Interiors: Oasis of calm

When you've created homes for Kate Moss and both Gallagher brothers, turning a tiny mews cottage into a retro-modernist palace is easy. Jenny Dyson meets Darren Gayer. Photographs by Ian McKinnell
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"I don't want to be egg and chips," says Darren Gayer as he hunts through a rail of super-slick suits, shirts and shoes in his wall-to-wall walnut wardrobe. "I want to be vol-au-vent."

At 31, Gayer is one of the British rock glitterati's best-kept secrets. Aside from being a successful property developer and interior designer in his own right, Gayer is the man who found Noel Gallagher and Meg Mathews their marital home, "Supernova Heights" in London's Belsize Park, and filled every room with appropriately groovy paraphernalia: furniture (Sixties retro), beds (bespoke leather), cupboards (handcrafted), carpets (Gayer- designed psychedelic bubble patterns), bathrooms (giant mosaic bath, plus original box-fresh, never-been-pee'd-in Seventies loos) and of course, fish. Tonnes of them.

He's also the man who, within a few hours, sorted out a house for Patsy and Liam to shack up in when the Oasis tour collapsed. He's helped the head of Creation Records, Alan McGee, find the home of his dreams, and most recently he's housed his good friend Kate Moss in a luxurious London flat and a cosy cottage in the country. You name it, Gayer's fixed it. If you're lucky enough to be his friend, chances are that within minutes he'll be sorting out your holidays (he's got a brilliant travel agent), mending your front garden (his team of labourers are second to none) and getting your bad back clicked into shape (he's best mates with Dr Ali, Prince Charles' holistic guru). As Gayer's old mate Kate Moss says, "When it comes to looking for something major like a house, you may know exactly what you want but it can be hard to articulate it. Whether it's a house or an antique sofa or whatever you're looking for, Darren makes it magically appear."

After months of finding homes for his friends, Gayer has finally got round to moving into a proper pad of his own. "I've had plenty of flats before," says the man whose first job out of school was at a commercial surveyor's for pounds 2,500 a year. "But this time I've really gone for it."

Turning into Gayer's Mayfair mews is like stepping back to a time when Morris Minors ruled the London roads and miniskirts were shocking OAPs back indoors. The tacky pebble-dashed exterior of his cottage has been deliberately unchanged. "I really wanted to keep the exterior as I found it to make a more dramatic contrast with the inside," he says proudly of his style barometer. He loves it when people think he had the house specially pebble-dashed.

The cottage feel ends the minute the front door opens. One step inside and Gayer's interior transports you to a James Bond set circa Thunderball. Super shiny parquet flooring - "fucking expensive Pango Pango", he explains - is pure chocolate to the eyes. A giant Alcntara sofa hugs the front window and looks across to the courtyard, which Gayer plans to turn into an outdoor sitting room complete with cushions, candles and deck chairs - when he gets round to it. It's a mixture of space age and snazzy retro. If the Jetsons turned up they'd want to move in permanently. But if his home is so Wallpaper, why isn't it in a loft?

"I was right there with the loft thing," says Gayer, who converted a Victorian synagogue in Spitalfields into loft apartments in 1996 and won the Royal Institute of British Architects' building design award. "After converting so many lofts and selling them I couldn't quite appreciate their open-living aspect. I wanted something with a Sixties, Profumo, Avengers twist." So while everyone else was charging over to east London to move into one of Gayer's lofts, he was quietly finding himself a centrally located snug cottage.

"I do like open plan, but I also like enclosed spaces," Gayer says as he makes a cup of tea with his Porsche kettle. While the kitchen has all the state-of-the-art mod cons - juicer, blender, designer toaster, fridge full of Villandry produce - it still feels cosy. Apart from the cooker, there's no stainless steel in sight. The cupboards appear like wall panels. Not a door knob in sight, just hidden hinges and secret edges to press.

The sleekness of the kitchen is nothing compared to the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Each room on the upper floor has eight-inch thick wooden doors that go from ground to ceiling. "I always had an obsession with tall, thick doors," says Gayer, who persuaded Noel and Meg to do the same with their entrances and exits. "It's amazing how much drama you can achieve just from stretching a doorway upwards. It turns the smallest space instantly into a palace." Sitting on the loo in Gayer's dark grey limestone guest bathroom is like being in a Swiss bank safe.

The master bedroom is even more hermetically sealed, with a secret adjoining shower and sink clad in a warmer honey limestone. The bed is like a giant hunk of fudge, with a suede bedspread and a slab of Alcntara for the bed head. Thick Venetian blinds are painted the same colour as the walls (a weirdly soothing pigeon grey which took Gayer months of paint mixing).

This attention to detail is surprising in someone who went straight from school to the surveyor's office, bypassing any formal training. "Everything I've learnt has been through making mistakes on the job," says Gayer, whose father - a hardwood expert - joined Gayer's business when things got a bit hectic.

His father ensures all the bespoke furniture is made to fulfil his son's high expectations. "He's fantastic," Gayer says proudly. Keeping it in the family is what this hip, young designer is all about.

So now the pad is done, what's next? Does he see himself as the next Terence Conran? He's working on a furniture line and is planning to open a hotel as soon as he finds the right location. Might he consider re-igniting his modelling career? "No way," he laughs. After spending nine years on telly and on cereal boxes as the Ready Brek kid in the Seventies, Gayer's through with the spotlight. Just watch that derelict space at the end of the road. In a blink, it'll be his latest venture, helping him become that vol-au-vent he's been dreaming of

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