Me And My Home: Pop, punk and passion

The seaside home of former band manager Tom Watkins is filled with irreverent art
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In the 1980s and 1990s Tom Watkins was the manager of pop bands such as Pet Shop Boys, Bros and East 17. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, he has lived in Pett Level, East Sussex, with his boyfriend, Darron Coppin. Having rebuilt a house on the seafront, he bought the one next door, knocked it down and rebuilt it, and now lives there. Before he worked in the music industry, Tom studied at the London College Of Furniture and worked as a designer for Terence Conran.

In the 1980s and 1990s Tom Watkins was the manager of pop bands such as Pet Shop Boys, Bros and East 17. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, he has lived in Pett Level, East Sussex, with his boyfriend, Darron Coppin. Having rebuilt a house on the seafront, he bought the one next door, knocked it down and rebuilt it, and now lives there. Before he worked in the music industry, Tom studied at the London College Of Furniture and worked as a designer for Terence Conran.

Daz and I have been together for 12 years. He's an outdoors person and we had a weekend home in Fairlight, about a mile away, but we were too far from the beach. We bought the house next door for cash - £150,000 - which is nothing. I was living in Maida Vale, in a £1.5 million two-up, two-down. After East 17, I was entirely worn out with the music industry. Brian Harvey [East 17 singer] almost broke my back. I thought: "We need to go somewhere quiet." Because I had the weekend home down here, I got a taster for country living. It was only a tiny house but it was built by one of the Bauhaus people in the 1930s. I've always had a love of modernism, so when I built my houses I opted to go for this style of architecture. The idea of smooth-rendered buildings is a 1930s concept - and a bastardised version suits this seaside environment.

I've collected Memphis pieces with Darron for the past decade, which led us to collect other designers' work. I like Memphis because it's vulgar, crude, irreverent, playful... it's pop art. The cabinet is filled with Andy Warhol's Fiesta Ware, crockery that I bought from New York when they auctioned off his estate. The cabinet is Sotsass - he was head of the Memphis group and his philosophy is: why do you have to put two materials together that match, why do all four table legs have to be the same? He argues that conformity is laziness - that it's uncreative.

Maybe he's right, but I also have a passion for symmetry, which shows in the downstairs room. Those two benches were made by Hitch Mylius. We have two lamps by Castigelloni which form "soldiers" against the big window; at night it's quite spectacular. This table and chairs look like some old school thing but the wrong top was put on the table frame, which knocked the value down considerably, so I thought: 'Sod it, let everyone who comes and visits us write on it.' I think that's the kind of punk element; why should things be perfect?

The Frink sculpture dominates the downstairs room. I saw it in a gallery in Burlington Arcade in the West End. I walked in - there was a very posh woman in there - and made a joke: "It must have been a terribly cold day when that guy posed for that." She said: "Do you mind? That was my husband." It turned out he left her in favour of having a bit of a fiddle with Dame Elizabeth Frink. We bought that one from Christie's a couple of years ago. Since we bought it, it's quadrupled in value. Frinks are like hens' teeth at the moment. I have a bust upstairs, too.

My favourite room is the living room at the top of the house. It's almost all Memphis up here. You can see the sea on one side and greenery on the other. It can be a bit like living in a gallery, but at night time it takes on a completely different feel; the room takes on different proportions. When the moon's out, it illuminates the sea - you can write reams of poetry about it. We deliberately put those windows in: it's like 25 little vignettes - each one is a painting.

Do I worry about pop stars coming round and being sick on carpet? Don't be ridiculous. I can't think of anything more boring than some arsehole coming round coked out of his brain.

The garden is supposed to be fun, in contrast with the discipline of the building. The last thing we wanted was granny lawns and chrysanths. Darron's father always maintains he never knows what to buy us for Christmas. He saw an old pikey's van with a big wooden bear in the back of it, followed it for about 50 miles until they stopped and bought it for us for Christmas. It's absolutely vile... that's an old female skeleton, got our goat, that zebra... things have to be tough to survive the weather out there.

I find this stuff because I'm an obsessive shopper. I travelled the world with bands the whole time and you go to shops or museums when you're away. I don't have anyone to do it for me. I'm trained in this, so I should know what I'm doing.

The only advice that I would give to anyone considering building their own house is that you have got to have a very clear idea of what you want. Because Darron and I both trained as designers, it was like a military operation - there were no hiccups, none whatsoever. We had that summer of glorious sunshine, in 2003. There were all these naked builders walking about. It was adorable.

The one difficult thing about living down here is the neighbours. They're absolutely hideously blue-rinse, dyed in the wool... When I first moved in here, a respectable local man told me: "We don't want your kind down here." So I said: "What do you mean? Homosexual, rich, intelligent...? What are you objecting to?" I was dying for him to say poof, because then I would have created a storm. He came and apologised a month later.

It is undiscovered but there are a lot of famous people living down here now. They did Bowie's Ashes To Ashes video on the beach nearby. The sculptor Jacob Epstein worked in one of the cottages here. Paul Merton lives here, Jo Brand... Spike Milligan also lived near. The quality of life here is great. There are a thousand reasons to be here. It's an interesting place but not saturated - yet.

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