Me And My Home: A touch of French polish

Jemima French, one half of the design partnership FrostFrench, has finally found a Victorian house big enough for her large family, her work and her ever-expanding collection of second-hand furniture. Interview by Siân Pattenden
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The Independent Online

Jemima French, who runs FrostFrench with Sadie Frost, lives in a Victorian town house in north London with her four children

Jemima French, who runs FrostFrench with Sadie Frost, lives in a Victorian town house in north London with her four children

moved here in October, and since then I have been busy with London Fashion Week, Christmas, and a lot of personal things happening, so there is still lots that I want to do to the house.

We lived in Crouch End before, and although we had a bigger home there, it was a little too far out when we both had full-time jobs in central London, especially with four children.

One of the things that convinced me that this house was a good buy was its off-street parking. But inside the house, I was struck by the way the space works - it's not a huge house, but it feels big enough to accommodate us all and it's lovely and light. The double doors between the living room and the kitchen downstairs mean that you can shut off part of the area. If the children are watching The Simpsons and driving me potty, I can shut the door and read the papers with a cup of tea. Four children, two adults, a nanny and a whippet - that's a lot of people to fit into one space.

I work from the living room, and the FrostFrench office is 10 minutes from here. I do have to be there for critical decisions, but I'm trying to set up a more creative area here so that I can wander around in the garden, get some ideas, and come back to my desk. When FrostFrench first started, it operated from the basement of my old house; at that time, I was having my fourth baby and it suited me perfectly to be able to go to work in my pyjamas. Sometimes I get my best ideas in the night, and now with e-mail it's so easy to be in two places at once.

When I moved, I had to take down two ceiling lights, and since then I've done nothing. It was in a liveable state in terms of floorboards and walls. I'm working with Dulux at the moment, and they're going to paint my kitchen and the hallway.

The East influences a lot of my taste. I lived in Bali for a few years with my first two children. When I came back to England, I left all my belongings behind and had to start again. I have a cabinet from India and a chest from Vietnam that sits nearby. On the wall there's a The Belles of St Trinian's poster and a mounted photo that Sadie gave me for Christmas of a Banksy graffiti on a bin. The bust of Queen Victoria I've had forever. She looks stern, but she makes me giggle.

It's all a bit of a mix. I get a lot of things from car-boot sales and jumble sales. I recently spent two weeks in Cape Town at my mum's house, and all I wanted to do was go to the thrift shops - Cape Town is full of amazing second-hand furniture.

A lot of the bigger pieces of furniture came from my grandmother's house. This is the first time I've ever had a dressing room of my own, but I think a woman of my age, in my line of business, should have one. I did feel a little guilty at first, thinking perhaps it should be used for a study or a child's room, but in the end I just had to make it my own.

I have a couple of paintings in my bedroom - one is of blackberries and was done by my grandmother for me when I was a child. In among the antiques is my collection of Barbapapa characters, and Snoopy and Muppet figures still in their boxes. I have two animation cells from Top Cat and The Simpsons that I haven't framed yet. I have loads more thrift stuff in boxes.

Now I'm really looking forward to the summer and spending more time in the garden and having lots of tea parties and barbecues.

The Spring/Summer 05 collection from FrostFrench is available in Selfridges, W1

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