularly love about Suffolk. V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 (020-7942 2000; www.vam.ac.uk).
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home would be one of a variety of objects from Japan. I find really beautiful craft when I travel there on business – traditional rice and picnic boxes, baskets and brushes. And contemporary handmade tin tea caddies. I have a collection of boxes that I don’t use for anything; they’re just lovely.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Royal Hill in Greenwich, which is where I live in London. There’s a really good butchers – Drings – and a wet fish shop, just called The Fishmonger, run by people who really care about the food. There’s also a very good café, Royal Teas. Drings, 22 Royal Hill, London SE10 (020-8858 4032; www.drings.co.uk). The Fishmonger Ltd, The Rear, 26 Royal Hill, London SE10 (07880-541 485; www.thefishmongerltd.com). Royal Teas Café, 76 Royal Hill, London SE10 (020-8691 7240; www.royalteascafe.co.uk).
The beauty staple I am never without is Vaseline. I use it instead of lip balm. I travel light and I don’t believe in any cosmetic stuff. I use two types of Neutrogena moisturiser – one for morning, one for night – and a handmade soap that is nice and oily so doesn’t leave your face feeling tight. We used to sell it in the store but it’s not produced any more. I have kept the rest of the stock for myself. www.neutrogena.co.uk. www.vaseline.co.uk.
In my fridge you’ll always find organic natural yoghurt from Blackheath Farmers’ Market, butter, full-fat milk to have with muesli, and all sorts of cheese – nice strong smelly ones and mature English cheddars. Sundays 10am-2pm, Blackheath Station car park, London SE3.
My favourite websites? I don’t use the internet or email at all.
If I wasn’t doing what I do now, I would be a gardener. I like the physical nature of it. I appreciate a naturalist style in gardening, using plants with movement, such as grasses and bamboo. I also like a sort of formality that leads into something more natural. It’s like designing a shop – it all depends on the bare bones you start with.