Me And My Home: Maia Norman

Maia Norman's houseboat has become a showcase for her colourful collection of Mexican and American Indian pieces

If I didn't work, I wouldn't come to London anymore, but when I do, this is a lovely place to spend my time. I have a studio in Hackney, from where I run my fashion business, Mother of Pearl, with my partner, Sue Foulston.

When I'm working in London, I spend the nights here on the houseboat. When we found the boat, it was in a desperate state. It had to be gutted entirely and was sent to dry dock at Eel Pie Island. Over eight months, it was stripped back to a basic steel structure, and then refitted with all mod cons. The architect we used, Mike Rendell and Associates, hadn't worked on a boat design before, and the project was full of "ins and outs" that nobody could foresee; it was a worrying time, but it worked out beautifully in the end.

In terms of style, I knew that I wanted a cross between a beach hut and a log cabin. The interior is clad throughout in tongue-and-groove and painted. We have incorporated a huge glass runner along the length of the ceiling from bow to stern, and the doors to the little deck are sheet glass, which provides a lovely view from the front door as you enter.

We have a built-in wooden kitchen, painted in creamy white, with walnut surfaces and oak details. The handles on the drawers are long, roughly hewn sticks of oak, rather like driftwood, and were made to order by a woodworking friend of mine; they have worked out just as I had envisaged. The shape of the boat means that the upper floor, which is open plan, is fairly tubular in feel, and the office, kitchen, dining and living areas are continuous. The dining table is an old Olivetti office table, made of dark, compressed, moulded wood, like an upside-down tray from a motorway café on an iron frame. To make the most of the space, there is built-in seating along the walls, with storage underneath.

Downstairs, we have two bathrooms and four bedrooms. The main bathroom is tucked into the bow, with the bath positioned across the room. Behind it, the awkward shape that remains where there was once a hold has been filled by a platform which is level with the top of the bath, with lights sunken into the surface. There is normally a Sarah Lucas sculpture sitting there, but it's on loan to an exhibition at the moment, so the children can sit there and talk to me while I'm in the bath instead.

As the windows on this floor are almost level with the water at high tide, I often see swans gliding past as I bathe, and the occasional kayak. There are cupboards built into every available piece of spare space. I'd thought that there would be plenty of storage, but there's never enough.

I have quite an obsession with American Indians, and I've bought bits and pieces directly from them during visits to Arizona, like the little beaded bag hanging on the wall in my bedroom. It is hung with chewing tobacco tin lids on the end of leather thongs, which clink together in a lovely way. I also collect Mexican blankets. The loveliest are the older ones, woven from very fine wool, in subtler colours than the cheaper variety. They are woven in stripes of graduating colours that produce almost a three-dimensional quality. I pick them up wherever I find them, all over the States, sometimes expensively, sometimes cheaply.

I collect beaded items. One of the most remarkable is a throne that I bought in Cameroon. From the front, it is brightly coloured with abstract patterns, but the back is beaded in subtle browns with bird motifs. I also have a matching, large beaded basket which stands near the throne, with toys inside, and a small collection of incredibly trippy-looking panther heads, beaded in firework patterns, made by a fierce, hallucinogen-taking Mexican tribe, the Huichol. You have to obtain their permission before visiting them, or they can become ferocious.

We have a tiny room with bunk beds, where the children sleep, and a guest bathroom with Moroccan tiles on the floor and walls. At the back of the boat is a spare room with the bed built into the stern. We seem to have people to stay quite frequently, and they all love sleeping here. It must have a good vibe, although I have never figured out quite how I want to dress this room, so it always feels unfinished to me.

One of my favourite designers is Abigail Lane, who works in our studio in Hackney. Her company, Showroom Dummies, produces interior textiles, papers and fabrics, and I have one of her beautiful, soft blankets in the spare room, in shades of grey, with a pattern of huge plump beetles.

Damian and I are building a house in Mexico now, and have had fun visiting artists in Canada to commission them to carve 20ft totem poles to use as supports for the palapas, thatched shelters without walls, that we plan to build. For my birthday, Damian bought me a beautiful miniature version which is in the sitting room and which is covered in fascinating carved faces. We are also having bigger ones made, to decorate the garden out there.

This boat has been a great success, even though it's becoming too small to be comfortable for us when we're all here together, especially now that I'm pregnant with my third child. I would like to replace it with something bigger, and have my eye on the one next door that belongs to my lovely neighbour, Miles. I hope he won't mind, when the time comes.

Current Mother of Pearl stockists include The Cross, in Ladbroke Grove, London W11, and Beth, in Cork

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas