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, grahamandgreen.com

Venetian floral mirror, £150, Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.com

Cerise paint, £22 for 2.5l, Laura Ashley, lauraashley.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Property search
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

Solutions Architect - Financial Services, SQL, Stored Procedure

£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: One of the mos...

Senior UNIX Engineer (UNIX, Linux, Solaris, IBM MQ Server)

£62000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior UNIX Engineer (UNIX, Linux, Solaris...

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice