Me And My Home: Rococo around the world

Dominic Lutyens talks to the photographer Amanda Eliasch
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Amanda Eliasch lives in a four-storey house in Victoria with her husband John and sons Charles and Jack

My theatrical taste has been very influenced by my grandmother, a concert pianist who had a good eye for colour, and my mother, who had a flair for clashing colours harmoniously. My grandfather was Sidney Gilliat, who directed some of the St Trinian's films. He collected modern art and got me to love Shakespeare. That said, when I announced I wanted to go to drama school, aged 28 - before I became a photographer - he thought I was mad. He thought the acting world was hell, and had funny, puritanical views. He said, 'If you go to drama school, you're nothing but a prostitute!'

"I've also been influenced by the florist Kenneth Turner, furniture designer Oriel Harwood and Anoushka Hempel. I like visually eccentric people, too, like Isabella Blow. I used to work as an accountant for Ken Turner, and was living in a very bourgeois house then - all pale blue and peach. He told me, 'That's not you', and encouraged me to express my personality more.

"I know what good taste means in the conventional sense, but I don't want to live like that. I love vulgarity and kitsch. Things that make you wonder whether they're real, and leave you thinking, 'Who cares what's real, anyway?' I love Oriel's designs for that reason - like the turbanned busts and black standard lamp topped with Satanic-looking horns in my living room or the bronze-coloured mosaic tiles in my bathroom. Her pieces look like they're made of fine materials but they're made of fibreglass or resin.

"The style of the house when we bought it was just as theatrical, but in a Seventies way. It had belonged to John Osborne and his wife, Penelope Gilliatt, and hadn't been touched for 20 years. There was a fireplace in the middle of one room, a chainmail light incorporating chandeliers strung along one ceiling. At one point, they'd let pet birds fly about freely. I wish I'd kept the Seventies stuff but, in the early Nineties, Seventies revivalism wasn't that fashionable yet. Fortunately, we still have two huge doors left behind by Osborne - they were used for the set of his play, Luther, put on at the Royal Court.

"My shocking-pink and canary-yellow bedroom is my favourite room. I treat it as my office and sometimes my kitchen. It's filled with Thai objects. I'm mad about Thailand, the way much of its beauty is skin-deep - a spectacular-looking costume, say, might turn out to be made of nylon. The walls are yellow because they put me in a good mood the moment I wake up. I'm naturally bad-tempered, but yellow lifts my mood miraculously.

"My living room is a difficult room to make cosy. It was painted scarlet once but everybody bitched about how vile that was, so I finally succumbed to boring old beige. But I've made up for that with the furniture, much of it bought at fleamarkets or antique shops, like my leather chaise longue, from a shop in west London's Ledbury Road. I've got a huge birdcage from Thailand that looks like a miniature cathedral, an eagle on a plinth covered in leopard-print fabric and a cabinet with twisty legs by furniture and lighting designer Mark Brazier-Jones. I've got a vase by Picasso, given to me by my grandfather, next to a fake skull. A friend told me Picasso practised witchcraft on his ceramics, and strongly advised me to put the vase away! The overall effect is very Gothic, a style I got into when I was studying Shakespeare at drama school. I also love the style of goths - the way they're a cross between punks and 18th-century dandies.

"My indigo dining room - with its enormous table and Gothic-style chairs - is Macbeth-inspired. There are sword-shaped wall sconces that you put candles in, and a light with a mirror ball hanging from it, both by Brazier-Jones. One Christmas, I hung the light outside the house as a Christmas decoration, and didn't bother with any decorations inside. There's also a statue of a male nude, which I once put in the window overlooking the street, but a prissy neighbour complained about it, so I had to move it to the other side of the room.

"My other major passion is contemporary British art. One of my first jobs as a photographer was shooting the catalogue of furniture maker Kartell, in collaboration with Franca Sozzani, editor of Italian Vogue. It pictured artists sitting on Kartell chairs, and I got to know many Young British Artists that way. Sozzani then suggested I do my book, British Artists At Work, which shows artists in their studios. I've got a painting by Martin Maloney, of a family snapshot, and another by Dexter Dalwood of what looks like Stalin's desk. I've also got a painting of a Barbie doll dressed as a Renaissance madonna - a cartoony parody of a Leonardo canvas - by Nicholas Barker. It reminds me of the way one of my sons, who's got a Barbie doll, has this thing about dressing her in different costumes and filming her.

"At the moment, she's dressed as Marie Antoinette, in a pale blue frock with gold fringing. It has inspired me to completely redecorate the house in gold, pale blue and pink roses. Maybe it's a sign that I'll turn into a chintzy old bag in my old age. I've never liked chintz before, but now I do, perhaps because I'm older. Some people make no bones about the fact they find my rococo taste revolting. But I don't want to live by feeling that I have to please others. I want to live by pleasing myself."

'British Artists at Work', with photographs by Eliasch and text by Gemma de Cruz, is published by Assouline, £55

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