Me and My Home: A space odyssey

The editor of Wallpaper* style magazine Jeremy Langmead talks to Patricia Wynn Davies about authentic loft living in east London
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The Independent Online

"One reason why I chose this flat was that it wasn't over-designed when it was first converted from a leather goods factory about eight years ago, when Shoreditch wasn't fashionable. So many 'lofts' exist in a kind of design oblivion nowadays, containing no sign of their past lives as part of industrial buildings because everything has been smoothed over. I can't say whether it was by accident or decision that this one displays some slightly rough edges, but the upshot is that a sense of the authentic has been retained.

"One reason why I chose this flat was that it wasn't over-designed when it was first converted from a leather goods factory about eight years ago, when Shoreditch wasn't fashionable. So many 'lofts' exist in a kind of design oblivion nowadays, containing no sign of their past lives as part of industrial buildings because everything has been smoothed over. I can't say whether it was by accident or decision that this one displays some slightly rough edges, but the upshot is that a sense of the authentic has been retained.

No one boxed in the big metallic outflow pipe from the cooker hood or the chunky copper heating pipes that travel round the base of the walls; the support post in the middle of the main space is the original cast iron; the floors are well-worn boards; the kitchen area, with its indestructible polished concrete worktops, is un-flashy, inviting and practical. Location is another key feature. Lofts came from down-at-heel districts of New York and this one has that kind of feeling - the surrounding buildings are tall, the streets are narrow, and there's the bustle of human, urban activity during the week, and calm at the weekend.

The flat is on the second floor of an oddly shaped corner building, and I suppose the builders simply followed the angles of the pre-existing streets - it's an interesting shape. It's a place that gives me a great sense of security and one where I never feel the urge to lower the blinds. When I patter through in the mornings I see people arriving at their offices, parking their cars; in the evening I watch the late-stayers beavering away under the electric light. That might sound a bit Rear Window or Edward Hopper urban isolation, but it's positive and energising.

I reflected my thoughts about the feel of the flat - modern and airy but with a certain amount of edge - with what I chose to put in it. I wanted to create a personal space, not a design showroom. It's so much more exciting to have an eclectic approach to design, to mix old and new, minimalist and maximalist, colour and neutrals, statement pieces and dusty heirlooms. It's harder to get right but it's very satisfying when it works. I wanted this to look lived-in and comfortable. So as you walk in through the front door there are coat hooks and shoe racks to one side, a wall of bookshelves, and while most of the walls are the white of a blank canvas, one of them is a rich cerise pink, which travels through to one wall of the bedroom.

The main room accommodates my heavily customised mountain bike as well as a some Italian-designed contemporary furniture - I have to spend a lot of time in Milan with work for the magazine. To soften the room I chose an expansive brown sofa by Minotti, an inspired abstraction of the human form with generous bulbous shapes at either end that you can either lounge or perch on. One third of the sofa, which can be separated, is leather, reflecting an armchair from Habitat that sits opposite; the other section is fabric. Above it stands, on a 2ft-diameter base, an enormous black Anglepoise, with equally enormous bulb.

After the dining-table and chairs had been added, I began to feel that it was all looking a bit too toned, so I added an antique side table, an unusual lamp I picked up in Japan and an armchair by Cappellini, which is covered in an abstract fabric of blues, aquamarine, grey and white from the Florence-based print company Pucci.

I've mixed old and new in the bedroom, too; a contemporary "soft wall" by B & B Italia accommodates a collection of postcards and photographs while dividing the main space from the dressing-area, but the room also contains a fine bow-fronted antique chest of drawers and chaise-longue which were handed down by my grandparents. Because it's incredibly light but not overwhelmed with too much direct sunlight, the flat is a marvellous setting for my growing collections of original lithographs and drawings and first-edition books. I'm also an avid collector of new bits of gadgetry; kettles are my favourite, and I replace my kettle every month or two when I spot a new one on the market.

My biggest indulgence, however, has been my bathroom, a brown marble and limestone haven with a vast shower, a heated mirror (every home should have one) and gorgeous fittings, put together by the London company Tsunami. The bathroom cost a small fortune, just over £20,000, and it's one of the things I will most miss when I move. But off I go: my former wife (and still my best friend) and our children have recently left nearby Hackney for Primrose Hill. I don't want to be a weekend father and need to be near enough for the children to drop round whenever they want to. Lofts are thin on the ground there, so I imagine I will be moving to more conventional set-up, but living here has been an exciting experience."

Jeremy's flat is in Charlotte Road, London EC2, and is on the market for £500,000 through Stirling Ackroyd, 020-7747 3838

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