My Home: Ian Mankin, textile designer

He has turned Victorian ticking into a cult textile, but Ian Mankin is far more at home with the decorative spirit of the Thirties
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The Independent Online

Ian Mankin, director of the upholstery and furnishing fabrics business of the same name, lives in a Victorian house in north London with his wife Silvia

We have lived here since 1993. When we bought the house it was in pretty good condition. We've replaced the kitchen and made some alterations to windows and so on, but our main influence on the place has been a decorative one.

My ethos is one of simplicity. I began my working life in my father's business, having completed my National Service and abandoned a career in couture in Paris. My father dealt in fabrics and trimmings, and as he was next door to a leather merchant, I began my early career as a designer of leather clothing and luggage.

After 25 successful years, including fitting out the Beatles, Michael Caine and two US presidents, I gave it all up for a quieter life and started up Ian Mankin as it is today, supplying natural, woven fabrics, 90 per cent of which are manufactured in the UK. I opened the Primrose Hill shop 22 years ago, followed by the one in Wandsworth Bridge Road.

I love the idea of adapting utility materials for more sophisticated uses. The ticking that we are well-known for is adapted from the familiar mattress covering, made softer and more malleable. This feeling extends to the kind of objects that I like to have around me; I have a fascination for things that have been given another lease of life. An example of this would be the iron candelabra that I bought on honeymoon in Paris; it's huge and heavy and looks as though it's made from sections of old door furniture or horse harness, but it works even better as a candle holder.

I find myself attracted to unusual objects, particularly art deco, and collect bits and bobs fairly randomly, but I'm not a serious collector and would hate to live in a home circumscribed by any principles of style other than my own.

The feel of our living room is one of calm simplicity, with two sofas upholstered in my own fabrics, bookcases that I had built with rounded corners, and interesting objects collected over the years.

I have a huge quantity of books by Georges Simenon, in original Penguin editions. I love a good psychological thriller (and they also have spines of a beautiful shade of green). William Morris said that everything in your home should either be useful or beautiful, a principle that I apply, sub-consciously, I think, to my own interior. This has only really been possible, though, since my son, Daniel and my daughter, Nina, left home. We have de-cluttered her old bedroom and on a recent visit, she was surprised to notice that it is actually a really lovely room.

In the dining room I have hung my small collection of 1930s lino cuts. The colours are lovely, and they have a jolly look about them; the figures all seem to be having a really good time, even the ones in the industrial scenes. I think those pre-war years were probably quite a lark, with plenty of glamorous parties and exciting innovations.

These prints are the product of the Grosvenor school, a style that made a big comeback in the 80s. I also have an odd collection of keys that I have hung in rows in descending order of size. The collection began in an antique shop in Paris, where I bought a handful, and since then I've bought or been given many more. They took endless patience to arrange, and I have re-hung them three times now, as we move house. There's room for one more, tiny key at the bottom. I really hope I don't get any more.

Another piece that I'm fond of is the salt glaze jug made by a brilliant English potter, Walter Keeler. I love the shape, and the glaze is beautifully tactile. In the corner, I have a fantastic item that I bought from Designer's Guild back in the 1970s. It's a black plastic and chrome bar, quite deco in style, and full of glasses and bottles. I recently saw Trisha Guild and asked her if she remembered it, and she did, perfectly.

There are interesting little things all over the house, things to smile at as you go up the stairs, and on the first floor landing, a beautiful sculpture on the wall made by Nina. She is now represented by the Gordon Hepworth gallery and achieving success as a sculptor, creating narrative pieces from found materials.

Our bedroom has walls lined with Hopsack weave, a linen and cotton union, stretched over a foam backing, which makes for a lovely warm atmosphere. The cupboards were built by a fantastic cabinet maker, from varnished MDF. They have a curve leading into the centre, towards the bed, and incorporate a bed head. They are beautifully constructed and incredibly functional with wonderful pull-out drawer sections and a hook to reach the jackets that hang at the top. I love flowing, smooth lines and find that I'm actually quite averse to sharp edges.

Leading off the bedroom, our bathroom is quite big, with more 1930s prints on the walls, and we have a shower enclosed by a curved wall of tongue and groove panelling, painted sage green and tiled white inside with green grouting.

We have moved house a number of times now but the great thing about running a business from a shop is that it acts as a permanent address and I need never lose touch with my friends. My shops are a beacon for people from my past; they always know where to find me.

Ian Mankin's latest catalogue is out now, £4. To order your copy, contact Ian Mankin, 109 Regent's Park Road, London NW1 8UR (020-7722 0997)

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