Family life à la mode: At home with fashion designer Sara Berman
Style queen Sara Berman may have two young children, but that doesn't mean her London house isn't packed full of gloriously grown-up glamour
Wednesday 20 August 2008
I firmly believe that you have to look at what a house is before you think about making changes. There's no point trying to make it something that it is not. This Grade II-listed building had a lot of character when we bought it eight months ago. We spent six months doing it up before we actually moved in because we found out that the heating didn't work, and we had to re-plumb and re-light throughout the house. We also put in new bathrooms, and once you start all that, you have to then decorate extensively.
This was an incredibly easy house to decorate. I have a strong sense of style, and already knew that I very much wanted this to be a family house. The kitchen is the heart of the home, so we needed to combine the living and dining space, and marry the formal and informal. Kitchens are usually quite modern, but ours is not: there are flashbacks of thick Carrera marble against white and gold wallpaper from the Designers Guild, a leather armchair and details everywhere to make this feel like home. There's a floral, twirly-whirly effect. Throughout the house, we laid parquet wooden floors, but in the kitchen we went for super-thick chevron planks, rather than the usual herringbone style. It's more dramatic this way, but still in keeping with the rest of the house.
Our garden leads out from the kitchen. It's really sweet, with a love seat at the back, triangular Moroccan lamps and a grassy area for Luella to run around on, as well as a patio, which is perfect for eating outside. At the back, around the rockery, I've started to collect gnomes. Everywhere I go now, I'm searching for them. In such a glamorous space, it's great to add a touch of humour. In Paris, I found the most amazing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves gnomes. They were too expensive, but I was desperate for them! There was a pretty jasmine arch in the middle of the garden when we arrived, but we took it out and then missed it so much that we put another one back in. The size of the garden is quite deceptive, as we cut two foot off the height of the shed, making the rest of the space look far bigger than it really is.
I see each floor of the house as a separate area. Upstairs is for grown-up time. It's a sexy space, perfect for entertaining, with a dining room and study. This part of the house is like the story of our lives together, with all the things we've collected as a couple. There's a photo from Simon Atlee, and film posters we bought for a reason, things that hold memories for us both. The furniture has emotional attachments, too. I work at my grandfather's desk, which I've used since I was at college.The sofa we've had for about 10 years. It's far cleaner up here, with no fancy wallpaper, because it's an area in which to be calm. I paid careful attention to the art we've put in here: muted tones, with flashes of red and orange from the paintings and the sofas. None of the furniture requires an effort to see it; sometimes you look at pieces and get excited, or it triggers an emotion, but this isn't the case in these rooms.
Our bedroom is glamorous and lush, without being dark. It's open-plan, with soft, metallic minky/silvery baroque wallpaper. I had super-thick brocade pink and purple curtains specially made, which form a five-inch puddle of material where the curtains meet the wooden floor. I painted the chest of drawers a high-gloss pink, which kicks off against a raspberry brocade headboard and adds further colour. On Sundays, Luella comes into our bed. She and I love to have a bath together, so I designed the space to ensure that she could watch television at the same time as bathing, while David lies in bed.
I love to mix contemporary and vintage pieces, and I'm particularly fond of baroque with a Sixties twist. We found an amazing light piece: three 1960s blown-glass Venetian ball lamps, which hang in a cluster in the bathroom. I've found a couple of chandeliers at an antique shop in the Marais in Paris, and Paul Bert market and the flea market at the Porte de Clignancourt is fantastic for finding pieces. Scandinavian interior design pieces are also littered through the house, which I find at either Skandium on Marylebone High Street or Mint on Wigmore Street.
A fantastic couple of rugs came from the French artist Nathalie Lete, who makes applied textiles and created the skull that sits on my grandfather's desk. The contrast works, and it's a humorous combination.
On the ground floor, we put in a little loo, which is covered with this amazing wallpaper with women's faces all over it, which our friend sold in her shop. We saved it for years and finally found the right place for it, and it looks brilliant. I buy all sorts of curtains, wallpapers and cushions from the Designers Guild. David is horrified by my collection of cushions, but we've been together too long for him to complain. Cushions are very much a girl's thing!
The fashion designer Sara Berman, 32, runs her self-titled label with her sister, Aimee. Sara lives in London with her husband, David, and their four-and-a-half-year-old daughter and their baby son.
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