East European parentage, a bohemian childhood and a longing for the family home in the country have all influenced the decor in Mark Springer's west London flat. The result is a brazen mix of styles, periods and nationaliti es which shouldn't work, but somehow just does. Cayte Williams takes a look round
WHAT DO you do when you love life in the country but your work demands that you regularly stay in London? Either you find a friend with a rather large sofa, or else you bring your pastoral pad to London and setup a second home. Mark Springer, the founder of the Eighties pop group Rip, Rig & Panic,has done just that. Now a composer and contemporary pianist, he finds that peace, quiet and tranquillity are essential for his work. His apartment in London's Notting Hill, which he shares with his girlfriend, Stella, is an eye in the centre of an urban storm. Traffic rumbles past, Bello Babes and Notting Hill Billies chatter by, but as soon as you go through the garden gate, it feels more West Country than W11.

When Mark's not in London he's living at the family home in Berkshire. The tone of that house was set by his Polish and Hungarian parents and has clearly influenced Mark's eclectic style in London. "I came from that culturally rich East European, Jewish tradition," Mark explains. "My father was a painter, writer, photographer and played the violin and both my parents love the arts."

The apartment definitely has a certain emigre chic. The imposing living room looks like a cross between a Sofia stately home and a post-Glasnost apartment. Imposing square leather chairs share space with outlandishly ornate tables and what could be heavy-handed is balanced by delicate details. You only have to look up from the coffee table (which is rather surprisingly draped in a carpet) to spot the charming paint-free cornicing that outlines the ceiling. "That's mock Indian," says Stella, of a table whose legs are made from half-men, half-snakes. "Someone British must have got a local craftsman to copy an original design." Ultimately, it was bought in Portobello market, from where most of their possessions come.

The focus of the living room is a huge sofa that stretches from wall to wall and could accommodate ten people quite comfortably. "When people come here I want them to feel as at home as we do," says Mark, who has worked with Bjork, Jurgen Teller, Talvin Singh and Hanif Kureishi, all of whom have experienced the sofa first-hand. "I wanted to create a positive and relaxing environment, a space in central London that was conducive to my way of writing music. Music is about a search for clarity, so I kept to a simple, uncluttered environment which is also quite peaceful, warm and dark."

The apartment is made up of a living room and work room at ground level, a kitchen and dining room in the basement and the bedrooms and bathroom on the next floor up. Because the garden - with its high walls and lush greenery - surrounds the house on three sides, each window looks out onto a calm, leafy view. The living room has a huge front window with a wrought-iron balustrade, which has an East European feel. "It's quite masculine in here," says Stella, "because of the powerful shapes. It's luxurious even though it's sparse. Mark got this flat before we were together and he likes things with very definite lines. The things I bring in are quite ephemeral, like flowers."

On the wall above the famed sofa are lozenge-shaped candle holders, made from old recycled and re-cut mirrors, and in front of the huge looking glass above the fireplace is Mark's own oil portrait of Stella. Mark has no idea what era any of his things come from. Questions like Are the chairs Thirties or Seventies? Is the central light Indian? and Is the sofa modern or nineteenth-century? are met with polite ums and ahhs. "I've no idea where anything comes from," he eventually confesses, "but I buy them because they are wild and wacky."

The work room, where Mark's piano lives, is an unusual mixture of styles and tastes. A regency child's armchair, an African horn on the wall and huge Grecian pots reveal that here is a man who has no game plan when it comes to furnishing his home. But Mark is a musician, not an interior decorator. "He doesn't buy things because he thinks they will go with what's in the house," explains Stella. "He buys things that he feels are right in his current mood. There's no grand design. His music dictates his moods. One piece of furniture is going to be completely different from another because they will come out of a different mood."

His current favourite piece of furniture is an extraordinary cupboard in the dining room. It's about two metres square and has numerous tiny doors, each with its own lock, key and number. Isn't this the kind of thing loved by compulsive obsessives? Mark laughs. "It reminds me of something Freud would have kept in his study. I bet he would have spent hours working out the significance of each number on each square and what he should put in it."

The room is saved from any gloominess by a black and white checked floor which extends into the narrow kitchen, the most playful room in the house. Its walls are pale yellow, while the wooden units are a sort of playdough green. If the rest of the house is a testament to a driven artist, the kitchen is testament to an eccentric cook. A modern industrial cooker squats next to farmhouse earthenware and Wedgewood tea sets. On the wall hangs a huge wooden rainbow trout. "The fish is a family fish," Mark explains. "My parents gave me it ages ago. It was in my room when I was a kid." Mark looks at it wistfully and sees a little bit of rural life in the middle of London.

Mark Springer's new album, 'Eye', is available on the Exit label

Sitting pretty: Mark Springer's unfeasibly large sofa (top) has been sat upon by the likes of Bjork, Hanif Kureishi and Talvin Singh - not all at the same time, though there's plenty of room to spare. A giant fish (inset) on the kitchen wall is a treasured childhood possession. The dining room (above) is typically eclectic, with an assortment of chairs that somehow sit happily together

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