Me And My Home: Coming up roses

Floral designer to the stars Rob Van Helden says that, like a flower, he needs light and air to be happy - which explains why he can't bear carpets or curtains
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The Independent Online

Rob Van Helden lives in a Victorian house in Clapham Old Town, London, with his partner Sebastien Barbereau, and their two boxer dogs, Bimbo and Bella.

Rob Van Helden lives in a Victorian house in Clapham Old Town, London, with his partner Sebastien Barbereau, and their two boxer dogs, Bimbo and Bella.

I bought this house six years ago. I've been in England for 22 years now, but previously I was living north of the river, in Kensington, and after that in Hammersmith. It makes sense to be in Clapham, as my office is two minutes away, and I'm also well located for the flower market at New Covent Garden, which I visit five or six times a week. I'm also closer to my sister, Patricia, who lives in Streatham and is a partner in my business.

As a floral designer, my job is to bring happiness to people. It is important to me that people say "Wow" as they enter the room and that they remember the flowers later when they get home. I strive to make my clients' dreams come true.

We live in a four-bedroomed terraced house. When we first got here, we knocked down the dividing wall between the reception rooms to form an open-plan living and dining room. We are about to do more building work on the kitchen - we're extending it to the side to give us more space and light, which will be nice.

Apart from that, most of the work we've done has been decorative. We use this amazing decorator called Tim Hardy, who works very hard for us, as we change our minds often. He's on his third or fourth run around the house at the moment, working on some wardrobes in the bedroom. He is God's gift. We are really lucky to have him, particularly as he's very tidy.

Most of the house is very masculine in its colour scheme. The woodwork outside is charcoal grey and inside we have pale grey walls with the same charcoal woodwork. The floors are stained wood - I absolutely hate carpets; they give me the creeps, so we don't have any. I do put a rug down in the living room in winter - it's a long runner carpet, but other than that we just have bare boards. The floors are quite old and weathered, so the dogs can grip as they tear around the place.

I grew up as one of six children in a massive home in Holland. We would spend our time together in the kitchen - it was the gathering place for the family. I think because of this, the kitchen is where I naturally choose to be. I sit in there to do my paperwork, to eat and to watch TV. There is a big TV on top of the fridge. The dogs sleep in a a lovely brick fireplace that we don't use. We have a huge Indian table and dark brown leather dining chairs. The kitchen cupboards are painted greeny-grey and the fridge is stainless steel. It's a mixture of styles, but I think it looks good. Down in the cellar, we keep the washing machine and Sebastian's large collection of wine. He's the bar manager and wine buyer at Nobu, and has a great interest in wine. The kitchen leads out to the garden. The colours are simple, rather than pretty: mostly white and shades of green.

Most of my plants are actually hydrangeas, which were left over from a job, as well as little white primulas that are just opening up. Running the length of the garden is a long table that seats 12. On top of that are six galvanised containers, with topiary balls. I have just bought another Buddah's head, this time for the garden, made of fibreglass.

The living room has two black leather sofas and a glass coffee table. There are also two pewter plinths. One supports a tall brown vase, the other, a two-foot solid Buddah's head, which took three men to carry - a lot of the stuff in the house I collect while prop-buying for jobs. There are also two Indian cupboards in here, as well as the huge Indian dining table which came from an Indian wholesaler. On the windows we have installed "plantation" shutters. We don't have any curtains in the house, either; I have the same sort of phobia about them as I do about carpets. I can't bear the cluttered feeling that curtains and carpets provoke. I need lots of light and air to be happy, like a flower.

The walls of the landing upstairs are covered in photos of the family and friends at special moments in my life. There is a picture of the Queen taken when I met her at Princess Margaret's 70th birthday party at the Ritz ( for which I had provided the flowers) and Elton John, my sister Patricia, Kylie Minogue, my nephews Oliver and Benjamin, GeorgeBenson and my dogs - all of them mixed up together.

In the little office are more photos and a big old desk, as well as a watercolour painting by Pierce Brosnan of a Hawaiian scene, which he gave to me as a present last Christmas.

Our bedroom has a big leather-based bed in a beautiful deep brown. All the beds are fitted out with crisp white bed-linen, because it always looks so clean. Next to it is a small table made of horn from Haiti and a black dresser from Holland, which is a family piece passed on to me.

There is also an Indian blanket chest that used to open at the top, but I had the doors changed so that it opens like a cupboard now and hides the TV when it's not in use The floors are painted wood in charcoal, again.

On the top floor, there is another bedroom where we sleep during the winter - it's much cosier than downstairs and it overlooks the churchyard. The view of the trees is really lovely, and it's great to know that nobody can build on that land and spoil our view. It's got another leather bed, similar to downstairs. There is a cute little bathroom there too, painted in various greys.

I travel a great deal for my work. Since the beginning of the year I have been in South Africa where I was overseeing the flowers for Elton John's Aids foundation charity ball, in Cape Town, and 10 days later, I was in Mumbai for a wedding. I do weddings all over the world, which gives me great international shopping opportunities. I nearly always buy Buddahs in India.

The result, when I bring all my stuff home, is a mixture of modern and ethnic, although it isn't cluttered as I'm a very tidy person. I love coming home to my favourite things - Bimbo, Bella and Sebastien.

Rob Van Helden Floral Design and Prop Hire, 8 Tunyard, Peardon St, SW8 (020 7720 6774; www.rvhfloraldesign.com)

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