Let there be light
In the last part of our series on creative interiors put together without architects or decorators, fashion designer Abe Hamilton shows Chloe Grimshaw his home and studio. Photographs by Josh Pulman
Saturday 05 September 1998
from a dark, romantic wooden loft where he both lived and worked, complete with rafters, chandelier and candles, to a new home in a clean, sparse place around the corner in north London. His new studio is also in a warehouse, but the space could not be more different. It has windows on three sides as well as sky-lights in the roof, and is painted bright white.
The clothes he designed in the old studio had a very romantic feel, with a lot of lacy dresses and evening clothes. Now, in keeping with the new studio, he is thinking about linen dresses in simple shapes. "My style does reflect the things that inspire me and the things that I like. I see it as a very natural process, not really about ideas. It's about evolving something, keeping what people like about what I do, but still creating something fresh."
Home - the attic room of a co-op house in Highbury
"This room has a similar feel to my old home with an under-the-eaves idea. I think I was lucky to find this space, because it is like a miniature loft, with the shape of the walls and the windows. It just needed very little doing to it really and I've left it simple, and even though it's small, it has a lot of nooks and crannies.
"I decided that because of the size of it, it would be nicer just painted white. Although it's not pristine white, it's in that half state of decoration which I kind of quite like. I ripped off the horrible lilac wallpaper that was there. The floor had a thin grey carpet that you could see the floorboards through. I just painted the floor with white gloss paint, which is probably not the perfect thing to use. I transported all the pieces that I liked from my other studio and I haven't had to replace anything at all. It feels like home, which is a stroke of luck, I think. It's not quite perfect - like the door, I even quite like that, how it doesn't actually fit.
"I wasn't intending to leave the rough bit on the walls, I just did that bit and never got round to doing the rest. It's about hiding the beauty of what appears to have been bashed, when actually it is much more beautiful than something new and polished.
"I haven't bought anything new, I kind of utilised what I had in a different way. It's always part of the challenge to do that because often you just buy things unnecessarily, often it's easier to reuse something. With the things that you need, you think, `well do I really need that', and you just eliminate those and also anything that you don't really like. Things that I do like conform to a certain shape that I'm comfortable with: I wouldn't generally bring anything in here that I didn't really like, even if it was just a plate, I wouldn't use it.
"A friend of mine brought back the bones on the mantelpiece from a trip to Australia. I think they are cow bones, they just came back that colour, bleached by the sun, sculptures in themselves. I like the balance of strength and fragility, which is kind of in my work as well.
"It's the same with wire, like the mesh on the wall - I like the qualities of that aged rawness. It's holding pieces of jewellery and it's made from bound, rusted pieces of metal, bits of scrap really. The fruit `cage' on the table found its way here too.
"There are things like that that I've often had around and not really known what to do with. To me it looks very beautiful, and it's also very satisfying to make use of something that's found and has no use to anybody else but can end up being something of beauty."
Studio - a warehouse in Shoreditch
"Before everything was in here, you couldn't even walk in without wearing sunglasses. We were worried that we'd have to come to work with them on every day because there's so much light, which is the one thing we didn't have before.
"I think this atmosphere will slightly change my work. I want to do more daywear things. The main thing I want for the new collection is a feeling of ease.
"Although my old studio was a really beautiful space, I was a bit fed up with being there. The nice thing about Shoreditch is that you can get big warehouse places, although now many are being made into smaller apartments, which kind of defeats the purpose of living here. They are big urban spaces and it's a shame to ruin them.
"When I moved into the area, it was low-key and not trendy but now it's nice that there are more places to get things to eat. Three years ago, there wasn't anything open on the weekends, the nearest place was Brick Lane [home of numerous Bangladeshi restaurants]. There's also meant to be a tube station opening in Shoreditch.
"My `Bedouin tent', which I use as a changing room for clients, was made for me by Peter Wylly. He's now a lighting designer with Babylon Design, but he was with me at Middlesex polytechnic. It's quite a good changing room, because you can take it down and move it around whenever you like.
"The dressmaker's dummies are part of an assortment that I've collected over the years. They're not used for fittings because they're quite old and not quite the right shape, so now they're more decorative than functional"
Chloe Grimshaw is currently compiling a collection of her interiors interviews for a potential book
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