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
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: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor