I've lived in Notting Hill, in west London, for the past 23 years, and, believe me, I've seen a lot of changes in the neighbourhood. Not all for the better, I'd say. When I first arrived, it was very bohemian, lots of writers and artists and actors, and a very ethnic mix. Now it's full of rich bankers and lawyers.
We live in a five-storey house, and occupy the top two. Initially, we just had the one floor, but when the one above became available, we snapped it up, then set about building an inner staircase to join the two. It's wonderful now, very bright and expansive. We've just the one bedroom as we don't have children, but you could easily squeeze in three, should you need to. I love the space, the high ceilings, the bay windows. It's all quite lovely.
And the view! The view, I'd have to say, is one of my favourite features. I was born in Bristol, and grew up in the countryside of South Gloucestershire, so while I do love an urban landscape, I'm also very fond of rolling green fields. In our little corner of Notting Hill, we are lucky to get both. The house backs on to one of those private gardens of which there are so many in this area. Ours is Ladbroke Square, which is something like seven acres. Look out of the window, and you can see all this greenery. Admittedly, you can also now see a hulking great tower block. It has always been there, of course, but until recently it was hidden by a beautiful old birch tree. Unfortunately, the beautiful old birch tree had to come down.
The house itself has been rather well preserved, as it's Grade II-listed. As a sculptor, I've never worked here – I have a large warehouse over in east London for that – but my wife is a painter and she loves to set up in front of the windows. She doesn't necessarily draw inspiration from the views, as she paints abstracts mostly; it's really for the light, because we get so much of it.
In the summertime, we favour the top floor, where we have a small balcony to sit out on and enjoy the long evenings. In the winter, however, we spend more time on the floor below, looking out at the cold and the frost through the windows. I do love these bay windows; they remind me of Chinese screen paintings, each vertical pane of glass offering a different segment of view in an otherwise continuous panorama of west London. As perhaps you'd expect of artists, we like to keep our walls white throughout, but we do tend to fill the place with examples of our own work – my wife's paintings and even a couple of my own pieces. Only a couple, though. I keep all my major works over at my studio. I'm much more inclined to fill our home with other bits and pieces, mementos from all our travels.
For example, I collect pots, ancient Korean and Greek ones mostly; not many, just a handful, but all quite lovely. The first one I purchased I came across while on holiday in Italy a few years back. We were at a café and this man came over hawking them. I thought one especially beautiful, but because it was priced at the equivalent of just £4, I knew it was a fake. However, when I had it appraised, it turned out that it's actually of Roman origin, from the third century.
It turned me into something of a collector. Our carpets are Persian tribal ones – my wife is from Iran. Rather threadbare, I'm afraid, which I suppose means the place is overdue for some decorating.
I'm lucky, I get to travel all over the world for work, and wherever my wife and I go, whether it's to Switzerland or North Yorkshire, we always wonder whether we wouldn't prefer setting up home there instead. But I know that, ultimately, this is just fantasy. I have no need for a second home, I'm happy with just the one, and I really wouldn't want to move away from London – it's so perfect a place for so many reasons.
And while the Notting Hill neighbourhood may have changed, sometimes beyond all recognition, we still make a lot of use of the local markets and restaurants, and the cinema, and every Sunday we habitually walk from here to Kensington Gardens and around the Serpentine. It's such a lovely stroll, and it never fails to remind me what a marvellous city this is.
Nigel Hall's latest exhibition, Sculptures and Drawings 1965-2008, is at the Underground Gallery and Garden Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, until 8 June
The sculptor and Royal Academician Nigel Hall, 64, graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1967. His work has been exhibited across the world, and he lives in west London with his wife, who is a painterReuse content