Bags of style: At home with designer Bill Amberg

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

They swapped a chic Notting Hill flat for a 'poky' Victorian semi. But with a little ingenuity, the handbag designer Bill Amberg and the magazine editor Susie Forbes made it their own

As a young creative couple living in London in the early 1990s, Bill Amberg and Susie Forbes wanted to be at the centre of things and chose to live on the top floor of a white stucco house in Notting Hill. Bill had just established his eponymous label, which continues the tradition of British luxury brands together with his own modern take on hand-crafted leather bags and accessories, and Susie had just joined Vogue as a features editor and was working closely with innovative British designers and photographers. Fifteen years on, Susie is now editor of Easy Living magazine and Bill's company has gone global.

Bill and Susie discovered Queen's Park through mutual friends, and despite Susie's misgivings about this "Godforsaken part of London", they began to see the potential of moving to the area.

They decided to put a note through the door of any house that they liked the look of. Eventually someone wanted to sell, and they bought their new home in early 1996. Their semi-detached, red-brick Victorian house had a traditional layout, with two small, dark rooms and a long hallway on the ground floor. Bill and Susie weighed up the pros and cons of keeping the period features, before deciding to open up the whole ground floor to create one light-filled room, with windows at each end. "We worried about sacrificing the original character of the house," Susie explains, "but the existing layout really did feel too poky."

With the addition of silver metallic wallpaper, mosaic mirror tiles and Moroccan lanterns, this family house could now be a rock star's pad. In the vast ground-floor space, Bill's furniture designs, including a huge blue velvet sofa and a distressed leather console, are prominently featured alongside a Louis XIV-style three-piece suite, which the couple customised by painting white and re-upholstering in soft pink fabric from Designers Guild. The snug, where the family gathers to watch television, received its Moroccan flavour from the addition of decorative wooden cupboards – which have been painted white and given mirrored backs – and embossed leather floor tiles designed by Bill. Susie found the vivid green curtains with their pom-pom trim at Designers Guild, and picked up the bold print cushions from Anthropologie, a favourite store in the US. Also in this groundfloor space is a small loo, where Susie has hung an iconic poster-sized Vogue cover featuring Kate Moss on the wall.

Bill and Susie have gone to great lengths to obtain bespoke pieces or customise vintage furniture, rather than buy brand-new designs. For the kitchen, they commissioned a joiner to build the units and the white shelving system, which is filled with Bill's collection of Georgian glass together with a white candelabra from The Cross in Notting Hill, while Bill sourced the surfaces from the old St George's Hospital (now the Lanesborough Hotel). Susie, meanwhile, had seen some elegant mother-of-pearl chairs in interiors shops, but wanted to see if she could buy them directly from India. She simply typed "12 mother-of-pearl Indian chairs" into Google, and six months later her chairs arrived from Jodhpur, via the extremely efficient company, Art and Decorative Objects.

When it came to her daughters' bedrooms, Susie looked for unusual pieces on the internet, or simply commissioned pieces. Instead of buying a contemporary bunk bed, Susie wanted to re-create a design she had seen in a magazine, which had the appearance of two single antique French beds stuck together; she contacted La Maison, a specialist bed company in London's East End, to come up with the look. On a trip to New York, Susie visited Anthropologie and brought home vintage-style fabric letters spelling out "Poppy" to hang from the upper bunk. And continuing with the down-home American feel, Susie picked out some vintage floral wallpaper from an American-based website. Closer to home, she found the antique mirror and chandelier in Portobello Road. Perhaps as a concession to Bill, their own bedroom feels more restrained, with white-painted walls and floors. It is only the furry headboard and velvet ottoman in pink that add a splash of colour.

Susie speaks with dismay about chipped floorboards in the kitchen and children's graffiti on the leather bedside tables, but there is something incredibly reassuring about visiting a lived-in home, as opposed to a pristine designer pad. This is a house with soul that reflects the lives of the whole family.

'New London Style' by Chloe Grimshaw, published by Thames & Hudson, £19.95

Get the look

Chateau Library chair, £449, Graham and Green,

Venetian floral mirror, £150, Marks & Spencer,

Cerise paint, £22 for 2.5l, Laura Ashley,

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
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

Sustainability Assessor

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Sustainability Assessor...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Science Teacher

£110 - £150 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This sch...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: English teacher wanted in a school in R...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?