A work in progress: At home with design expert Stephen Bayley

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Author and design critic Stephen Bayley has lived in his London house for 25 years but it still isn't finished – and he wouldn't have it any other way

Doing up a home is like food and sex: it should never be rushed. You must never aspire to "finish" a house, you can merely hope to start it, and from then on it's an evolutionary process. The fashion designer Issey Miyake came for dinner when there was no furniture or lights, and the floorboards were bare and unpolished. He interpreted it as some sort of progressive artistic statement, but it wasn't. We simply didn't have anything.

Furnishing our house has been a careful process of acquisition, and patience is immensely important. Without wishing to sound messianic, I do care about detail and would rather do without than put up with something that doesn't satisfy. It is also best not to try to achieve an effect; a home is not a set, it needs to genuinely reflect the characters living within it.

When we bought the place 25 years ago, the architect Peter Wadley had turned the house into an 11-room multi-occupancy building. It was pretty much there, structurally, but without the finishing touches, so we had a rough, empty blank canvas to work with.

The house is very much a usable space. We have a large garden, full of green things and very comfortable, the sole purpose of which is to provide a space where we can sit with a book and a glass of wine.

There's a tiled area with a separate studio at the end, but that has now been well and truly taken over by my son. My wife and I both love cooking – I am an advanced male – so we argue about who gets to rustle up dinner. The kitchen is small but well-equipped, which is fine. But first and foremost, there is a great stock of wine available at all times.

The area in which we live very much depends on context, and the need to promote oneself socially. Depending on who you are talking to, it is either Vauxhall or Oval or Lambeth. Whichever way, this is a rough old area, and it certainly doesn't get more urban; and yet there is the odd, narrow strip of gentility amid it all.

We live in a tall, four-storey, stucco-fronted house, built in 1840 for workers building the Southern railway. Even in the 25 years that we have lived here, we have never reached a point where the house is "done". There is always something else to be getting on with. Recently, we replaced the rather scruffy concrete front steps with Portland stone, which is what you do when you have nothing else left to spend money on.

I've since been lecturing my children – who notionally live here, too – about the necessity of not using the first step on a flight of stairs, as this causes a disproportionate amount of wear to the carpet. I regard this as sound advice imparted by a wise and loving father, whereas my children see it as evidence of my lunacy.

There is not a word in the architectural or design vocabulary to comprehensively describe the style of our home. I suppose it is an austere place – it was designed by a German industrial chemist. Inside, it is spare and elegant and light – a feeling we enjoy – yet it is filled with interesting things, to satisfy and divert the eye. I have no particular interest in antiquities or antiques, but I like things to meet a certain aesthetic.

It is sometimes easier to have furniture made than to find things. Some of the larger pieces here have been made for us by Steve Amos, though in our bedroom we have an early 19th-century French kitchen table, which is superlatively elegant in shape. A lot of our antiques come from Lillie Road in Fulham, and then various architectural-salvage people, and some bits and bobs from France.

My wife has an amazingly good eye, and thanks to her, the most beautiful things dotted around the place are those that haven't cost us a penny. There's a leaf she found in the street, displayed on the mantelpiece, which is utterly wonderful. Then there's the Andy Goldsworthy-esque sculpture, which is in fact an assemblage of twigs from Battersea Park.

Without wishing to sound autobiographical, I hope to eventually create an honest expression of what my family and I like; to encapsulate the aspirations and the passions of the people who created our home.

Stephen Bayley is a design critic, cultural commentator and author. He lives with his wife and their two children, Bruno, 23, and Coco, 21, in south-west London, and is the style director at Guest Hotels. For more information, visit www.guesthotels.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
News
A girl plays on a Sony 'PS Vita' portable games console
news
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines