As a child, I would spend my evenings rearranging the furniture with my mother. Needless to say, halfway through we'd get exhausted and go to bed, leaving sofas and chairs halfway up the staircase. This was really the start of my career as an interior designer. Wherever I go I am inspired. It's not that I need to switch off, but that switching on is my relaxation. If I am in London, it's all stop and go between meetings and so on, but on holiday I can spend all day wandering round a factory if I want. That is my relaxation.
I travel a lot and am always on the lookout. I've just been to Tunisia where I was supposed to be relaxing but I ended up visiting a glass-making factory outside Tunis where they make the most beautiful lime-green, pink, turquoise and orange glasses, which will be part of my summer collection.
I am an impulsive shopper: I buy things and then try to find them a home. That is my sport – shopping. I began my career at the age of 19, as an assistant to John Fowler, of Colefax and Fowler wallpaper and fabrics, and left there to set up on my own. I went into business with Mark Birley, after he asked me to redecorate his club Annabel's, then I set up shop on Walton Street in Knightsbridge, where I developed my fabric-printing business. The range now includes two fabric, wallpaper and trimmings collections a year, furniture, table linen and blankets.
My house is always changing, and I still love moving furniture around, and adding new finds. Here are my secret addresses.
A shop I can't resist going into on a constant basis is Birgit Israel, on the Fulham Road. She has wonderful vintage things from the Thirties through to the Sixties, as well as new items that she designs herself. I have just bought two black lacquered commodes to go either side of the fireplace. They are fantastic if you have an awkward space – either side of the bed for example. In my house there are two alcoves and I wanted it to look as if they were fitted with cupboards without actually having anything fitted. These are perfect because they are narrow and on legs – I like to see the floor as it makes the room look bigger.
Birgit designs the commodes herself and you can have any colour you want and any number of drawers. I also bought some incredible vintage lamps made from Murano glass in pale blue that go with the colour of the walls. They now sit on the commodes.
Another shop I love is Demarquette. Its handmade chocolate is so wonderful, I use it on the table when I am having people to dinner so it is part of the interior decoration! They make the most wonderful slices of orange, lemon and ginger enrobed in chocolate, and I put a selection in a bag for every guest to take home, but they always get eaten straight away. It's just so stylish. (Also, as I'm fairly idle, I like that I can walk there and back.)
I often go to visit Valerie Wade, who buys Art Deco furniture and lights, as well as modern versions of objects in that style. She has wonderful light sprays that go on the walls so that instead of having one light you can have several. They are so nice there, they often let me take things home to try them. She also has beautiful glass vases. I am currently lusting after one of her lights but I need to find a spare bit of wall to put it on.
Guinevere is a shop I have been going to for ever, and I never fail to come out with something. It was started by Genevieve Weaver, who came to London in 1953 as a hat designer and opened the shop to sell furniture and accessories she found on her travels. It's now run by her sons Kevin and Marc, who travel around the world several times a year looking for amazing pieces for the shop. There's French furniture, glasses, porcelain and pottery, and lots of wonderful table linen. They buy old damask that is no longer properly white and dye it wonderful colours such as amethyst and amber, which brings it back to life.
It's a huge shop that's about four windows wide and goes a long way back, and it's filled with beautiful things. You can really lose yourself in there – you could just lie down on a bed and hope that no one noticed you.
I am very keen on the Conran Garden Department, where I have just bought some Chinese hanging lanterns for my garden that are rather fun. I like the garden section better than anything else there. There are lots of things you can just buy and take away with you, rather than having to wait for delivery.
I have just moved to my house and I have two little gardens, one off the living room and one off the dining room, which has a table and chairs in it. I have put Moroccan standing lamps there and the Chinese lanterns hanging off the trellis.
I have to have a gardener as I like to look at something beautiful, and if I go near the plants they wither. My garden has lemon trees, and as I love scented gardens, there's jasmine and lavender and tuberose. It's lovely when you can have dinner outside surrounded by fragrant smells. I have just learnt that in India they cheat and put little bowls of burning scented oils outside that give off a wonderful scent, so it isn't just from the flowers at all.
Back inside the house, I am obsessed with my Nespresso machine. I have had it for about nine months and I bought one for my cleaner for Christmas. I really like the look of it – mine is black and steel – and I do love coffee. My mother was Viennese, so I think I have the coffee gene. I would never drink PG Tips. If I drink tea, it has to be highly scented.
Continuing my passion for lovely linens, I love to go to the Monogrammed Linen Shop whenever I can. It stocks beautiful nighties that look lovely just hanging on a hook in the bedroom, even if you don't wear them, or can't bear the thought of ironing them. My bed is one of the most important places to me. I always have lovely new sheets, but I use old tablecloths as bed covers. I have two dogs that like to jump on the bed and these old cloths make good covers.
And here's one you'll actually have to travel to Fulham for – but it's well worth the journey. Carlton Davidson is another very clever designer I like to visit whenever I have time. He can take some dull old Dutch chandelier and spray it with nickel so that suddenly it looks wonderful and contemporary. He also restores French furniture. If I have a light problem I go to him as he sells so many chandeliers and lights. I recently bought a beautiful mirror from him, too, with a green frame and Italian glass.
301 and 279 Fulham Road, London SW10 (020-7376 7255; www.birgitisrael.com )
285 Fulham Road, London SW10 (020-7351 5467; www.demarquette.co.uk )
108 Fulham Road, London SW10 (020-7225 1414; www.valeriewade.com )
574–580 King's Road, London SW6 (020-7736 2917; www.guinevere.co.uk )
*THE CONRAN SHOP
81 Fulham Road, London SW3 (020-7589 7401; www.conranshop.co.uk )
0800 442 442; www.nespresso.com
*MONOGRAMMED LINEN SHOP
168 Walton Street, London SW3 (020-7589 4033; www.monogrammedlinenshop.com )
507 King's Road, London SW10 (020-7795 0905)