Tara's top table: You will always find award-winning designer Tara Bernard in the kitchen at parties - mainly because she has created the space with entertaining in mind

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The Independent Online

This building is rather unusual because it used to be a bank, and it's right in the centre of London overlooking a park. When we took over the ground-floor apartment, we were keen to clear the space and modernise, while retaining the original character of the building - like the old wood panelling, the pillars and the winding staircase.

I've always felt very comfortable with the idea of marrying old and new. New kitchens can often be too cold and clinical, but by bringing together the modern stainless- steel, open-plan kitchen, with a rich colour palette and antique furniture you create an atmosphere that has warmth and life.

The beautiful dining chairs at each end of the table were found in an antique shop years ago. I had them upholstered in this bold Nisha Crossland fabric. It might sound strange, but sitting side-by-side with these hi-tech Philippe Starck chairs, they really bring out the best in each other. The table is stained graphite oak by Antonio Citterio. I love it because it's a really strong piece of design, but it's also extremely practical because you can extend it if you have guests over for dinner.

I have always had a real love of art. Some people might shy away from hanging art in a kitchen/eating area, but I think it's a part of the home that can lend itself really well to strong canvases, such as this one on the back wall by James Nares. The red cow is also usually a major talking point. She was a gift from my husband [James Archer] a few years ago from the CowParade exhibition, which we had shipped over from the States and painted ourselves. We've become so accustomed to her now, that we hardly notice she's there.

The best thing about this room is the dinner parties. We love having friends round - and as long as there is warmth and atmosphere people will stay eating and drinking for hours. Lighting has a huge impact. I've wound rope lights from Habitat around the table legs, on top of a Paul Smith swirl rug. And you should never underestimate candlelight, because there is something incredibly enchanting about eating dinner by candlelight. For parties, I move these crystal candelabra on to the stainless-steel island; it's a wonderful meeting of two worlds.

I have a lot of happy memories sitting around this table; meals that we've cooked in this kitchen; dinner parties where we sit around until the early hours; or even just my husband and I having a quiet evening together. It's definitely the heart of the apartment, which is why it was so important to me to design somewhere to cook in, but more importantly, somewhere to live in. It's definitely got soul. n

Tara Bernerd is co-founder and designer of Target Living, www.targetliving.com. Her latest venture is Marco restaurant at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, London SW6, tel: 020 7915 2929, www.marcorestaurant.co.uk