Mission interior design: Adventurer Ben Fogle goes into soft furnishings

Why Fogle is the new face of home shop OKA
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The Independent Online

"If I wasn’t a TV presenter, I would be an interior designer," Ben Fogle informed me earlier this month. Really? The same Fogle who rowed across the Atlantic and pounded on foot across the Antarctic? Apparently so. Confirmed this week, the intrepid explorer is the latest ambassador for the home furnishings store OKA.

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Following in the well-heeled footsteps of Jemma Kidd and Jane Churchill, Fogle is partnering with OKA to unveil their new Spring collection (including very "fresh" gloss art deco voyage furniture) this week. Yet in truth, this collaboration between an adventurer and a fabric shop is not as incompatible as first envisaged. Fogle has soft furnishings in his blood and OKA is renowned for its exotic collections sourced from Far East trips. His mother, the actress Julia Foster, runs a decorative antique business specializing in painted Scandinavian pieces from the 18th and 19th century and his aunt Alex Adams runs The Cloth Shop on Portobello Road which sells sought-after antique Swedish rag rugs, cushions, Indian silk shawls and Navajo blankets.

Fogle's interior style is inspired from his travels making him a natural fit for OKA, a brand as famous for their Chinese wooden trunks as their stunning Indian-inspired Ikat fabrics.

"I love design and eclectic styles from different eras and countries," says Fogle. "I don't like conformity in design. I'm quite eclectic and OKA's design range seems to work well with things you’ve inherited or found on wonderful holidays or travels."

His Notting Hill house is a shrine to his adventures to remote corners of the world; "I usually pick up something either small or useful for my home that reflects my travels. My favourite place for shopping is Peru and Bolivia. I have a large collection of antique Ponchos which are incredible."

Time recuperating at home is understandably precious to the explorer who is currently planning his next expedition, a 2,500 journey across deserts, rainforests and mountains in Australia. He says of Hastens beds which are top of his wishlist, "They are incredible. I once slept in one and promised that I would one day treat myself. They are eye-wateringly expensive, but what price to you put on a good night’s sleep?"

When not trekking across remote lands, Fogle likes to host parties in his kitchen in London. "My wife and I live in this light, spacious room and we love sharing dinner with friends and family around the big table." What does he advise for hosting at home? "Be relaxed and fun with your décor. Prepare as much as possible in advance so that you can enjoy spending time with your guests when they arrive instead of setting the table or cooking."

Fogle isn't one for minimalism or chintz; he's into clashing colours and mix and match furniture. "If my house was burning down, I would try to salvage my colourful Squint sofa and my elephant painting by Olly and Suzi." Like Fogle, British nature artists Olly and Suzi trek to wild areas for their work; their art sometimes feature animal paw prints and bite-marks.

Since December, it's been all change in the Fogle household. He became a father for the first time when his wife Marina gave birth to their son Ludo. "The nursery is decorated in neutral colours," he says. "It is dominated by the most enormous felt map of the world with hundreds of Velcro animals and country names. Ludo will be able to track my adventures from his cot. I hope he likes maps."

Annie Deakin is Editor of furniture and interior design website mydeco.com.