My style icons are Audrey Hepburn, for her understatement and simplicity – you noticed her rather than her clothes – and Diana Vreeland, who I met when I was 18. I love her “Why don’t you?” attitude. She was always one step ahead of everything and I feel that today she’d never be taken in by a brand for its own sake.
If I didn’t live in London the city I would live in is New York. I have a lot of friends there, including one with an enormous apartment on Park Avenue where I always stay. I go straight to Cognac on the corner below for its cheese soufflé to recover from the plane journey. Then I’ll head downtown to William Wayne, which is a fabulous interiors shop, and Creel and Gow, an amazing curiosities shop, which is so much fun to be in. When I don’t stay with my friend uptown, I’ll go to the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho – it’s such a haven. Cognac, 963 Lexington Avenue (+1212-249 5100; www.cognacrestaurant.com). Creel and Gow, 131 East 70th Street (+1212-327 4281; www.creelandgow.com). Crosby Street Hotel, 79 Crosby Street (+1212-226 6400; www.firmdalehotels.com). William Wayne, 846 Lexington Avenue (+1212-737 8934; www.william-wayne.com).
The beauty staple I’m never without is Dadi’Oil. It’s full of all sorts of vitamins and I wipe it around my nails, which get very dry from touching fabrics and paper all day. It works wonders. I get mine from RYS. £11 for 15ml; 176 Walton Street, London SW3 (020-7100 0724; www.ryshairandbeauty.com).
In my fridge you’ll always find a dozen pots of potted shrimps from The Chelsea Fishmonger on Chelsea Green. I can’t cook but I melt the butter and serve them on toast for dinner when friends turn up. And breaded veal escalopes from La Picena on Walton Street. TheChelsea Fishmonger, 10 Cale Street, London SW3 (020-7589 9432; www.thechelseafishmonger.co.uk). La Picena, 5 Walton Street, London SW3 (020-7584 6573).
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Scottish colourist Samuel Peploe, whose work I first came across at The Fleming Collection in London. I love his brush strokes, the elegance and his use of colour. But I think I missed the boat on that one, unless I decide to sell my house and live in a tent. The Fleming Collection, 13 Berkeley Street, London W1 (020-7042 5730; www.flemingcollection.com).
The best gift I’ve given recently was a maternity nurse for my daughter Rita when she had my granddaughter Margot. I would recommend everyone hire one if they can. They are always such sensible, calm and lovely women, and they bring such reassurance.
And the best one I’ve received was a silver cruet set from my children. I collect these completely nuts, fancy animal ones made between 1890 and 1920, and they added a camel to my menagerie. Maybe because I can’t cook I like to dress the table.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year was Innsbruck. I only recently discovered this wonderful old town, full of baroque churches and the most amazing tomb of Emperor Maximilian in the Court Church, beautifully sculpted in black marble and bronze.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home… I think the word souvenir is terrible; I don’t do them. Nor do I do duty free. The only thing I bring home from abroad is my L’Heure Bleue scent by Guerlain, which I pick up in Paris because I can never find it elsewhere. £70 for 75ml;68 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (+331-4562 5257; www.guerlain.com).
The site that inspires me is the moors in Inverness, where my family is from. I rent this wonderful house, Drynachan, with tartan carpets, log fires and deep, old-fashioned baths, and it always feels like a homecoming. 01667-402 402; www.cawdor.com.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city it would be Chelsea. You can pop in and out of places like Eliot Zed, which makes the most comfortable shoes in the world, and Birgit Israel, whose wacky furniture I adore. The Conran Shop is great fun, I buy T-shirts and sweaters from Joseph and there are fatal children’s shops like Caramel Baby & Child. After shopping I’ll head to Lucio on Fulham Road, my favourite restaurant of all time, Itsu on the corner of Walton Street, or the Bibendum café, which takes dogs. Bibendum, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 (020-7589 1480; www.bibendum.co.uk). Birgit Israel, 251-253 Fulham Road, SW3 (020-7376 7244; www.birgitisrael.com). Caramel Baby & Child, 291 Brompton Road, SW3 (020-7589 7001).
The Conran Shop, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 (020-7589 7401; www.conranshop.co.uk). Eliot Zed, 117-119 Walton Street, SW3 (020-7589 2155; www.eliotzed.com). Itsu, 118 Draycott Avenue, SW3 (020-7590 2400; www.itsu.com). Joseph, 77 Fulham Road, SW3 (020-7823 9500; www.joseph-fashion.com). Lucio, 257-259 Fulham Road, SW3 (020-7823 3007; www.luciorestaurant.com).
My favourite room in my house is my living room. From my chair I have two views into the little courtyard garden outside, so it’s not like being in the city. The little finches there are too sweet for words.
The books on my bedside table are Aatish Taseer’s Noon, about a boy looking for his Pakistani father, and Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor. He writes very well and easily and it’s anything but dry. I do like real information in my books, even if they’re novels.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be totally lazy and never get out of bed. I would love to be able to play the piano or cook really well, but there just hasn’t been time.