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
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home