My Home: Peter Jensen, fashion designer
When fashion designer Peter Jensen came to Britain, he saw bad lighting and clutter everywhere - so he gave his London flat a Danish accent
Wednesday 17 January 2007
Fashion designer Peter Jensen's fans include Nicole Kidman, Orlando Bloom and Amy Winehouse. He lives in Primrose Hill with his partner, Daniel, an antiques expert.
When I first moved to London in 1995 to study at St Martins I was shocked at how dirty the city seemed compared with Denmark. This area, Primrose Hill, is a lot cleaner, more conservative and ultimately a far more desirable part of London than what I first saw. I remember when my first landlord, in the East End, showed us around, he said, "Now, you must keep it really clean like this." In fact it was already filthy! I love living here in Primrose Hill; it is streets apart from my studio, which is in Dalston.
I was shocked by how much clutter people tend to live with in Britain, and that other great no-no that most Scandinavians cannot comprehend: carpets in bathrooms. What is that about? It is a hallmark of Scandinavian living to embrace good design and furniture in a serious way. Things that are made well and designed well tend to last so much longer. They may cost a little more, but it is a lot better in the long run.
Most of our furniture comes from Skandium, which specialises in Scandinavian design. We have a Hans Wegner chair which cost around £800 and a sofa also by Wegner. The dining table and red chairs in the sitting room are by Arne Jacobsen, who is one of my favourite designers. Probably one of the most valuable pieces we have is our Arne Jacobsen tea set.
Recently I have started to collect art. I have a beautiful painting given to me by my friend, the fashion illustrator Julie Verhoeven, which hangs next to two paintings I bought from the Royal Academy summer exhibition. My favourite gallery in London is Maureen Paley in Herald Street. I love the fact that it used to be her home. One of my other favourite places in London is Spitalfields Market, which is great for traditional English food, like bangers and mash. Perhaps that's one thing Scandinavians can't do so well.
I have many books on art and fashion and my partner also has hundred of tomes on silver and jewellery. Books are in every part of our home. It is a small flat but the things we have are chosen carefully and it doesn't feel at all cluttered.
I don't understand the way the British have lights that just land irrelevantly in the middle of a room for no apparent reason; it seems bizarre. In Denmark they would be above a table, or have some reason. Also we use a lot of candles. There is no cosiness about things if they just hang there. Often you can be at a dinner party and have this huge light in your face - it is not very attractive.
The flat has one bedroom and it has been mirror-panelled along one side, which gives a greater illusion of space. The bed is covered in a selection of scatter cushions. Books and cushions are my one weakness, I am always buying them.
The kitchen is off the sitting room, and although it is compact it has everything in it, but we tend to go out for dinner locally, or to friends' houses. There is a fantastic vegetarian restaurant just along the road.
I do a lot of research for my work, as every collection is based on one person as a muse. The last one was on the American photographer Tina Barney, who had an exhibition at the Barbican last year called The Europeans. Before that it was Helena Rubinstein - I like to base my collections on strong-headed women.
This flat is a good place to think, read and have ideas, though I tend to do most of the actual drawing and design at my studio. I like magazines a lot, and my favourite is Vanity Fair. I have every single issue since 1989. I love the fact that it is such a great mix of reality and lies.
Another great advantage of living here is that it is off the street, so you don't hear any noise - it is very calming. Also we are just moments away from Regents Park. But I absolutely cannot bear to be in Camden - which is just along the road - on a Saturday; it is hideous. I just cannot understand where all these ugly people come from! Camden used to have a huge charm many years ago, but it has changed so much now. It almost resembles some kind of crazy American mall - there is just a handful of second-hand stalls left, and it has lost all its uniqueness and identity.
I am gradually getting used to living in the UK, but there are still things that take my breath away. The bank system here is terrible - you pay in a cheque and it takes five days to clear. In Denmark it takes an hour. I travel quite a lot for my work, and recently went to Japan and Korea. It was interesting - our remarks about the constant fog were just met with the reply that it was the pollution. My partner and I are very environmentally conscious - we both go everywhere by bike and we always turn everything completely off in our flat. Nothing is left on standby.
Another thing that shocked me about Britain - and still does - is the amount of waste. I couldn't believe it when I used to see people throwing away glass bottles into the bin. I used to be continuously rescuing them from the rubbish - presuming people had made a mistake. In Denmark, people would never do such a thing - you are brought up indoctrinated about recycling. I had never seen this before in my life.
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