Real Living: The return of the clash

James Sherwood meets one man who has no plans to chuck out his chintz

An hour in Kaffe Fassett's north London home would drive a minimalist to distraction. Tapestry cushions are strewn on patchwork quilted throws. Pattern, clash upon clash, runs riot on walls, furniture and fabrics. Every surface is littered with Moroccan vases, porcelain Buddhas and exotic objets. As one of the great colourists in contemporary textile design, Fassett is a one-man antidote to minimal interior design. "Imagine a Feng-Shui expert in this place," says Fassett with a wry smile. "There's energy bouncing off every surface. Chaos. I like it that way."

The English are notoriously colour-shy. As the late Jean Muir once said, taste and restraint walk hand in hand. Not in Fassett's house it doesn't. Far from chucking out your chintz, Fassett would advise you to make it into a colourful patchwork quilt. He has taken what the tasteocracy see as folksy pastimes, such as knitting or quilting, and turned them into baroque interior schemes.

Fassett's home speaks volumes about the dynamo who cuts a creative swathe through the mountains of eclectic clutter. "My home is like the back lot at 20th Century Fox," he says. "I am constantly layering, moving, experimenting. For example, I painted that wall yellow with overblown roses all over it to get a rise out of a Japanese film crew who were visiting. I'll change it tomorrow." One wall, treated to work like a pinboard, is covered with Fassett's paintings. It is a moveable feast. Fassett likes an interior with a life of its own. "I don't like to hide things away," he says. "I have enough hidden away to fill another house. I know I'm over the top and maybe one day I'll sweep it all away and start again. But I find it stimulating to be surrounded by this craziness when I design.

"I was born in San Francisco, which was a formative influence on my colour sense," he continues. "I'd go down to Chinatown and see piles of oranges on scarlet plates laid out on magenta paper at Christmas. That's what I call high colour. Ravishing. I was very excited by Russian style on a recent trip: the Faberge Easter eggs encrusted layer upon layer with elaborate colours.

Fassett's philosophy of design is, at the bottom line, recycling pattern. The delicate blue Japanese porcelain crowding the windowsill is painted in vast still lives, printed onto fabric throws then smashed into small pieces and inlaid on tables. It is cluttered not kitsch. "When I lecture, the first project I set is use 20 colours on one design. Then use 20 more. Colour doesn't have to be garish. It could be 20 different shades of driftwood or stones. The harsh Indian colours are inspiring but you can 'do' colour with subtlety and taste," he says.

Fassett's taste for pattern and colour is very sophisticated, honed by fine art rather than chintzy English country-house style. " I am a great admirer of Vuillard. He'd paint women in floral dresses in front of densely flowered wallpapers. Then there'd be a shawl on the piano printed with flowers and a bouquet of real flowers in the forefront: lashings of pattern but still subtle. It worked as a whole. That's what I want out of interiors."

Fassett worked through minimalism as a painter in the Sixties before graduating to colour. "I used to paint still life compositions of white porcelain on white tables in white rooms. I'd occasionally use a touch of palest blue if I wanted to be daring. But after five years I got over it."

As if admitting a guilty secret, Fassett says, "I do have a lot of beige and soft stone colours in my bedroom and one of my white paintings hanging there. So, yes, I do like to wake up in a calm room. But I can't wait to get to my studio and see the colour. Then I know I've really woken up."

'Patchwork' by Kaffe Fassett, Ebury Press (pounds 25). To coincide with his 60th birthday. Fassett is exhibiting a new collection of paintings from 7-29 December at the Catto Gallery, 100 Heath Street, London NW3, 0171 435 6660.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business StudiesTeacher

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

    ***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

    £50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

    **SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

    £110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

    ICT Teacher - NQTs encouraged to apply

    £110 - £130 per day + TBC : Randstad Education Reading: ICT Teacher needed up ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past