My Home: Stephen Webster, British jeweller
As Britain's most creative jeweller, Stephen Webster has a magpie's eye. He explains his craving for chandeliers, taxidermy and the Kent coast
Wednesday 30 August 2006
Stephen Webster, 47, is a top British jeweller with a cult celebrity following. He designed Madonna's wedding rings, and other clients include Johnny Depp, Sharon Stone, Axl Rose, Carl Barat and Ozzy Osbourne. This year, he celebrates 30 years in the business. He lives in Walmer, Kent, with his wife Anastasia and his two daughters, Amy, nine, and Nika, seven.
I was brought up in Gravesend, just a few miles away, so it was natural for me to gravitate to this area of Kent. It feels relaxed to be so close to the sea, but also it's just an hour-and-a-half away from London - quite an easy distance.
I've lived in Canada and in California before, in completely contrasting settings. My home in Canada was a tiny flat overlooking a skiing resort in one of the most remote parts of the Rocky Mountains. I had gone there when I was 21, to start a jewellery company, and stayed three years. It was just skiing in the winter, but the world came through it, and in the summer it was a renowned beauty spot, but only 3,000 people lived there year round.
Then I moved back to London and, soon afterwards, was offered another job in LA. I lived there for around three years, again, and it was a real eye-opener, and a complete change in lifestyle. I lived in a house that had a pool and was very close to the beach, and I was working with huge gem stones on a scale that was unimaginable in the UK.
I was glad to get back to England, and, after a few years of living in London, my wife and I became desperate to find a family home beside the sea. We still keep a flat in the West End, as we need to be close to our office and store, and it makes travelling easier, but we like to spend most of our time here in Kent. The house has a lot of character, and still has many of the original details, which is one of the reasons we bought it. Also, it was a fantastic bargain at the time, two years ago.
The fireplaces, windows and doors, and even the bells for the servants are still here. The house also has an interesting historical background - William Pitt the Younger, twice British prime minister, lived here, and it's just minutes away from Walmer Castle.
I love being so close to the sea. When you've been brought up on an island, I feel you need to be able to see the edges. I can't stand it when I am in America and right in the middle of a huge state. It feels claustrophobic.
The house has four storeys, with six bedrooms. The kitchen is on the ground floor, as soon as you come through the front door. Stairs lead to the next level, which has the dining room and sitting room.
Being close to the sea inspires me for my work. The colours of the ocean and the forms of the waves have influenced a lot of my designs. I use a lot of turquoise and aquamarine, and I'm also very fond of fish. I have been collecting multicoloured glass fish made in Eastern Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, for the past 20 years. I don't know what got me into them, but I love their quirky-looking colours and odd expressions. I used to find them in junk and antique shops, but when eBay came along, my wife started finding lots of them there. Now, practically every shelf and surface in the sitting room is covered with them.
Chandeliers are another thing I collect. I love the way they cast light over a room, and some of them are rather like my jewellery, full of glistening colours. I have one in every room downstairs. One has violet, black and purple droplets, and the other is clear glass. There is a great shop nearby called Serendipity where I found them, and a lot of other things for the house.
I am something of a magpie, in fact. I'm especially attracted to odd things. I bought a 100-year-old stuffed turtle that lives under a glass table in our sitting room, on top of a brown and white cowhide. He's called Bolshoi, and is rather regal, if a bit battered at the edges now. We also have a stuffed badger that a friend told me about in Manchester, and I drove miles to get him one night. And there's a crocodile that I bought in France - I carried him under my arm on the plane, and he's new resting beside the fireplace.
Our home is a taxidermist's dream: in our dining room, in a glass case, we have a cluster of stuffed birds from Victorian days. We also have a stuffed squirrel and a python on the dining table. There's even a stuffed seagull on the stairs.
The hallway is painted a deep maroon colour, and the stairs lead up to our bedroom and the girls' bedrooms. Nika's room is painted blue with little white clouds stencilled on to the cupboards, and our room is light green. The bathroom is a cool lemon, with a white roll-top bath, and from there you have a wonderful view of the ocean.
In the hall, there's a large framed photo of me outside the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. For some reason, they put my name up in lights, as if I was a huge act, when I did a trunk show there a few years ago. I couldn't believe it, and took my friends there every night, just to look at it.
The back of the house is very beautiful, with slate shingles that are unique to this area. It looks out on to a 300ft garden and an old oak tree. I recently bought the house next door, which we have been renting out. The garden was a jungle as it hadn't been touched for over 30 years. I love gardening but it is back-breaking work, especially when you're more used to setting diamonds into platinum!
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