A Room Of My Own: Thelma Speirs, milliner, east London

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Thelma Speirs is one half of the millinery label Bernstock Speirs, which launched in 1982. Six years later, she and Paul Bernstock made the iconic topless hat worn by Kylie Minogue on the cover of her first album; they have since collaborated with Jean-Paul Gaultier, among others. Thelma, 50, lives above a café on Columbia Road in east London; Paul lives in the flat below her. Visit their online shop at bernstockspeirs.com


I spend an inordinate amount of time in this kitchen. I don't cook but I toast things and while away the morning reading and listening to the radio at this table. This is where I do the crossword and teach myself French and Italian, hence the stack of dictionaries. I like having my stuff around me. I stick notes all over the room; when people write nice things, it's important to keep them around you to remember all the friends you have when you're having an off-day. I found the big carved mirror on the street in the Eighties, and it has since become my pin-board. There are pictures and thank-you cards and a note from Julie Christie, who popped through the door of our shop with her phone number and a message to call her about a gold hat she'd seen in our window. I write notes to myself too, in big coloured magnets on the fridge.

I was brought up in a Fifties-built council house in a not-so-posh part of Cambridge. I moved to London in 1979 and found this place in 1988. This was a three-bedroom flat originally, and covered in woodchip. After much de-woodchip-ing, I made one of the bedrooms into my dressing room; it's been a work in progress ever since. Back in the Eighties there was nothing happening in this area, apart from a Sunday flower market – which is still going – and a few places to get a curry. Since the trendies moved in, however, it's become a different place.

I like contrast. There's a countryside feel to this room, but it looks out over the city. I watched them build the Gherkin [Norman Foster's Swiss Re building] from this very spot. I've been here on my own for six years, since my ex-husband moved out – though it's not really like living alone. Paul lives downstairs and every Friday night we get together with Gerald Wilson, who works with the fashion label Peter Jensen, and my friend Kitty. We play Predictions, which is like Bridge but much easier. And you can play with five people, so there's always room for one more. I keep an Hermès playing-card box and a score pad on the kitchen table in case of an impromtu game. I have lots of friends in the area and am kept busy by a regular DJing slot at the George and Dragon pub on Hackney Road.

All my stuff is on show rather than in drawers. I don't know where most of it comes from; it just shows up and I like it. I am not a collector; I just acquire enough of what I need and then I move on to something else. There is no value in the things I have except what they are and how I feel about them. I have lots of certain things, like sunglasses, cups and magazine cuttings, which I dot around the room. The fridge wouldn't look right in here if it were just a big white block so I've covered it in cuttings – including one of the artist Maggi Hambling, who inspired me when I was giving up smoking. I've started again now but I like her so she's stayed. There's Jackie O being glamorous while doing yoga, which few could manage. And I love the 1977 Gucci shoes Jodie Foster is wearing in the black-and-white picture of her skateboarding – I wanted to find myself a pair, so she has pride of place on the fridge too.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future