INTERIORS; JOSEPH'S AMAZIN; G DREAM HOUSE

His clothes are faultless, but what about his home? When 'Elle Decoration' asked fashion designer Joseph to be guest editor, Dinah Hall knew the hallway he described as 'like a hotel foyer' would be a shrine to good taste

WE'RE talking about fashion and home, and the alliance between the two, in the offices of Elle Decoration magazine. Or at least its editor Ilse Crawford is, while I'm having an interior monologue concerning her white plastic trousers. Firstly I'm thinking, in a maternal sort of way, that they can't be very healthy, then I'm wondering where on earth they would seem at home. Imagine how they would squeak on a plastic upholstered sofa, how they would stick to a leather Le Corbusier chair. They would look too bright and shiny on a kilim-covered couch, ridiculous on faded chintz.

Ilse, however, has no problem in conjuring up an Elle Deco-style home for her trousers. "There's the Sixties inflatable look, of course," she says, "but for more user-friendly furniture I'd look at the transparent PS chairs from Ikea. A bit of pale Danish wood and those Kartell plastic trollies... Soft latex curtains might be rather beautiful," she adds, mentally clocking the picture for a future issue, no doubt.

The present issue of Elle Deco, however, is the one we are here to discuss, because it is guest edited by Joseph - a man famous for the style and content of his eponymous fashion shops, so famous in fact that he is only the second Joseph in history not to need a surname.

Guest editing is a curious concept from America, where every so often readers are happy to believe that some terribly famous person like Madonna or Bill Clinton sat in the editor's chair of a glossy magazine with a blue pen. Over here it is greeted with more scepticism. "Find out more about this guest editing business," urged my commissioning editor, "it sounds like a good way to get a month's holiday."

Actually, it was the bizarre notion of Nelson Mandela "editing" an issue of French Vogue (which he did two years ago after the Dalai Lama) that most inspired Ilse. She, however, has banished the notion of a holiday and gone for slightly less incongruous partnerships - with people from the world of design who can put their own visual stamp on the magazine. Terence Conran was the first guest editor, of the June issue which featured his apartment, junk furniture, "factory funk" and cigars aesthetically stubbed out in ashtrays or jammed between his lips.

Working with Joseph was quite different, says Ilse. "Terence was clear and logical, while Joseph put his feelings into the whole thing. He is totally intuitive and relies more on other people. He wanted pictures that told a story, a feeling, and some that had humour. The clear graphic- look-in-a-studio was not his cup of tea at all."

Joseph himself - small, fiftyish, bristling with energy, with an impish grin and a French accent that 30 years of living in England has done little to diminish - has always been at the cutting edge of interiors when it comes to shops. Norman Foster designed his first big store in Knightsbridge 20 years ago.

Joseph recalls with embarrassment how he had no idea, when someone suggested the name, that Foster was such a big fish. "I was a bit surprised when we had to make an appointment three weeks in advance," he says. "When my brother and I turned up at his office, and saw all the photos of his work, I just thought 'Let's get out of here', because we had no money."

Just as Foster was telling him the same thing, his first wife, who shopped at Joseph, appeared and smoothed the way for one of the first high-tech fashion shops. It gave Joseph a taste for working with the best. He then worked with Eva Jiricina, the Czech architect, one of the best exponents of "beautiful bones" interiors. The store she worked on for him was perhaps the most succesful, its simplicity and strength of materials having a warmth that the more pared-down interiors of his later shops lacks.

In the matt-black period of the Eighties, Joseph branched into homeware. "I was in Dean and Deluca [the ultra-hip deli] in New York, and looking at the customers. They had this shine in their eyes; they were getting excited by a beautiful cauliflower. Back in London, people were looking at wonderful, expensive clothes with dull eyes. They didn't get excited any more."

That was when he opened Pour La Maison, his now defunct store on Sloane Street. It sold not cauliflowers, but anything stylish from dustbins to chairs - most of it black - alongside the clothes. "It was great," he says, "but after a while other shops started to do it too, and it lost its charm. That's the trouble with these waves of fashion. After a time I came to hate the Le Corbusier leather chair because there was so much black around. Black is a lovely colour, but in the Eighties it got too much: people were wearing four layers of black. Things are lovely, I think, when they are not exaggerated."

In his own home there is no exaggeration, but there is a lot of brown - various shades of mushroom and caramel. "When surrounded by so much colour at work," he says, "you need to come back to somewhere peaceful."

With his aversion to the "waves of fashion", it's easy to see why Joseph's home has become a haven of calm. Though the time-lapse between fashion and interiors is becoming shorter and shorter (grunge interiors followed hot on the heels of grunge clothes two years ago), homes will always have a more lasting foundation of style because of the expense involved.

Joseph's last home was a large flat with a living room the size of a ballroom: very glamorous, "very Joseph", everyone said. By then he and his wife Isabel had a baby, Gigi, and as he put it "the pram looked wrong there. If something you do every day in your home becomes wrong, it is no longer a home."

You get the feeling that Joseph and Isabel surprised themselves with the place they bought next - a 1930s house that could, at a pinch, be called suburban if it didn't have such an impeccable postcode. The pushchair is at home here (though tidily concealed), and so, clearly, are Joseph and Isabel. Now that the house has been thoroughly remodelled inside by Parisian decorator Christian Liaigre, they no longer feel they have to justify their house choice to style watchers.

Joseph wanted a designer who was somewhere between the architectural minimalists he had used over the years in his shops, and the flouncy interior decorators. "One is too minimalist, the other doesn't know where to stop. When you have a family and you get a little older, you want a bit of warmth."

This is not, however, a cosy clutter of domestic warmth. As we sit in a corner of the large entrance hall, Joseph remarks that it is "like the foyer of a hotel - except that a hotel is not personal, and here we have the feel of what we like." I'm glad it was Joseph, not me, who likened his home to a hotel lounge; coming from anyone else, it doesn't sound like a compliment. But he likes the neutrality of hotel rooms, finding them relaxing - presumably in contrast to the excesses of fashion:

"This is the sort of house where you can push the furniture back, and it's a great place to have kids to play in the afternoon. In the evening it all goes back into place when you have people for dinner."

The ground rules of a good interior are pretty much the same as for a good wardrobe. "It shouldn't be gimmicky," says Ilse Crawford, "but you need good basics with the odd perky thing to make it more fun."

For Joseph "good basics" means a good floor. In Elle Decoration he is photographed in a passionate embrace with his upstairs carpet. Downstairs, the floor is a good but simple wood. "The floor determines the mood of everything," he says. "It gives you a feeling of respect for the place. When I go into a great museum, everyone else is looking up at the famous paintings but I am looking downwards at the floor."

Joseph supposes his fascination with flooring in particular, and interiors in general, came from his early childhood in Morocco; he lived in a big Casablancan house with his grandmother. "There are great floors in Morocco," he says. "I remember my grandmother throwing buckets of water on to the floor to clean it before guests came for lunch, and she was always moving the furniture around. It was very Thirties inside, which is why I have, an affinity with that period style."

And "something perky"? That, undoubtedly, has to be his daughter Gigi, who has her own realm at the top of the house. While we have been talking, she has been playing with Isabel, who has generously provided creche facilities for the unannounced excess baggage - my three-year-old daughter. Gigi has the best playroom in the world, we are all agreed. It is fitted out like a small nursery school, with easels, a trampoline and professional units and storage cupboards in pale wood. A child-size opening in the wall leads to a kind of living Wendy house.

On the way home, I realise that I only noticed Isabel's dazzling smile, not what she was wearing. It must have gone with the house, and it was definitely not white plastic trousers. My daughter sits munching a bag of crisps in the back of the car and experiments with the philosophy of envy. "I'm lucky to have this packet of crisps," she says, "and Gigi is lucky to have her playroom." It's a nice thought, but sadly it doesn't work for grown-ups. I'm just jealous.

- Joseph is guest editor of the December/January issue of 'Elle Decoration'.

JOSEPH'S ADDRESS BOOK

MUJI, 26 Great Marlborough St, London W1 (0171-494 1197 for mail order). Also 63-67 Queen St, Glasgow G1 (0141-248 7455). Beautiful basics, uncontaminated by fashion.

EGG, 36 Kinnerton St, London SW1 (0171-235 9315). How a shop can be so totally unmaterialistic and sell such simply covetable clothes and objects is a mystery that can only be explained by the attitude of its owner, Maureen Docherty, one of Joseph's heroines.

DAVID GILL, 60 Fulham Rd, London SW3 (0171-589 5946). Joseph's favourite antique dealer, good on 1940s.

PORT OF CALL, 13 Walton St, London SW3 (0171-589 4836). Decorator Mimmi O'Connell's eclectic mixture of English, Irish, French and Oriental antiques and decorative items.

MARYSE BOXER AND CAROLYN QUARTERMAINE, Chez Joseph, 26 Sloane St, London SW1 (0171-245 9493). Distinctively decorative china, fabric and accessories.

DAVID MELLOR, 4 Sloane Square, London SW1 (0171-730 4259). Beautifully simple cutlery, kitchenware.

VALERIE WADE, 108 Fulham Rd, London SW3 (0171-225 1414). A treasure trove of decorative furnishings: leopard and zebra print carpets, mother-of- pearl furniture.

THE CONRAN SHOP, Michelin Ho, 81 Fulham Rd, London SW3 (0171-589 7401). "Of course," says Joseph.

PULBROOK & GOULD, 127 Sloane St, London SW1 (0171-730 0030). "A traditional florist," says Joseph, "but you know you are never going to be disappointed with what they do."

PETER JONES, Sloane Sq, London SW1 (0171-730 3434). "A wonderful institution. They do their job so well."

Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence