My Home: Bill Amberg, leather designer

When Bill Amberg moved into his Victorian house, he ripped out previous owners' mistakes. Now he just has to keep his own family's clutter in check
Click to follow

Bill Amberg, the leather designer, lives in Kensal Rise, north-west London, with his wife Susie Forbes, their three daughters and his spaniel, Flash

We moved here 10 years ago, making an exodus from Notting Hill. We had trawled the area, looking for our perfect home and spotted a row of beautiful houses here in Queen's Park, with big, south-facing gardens. We put leaflets through the doors and struck lucky immediately.

The family we bought the house from had obviously adored their home; each room was a different colour and they had very thoughtfully left pots of paint for us to touch up the paintwork as necessary. Our plans were to strip the place and redecorate, opening up the ground floor, plumbing and wiring as we went. I felt quite bad throwing their Jacuzzi into the skip.

We removed most of the internal walls on the ground floor so it's all open plan but, interestingly, on several different levels, with small staircases in between which are great for playing with Slinkys. It was really beautiful when it was first finished but now it's completely dilapidated and filthy.

We are really trying to keep it looking good but have finally succumbed and are employing an interior designer to come and sort it out for us. Although we both have plenty of ideas, we both work hard and never have enough time to devote to it. We also find it hard to agree on a final plan, so we have asked Henri Fitzwilliam-Lay to come and help to control the Amberg family. She's building cupboards in the laundry room in the basement and reorganising us with storage solutions from top to bottom.

Our kitchen was built by James Shead, a master of joinery, who is a complete wizard. I was offered a set of teak bench tops by a friend of mine, an engineer at St George's Hospital, Tooting, in south London. The laboratory was being converted to a computer room and the benches, reminiscent of school chemistry labs, were being chucked out. Thankfully, he thought of me.

A deep brown, they have been combined with cherry veneered cupboards and drawers in a rich tan colour, some leather handles and a bright pink painted floor. Many years ago, Susie and I spotted a lovely square shelving system in The Supper Club in Amsterdam. We both loved it and made a plan to have one built into our own kitchen when the time came, which we did. It's very simple, with a light inside each cube-shaped unit, and looks great. On the wall in here there's a multi-media piece by James Peel, with a travel theme, and a collection of photographs by the Dutch photographer, Jeremy Stigter.

On the living room wall is a fascinating and vast drawing by Kate Atkins. Drawn in pencil, it is a study of the base of a tree but also manages to look like an island at first glance. We've also got a lovely drawing of a chicken's head by Carrie Walker.

In the basement we have our fabulous new laundry room and a snug, with toys and a telly and sofas. We've had a leather floor in here for years and I'm taking it up now and changing it for a new one. Leather is a perfect flooring material, warm, dust-free, with wonderful acoustic properties. It wears beautifully, too, mellowing with age and you can choose which level of protection you apply to it. Ultimately, the most durable coating will protect it even as an exterior all-weather cladding, as seen on my garden playhouse, although its lifespan is shorter.

In our bedroom, we have a headboard and cabinets covered in cream calfskin. The drawers built into the bay have tops of hairy white goatskin, with fronts of white calf. It's all very white and creamy. The bed is enormous, a display model from a showroom. We all pile in together for picnics in bed, much to the horror of some of our tidier friends.

Four years ago, we extended our home sideways. We bought the downstairs flat next door which came with its own garden, so we now have a double-width garden. I have a studio there, where I spend the evening and weekends tinkering. The children run in and out and help me.

I don't watch television and this gives me time in my studio. I built a playhouse for the girls and clad it in purple leather. I've also built a wooden climbing frame which, as they get older, is becoming a bit too tame; I plan to extend it with a "fox run" from the roof of the garage down on to the trampoline.

I'm mad about the garden. I've planted silver birch, gingko, liriodendrum, holm oak and snake-bark maple. I plant them as taught by my mother, in zig-zags. Behind the wooden climbing frame I have put up tall hurdles, woven from very thick hazel and the white bark of the silver birch against the dark hazel is very pleasing.

I sorted out the lawns and got them established before the hosepipe ban came into effect. And I've got my water storage all sorted out, with plenty of water butts.

Bill Amberg's new flagship store is now open at 21-22 Chepstow Corner, London W2 4XE (, 020-7727 3560)