Joan Burstein talks personal taste: Part One

Joan Burstein founded London’s iconic designer boutique Browns 40 years ago with her late husband, Sidney.

Joan Burstein at Browns’ flagship store.
Joan Burstein at Browns’ flagship store. | Image: Jude Edginton

My personal style signifier is a Fendi bag. I have a collection of them, from Baguettes that I bought 15 years ago to a new, very practical Anna bag with a flap. My most recent one is a large Baguette in an abstract animal print, which is soft and big enough to be useful. My long-term favourites include grey cashmere and crocodile – they’re always in style. Animal-print Baguette, £870; Anna bag from £1,070; 181 Sloane Street, London W1 (020-7838 6288;

The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of Kimberly McDonald triple-drop earrings with geodes in three shades of pink. I wasn’t sure if I could wear all three, so I had the bottom part made detachable. From £2,390;

Fendi Baguette handbag, £870.
Fendi Baguette handbag, £870.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Edward Hopper. His beautiful landscapes – remote, cool – appeal to me.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Parrot Cay resort in the Turks and Caicos islands. It has gorgeous sandy beaches, the bluest water and excellent food. Complete luxury, but very casual. +1649-946 7788;


And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a multicoloured cotton kaftan I bought in a little shop in St Paul de Vence. It looks like an abstract splash painting by one of the artists the village is famed for.

A recent “find” is the Old White Bear in Hampstead, a gastropub with great food and lovely waiters, who are all resting actors. It’s friendly, with dogs and children welcome – like a country local. 1 Well Road, London NW3 (020-7794 7719;

Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos islands.
Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos islands. | Image: Como Hotels and Resorts

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Potts Point in Sydney, especially Macleay Street, with its independent food shops, some of my favourite Australian fashion designers, such as Easton Pearson, and great furniture designers and art galleries. I shop there for myself and my home.

The last music I bought was Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 with Kyung Wha Chung and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It gives me butterflies in the tummy, and I have the house totally quiet while I’m playing it.

Earrings by Kimberly McDonald, from £2,390.
Earrings by Kimberly McDonald, from £2,390.

The people I rely on for personal grooming and style are my hairdresser, Joseph Koniak, and Lucy Ormerod, my Pilates home trainer. Joseph just happens to be my grandson, but it’s not favouritism – he does a brilliant cut and fluffs it out perfectly with his hands. With Lucy, sometimes we just go for a walk on Hampstead Heath; she always makes me feel wonderful, even when I don’t want to do anything. Joseph Koniak, Eleven Hair, 11 Blenheim Street, London W1 (020-7491 2390; Lucy Ormerod, Active Chiropractic Health, 98A High Road, London N2 (020-8444 0666;

My favourite room in my house is my bedroom. When my husband was ill it was like a hospital, so I’ve had it redone – very pure and simple, with pale walls and carpet and a midnight-blue headboard. It’s my sanctuary. I love to come home, put on my Loro Piana cashmere robe, and watch my favourite TV programmes.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

The books on my bedside table are Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which was a choice at my book club in Hampstead. It’s a wonderful novel about an Indian surgeon in Ethiopia, against the backdrop of political turmoil in that country. Also, Hand Me Down World by the New Zealand author Lloyd Jones – the story of an African migrant woman’s search for her child, which takes her from North Africa to Germany – and Manolo Blahnik’s illustrated version of the Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker, which is charming and fun.

In my fridge you’ll always find rosé wine from Domaines Ott in Provence; and for the grandchildren, homemade chopped liver or chicken


If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a resting actress. I always loved the idea of going on stage, but I wouldn’t have earned any money, or had the life I have.

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