My Home: Emily Todhunter, interior designer

She's an interior designer, but she doesn't take her work home with her: this flat evolved organically to meet her family's needs. By Joey Canessa

Wednesday 19 April 2006 00:00
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Emily Todhunter, an interior and product designer, lives in a third-floor flat in London with her husband and three children

We bought this flat eight years ago. With one child, it suited us quite well but when the twins were born, we very quickly needed more space. Luckily, we were able to buy the flat next door and extend the place laterally. You enter the flat through door-number 23, but we actually live above numbers 22 and 21, on the third floor. It's lovely and quiet up here, overlooking the trees, and it's full of daylight, too.

I hadn't really intended anything particular in terms of the style of the place. It's not a show-home, it just reflects our personal style. We fixed it up and added to it as we went along, without a master plan.

Originally, there was a small galley kitchen that was only big enough for me to be in it, while my friends or family sat next door. I objected to this, feeling very much the faceless cook. Time spent with my family is very precious and it was essential to me that we had a big family area with enough room for us all to congregate. We knocked a couple of walls down to produce a large sitting-dining-cooking area, which is now a really lovely space, with three tall windows across one wall and a wooden floor.

The style of the kitchen is "provincial", decorated in neutral colours. The walls are pale khaki, which looks beautiful with the black marble tops. The feel is warm, woody and contemporary. We put in an "island" arrangement incorporating the oven and hob so that I face into the room while I'm cooking, keeping an eye on everyone and joining in generally. There's a big, L-shaped sofa, upholstered in a resilient and forgiving dark brown Sacho Hesslein fabric that stands up well to almost constant bouncing by the children.

This is a fairly noisy household. At one stage, when my stepson lived here, the age range spanned more than 45 years. Often, there would be different music coming from each room, a blend of heavy rock, classical music and retro Sixties stuff. My stepson has gone to live in the States for now, but we still manage to create quite a racket.

One innovation that I'm pleased with is the waist-height dishwasher. It's so comfortable and convenient, and means that I never have to turn my back, stop talking or stick my bottom in the air. Every home should have one.

We have a Provençal dining table that I bought in Thomas Dare on the New King's Road. With its flaps extended, it seats 12, but still feels cosy for four. I have a passion for antiques and take great pleasure in sourcing them for my clients but, strangely, I'm not at all acquisitive. A large proportion of the pieces in our home are actually hand-me-downs from the office. It's all very "undesigned", but still looks good, I think.

My husband tends to relax in the drawing room. This is where we keep anything that is vaguely precious. Among his favourite things are architectural drawings and classical scenes, The Beach Boys and a good book. My favourite things are in here, too. I have a collection of silk bobbins from a factory in Florence, and another of coloured-glass finials, dotted around the room. Facing north, and with only one window, the room was originally dark and rather cold, so we went for a major cosy-up, adding red velvet walls. The dark brown carpet adds to the feeling of extravagance, and the colours are lifted by the lime-green sofa, armchairs in cream and purple, and glass lamps in aubergine and burnt orange.

Thrown together rather by chance, again, and featuring cast-offs from work, it's a cosy place to spend the evening, with a log fire, complete with club fender. This is mainly my husband's room, while I identify more with the open-plan part of the flat. The two areas seem to represent our different characters: his, the warm red velvet; mine, the pale, cool khaki.

Because of my work, I don't have that much free time with my family. When we can, we go to our house in Derbyshire. It's an incredibly beautiful part of the world. We walk all day, climbing endless hills, me with my books on wild flowers, birds and trees, irritating the children with too many facts. It's a very different life up there. If the children have had a dip in the river, there's no need for a bath. It's a complete contrast to the hectic London life that we share for most of the year.

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