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

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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.

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