Nargess Gharani: Spirit of the Sixties
In not-so-swinging Surrey, fashion designer Nargess Gharani found her ideal home – an architect-designed, mid-century house made for family fun
Wednesday 13 February 2008
I was brought up in a Scandinavian-style Sixties house in Iran, which had three swimming pools in the garden. It must have made a big impression on me, as when we saw this house – a Sixties house with a pool in the back garden – my heart almost missed a beat. We absolutely had to have it.
As a child, both my parents were property developers, so I was used to living in houses with pools and lots of space. I adore large open-plan living spaces.
We first moved to England in 1973, when I was three, and stayed in Kensington for a while. Later we moved to Surrey, where I lived for a long time. It was after I'd married, and was expecting my second child, that we found this house.
It was designed by Bruce Ruggeri, and is one of a pair. This one is called Romulus – next door is Remus. Once he'd built them, in 1962, he sold them and moved to Australia. The pool was added in the Seventies.
One of the first things we did when we moved in was to put in a fence around the pool. Having two small children, you obviously have to be very careful of exposed areas of water. We also planted more palm trees and banana trees to give more of a tropical effect.
A lot of friends and visitors have remarked that our home feels like it's in California or Ibiza – it encourages that sort of relaxed outdoor lifestyle. It is a very peaceful place to be. We back on to a cemetery and behind that are lakes. It's a great place to explore.
I first spotted this house for sale on the internet, and I had to persuade the agent to show it to us, as she said it was totally out of our price range. We were really pleased when we managed to get it, as we'd already lost the sale on three houses. At the time, we were desperate to buy a new place, as I was five months pregnant and we were living in my parents' house in Walton-on-Thames, as we'd already sold our home in Richmond.
There were so many things about this house that seemed ideal for a young family. I love the way the rooms flow into one another – the kitchen leads on to the living room and then the children have their playroom right next door.
There are free-standing stairs in the centre of the living room that lead up to the first floor, where we have our bedroom and en-suite bathroom, and the two children's bedrooms and one guest bedroom.
Our bathroom is one of my favourite places. It has been done out in slate and has a huge shower that all four of us can fit under. It also has a window that overlooks the swimming pool.
We have made an effort to be as minimal as possible, but it is not easy. My husband cannot bear any clutter. We're constantly recycling things and throwing things out, and we've bought very little furniture for the same reason. The pieces that we do have are very special – an art deco glass cabinet from an antiques store in Brighton, a Perspex cube that Vanya Strok and I designed in collaboration with the furniture designer Nada Debs as part of our Gharani Strok interiors range, and a large cream leather sofa from Ligne Roset. In the kitchen, we have a teak table that we bought in Bali and shipped over.
Downstairs, all the floors are wooden. Upstairs, they are carpeted in a light cream. When we moved in we didn't have to do a lot, as the previous people living here had kept it immaculately and decorated in calm, neutral colours. We did paint the upstairs in a slightly darker Farrow & Ball biscuit colour, and we also added a deeper stain to the wood floor in the downstairs playroom.
In the playroom, there is a huge floor-to-ceiling Venetian glass mirror, which I bought from the Clignancourt flea market in Paris. It only cost us a couple of hundred pounds, but I think this was helped by the fact that the man I bought it from was rather drunk at the time and he would probably have accepted almost any offer.
We have photos of our children, and also from our wedding, that have been enlarged and printed on to canvas by a company in Cornwall called Twenty Twenty Signs and Displays.
I have a study next to the sitting room that I tend to work from occasionally. It also stores some of our past fashion collections. If I hadn't designed the clothes myself, I would probably not feel the need to keep them all, but it is a bit like our archive, so I like to keep them. All of the cupboards upstairs are full of dresses, and we have two huge boxes in the garage that are completely overflowing.
This is a wonderful house to entertain in and we have had some fantastic parties in the summertime here with our children and their friends. It is great also being so close to the centre of London – it only takes about 45 minutes by train – but at the same time you have space around you.
London is my favourite city in the world, and although I would love to live in a beach hut somewhere – until then, this is a pretty good substitute.
With her partner Vanya Strok, Nargess Gharani ran the London-based fashion label Gharani Strok for 12 years. She now consults within the fashion industry. She lives in Shepperton, Surrey, with her husband and children, Marni, 4, and Aydin, 2.
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