Model home: Sarah Doukas reveals her stylish London home
Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm, has an eye for beauty (she famously discovered Kate Moss). But is the house where she started her empire as 'fashion-forward' as you'd expect?
Saturday 29 November 2008
A pale green front door separates Sarah Doukas' home from a leafy south London street lined with neat picket fences and family-sized Mercedes. Through the door, and a tunnel of natural light guides visitors down the hallway towards the kitchen, and beyond this, to an inviting decked garden, where a discreet water feature keeps a steady background rhythm. "Chaos reigns in my life!" Doukas announces, as she sweeps towards the living room on vertiginous patent shoe-boots. I wonder which dictionary she consulted for her definition of chaos.
Just minutes past 9am on a crisp Tuesday morning, and freshly prepared meatballs stand to cool on a spotless kitchen counter, whipped-up from scratch between conference calls to the office; Doukas' granddaughter is dressed for a trip to the park, and there is the distinct waft of recently aired washing. Meanwhile, the lady herself looks like she has just stepped off a film set. Personally, the ordeal of crossing the river at rush hour, and locating a pair of matching socks for the journey, seemed like an impressive feat of self-discipline. But then, with three daughters – Noelle, 28, Genevieve, 16, Poppy 10 – a sprawling farm in the New Forest to maintain, and a highly demanding business to contend with, Doukas' relationship with multi-tasking might differ somewhat from my own. Founder of Storm Models, Doukas, 52, was running her fledgling agency from this very house when she famously scouted a 14-year-old Kate Moss at JFK airport, some 20 years ago. Since signing Moss, Doukas has added the likes of Carla Bruni and Lily Cole to her books. And while her home is as slick as one might expect from a leading figure in the fashion industry, this is clearly a family pad first and foremost, as implied by an extensive display of handmade figurines. "What is that?" Doukas gasps, surveying a lucid plaster of Paris statue, as if seeing it for the first time. "God knows what that's meant to... oh yes, it's a leaping dolphin. Of course!"
And then there is 10-year-old Poppy's bedroom. Here a small bed is barely visible beneath a tsunami of teddy bears, and behind it, a graphic 10-foot palm tree, looming from a sandy shore. "The wallpaper's a little quirky. My husband Tim found it on the internet. Poppy actually wanted clouds." The ingredients of Doukas' own bedroom – an ornate 18th-century gold mirror and chandelier, carved Simon Thorn bed and Andrew Martin horn side table, with a backdrop of delicate cream birdcage print – courtesy of Nina Campbell – is a less vivid, yet equally dramatic, visual feast.
The ground floor is the result of 25 years of continuous home improvement, to which Doukas is a self-declared addict ("The neighbours think I'm personally responsible for increased planning restrictions in the area"). One recent addition is the "indoor/outdoor garden", an area of laid decking and bamboo, masterminded by her husband. "I came home one day, and Tim had rallied a group of men from the local pub. I'm not exactly sure what went on, but they had demolished my garden. They'd literally taken away all my favourite things. I could have killed them!" The garden, it becomes clear, is not the only place where Doukas' things "vanish". But this is part-and-parcel of the domestic arrangement. "Here, you have two people with opposing ideas of how to live. I like people, clutter, things, whereas Tim likes order." To illustrate the point, she marches back towards the living area. "Take this room," she says, pointing towards a row of shelves lined with ornaments and smiling family portraits. "Things
have inexplicably disappeared from here. I used to have an antiques stall in Paris, and collected the most wonderful pieces. Well, I daren't put any of them out anymore, for fear my husband will confiscate them the moment I turn my back." Tim – when not confiscating his wife's possessions – busies himself as an art director, and his "natural eye for composition" provides a neutral palette for Doukas' oddities. Creamy beige walls and nude carpets are offset by a single panel of rich Neisha Crosland design; splashes of colour leap from mismatching Moroccan candle holders and a plum-purple Paul Smith sofa. There's a decadent Thirties lamp here, an antique harp there, all under the warm fuzz of mismatching light fittings. This is Doukas' touch: design pieces spliced with one-off finds. As she prepares for a meeting at her office, it is time to leave.
Short of peering under her bed, every effort has been made to locate evidence of the reigning "chaos" to which Doukas referred. There was none to be found. But that at least settles one thing: the only addition this place needs is a leading English dictionary. Good job Christmas is on its way.
Get the look
Wallpaper, 'Birdcage Walk' by Nina Campbell, £39 per roll, osborneandlittle.com
Candlestick, 'Skimmer Fin', IKEA, £7.99, ikea.com
Chair, 'Side Chair' by Harry Bertoia, from £290.71, arucana.com
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