Good golly, Miss Molly: At home with Molly Parkin

Molly Parkin's apartment is as colourful as her life. Here she explains why she loves her 52nd home and why magnolia is beyond the pale

Tessa Williams-Akoto
Wednesday 09 July 2008 00:00

I'm 76 and I have lived in 52 different places. I've been here in Chelsea, in a one-bedroomed flat, for the past seven years, and it's one of my favourite homes. I first moved here when I'd been made bankrupt and I was kindly allocated sheltered housing as I'm over 70 – but when the warden showed me the flat, I was appalled. I said, "I don't think I can live here – it's all white!". She replied, "Molly, if you take it, it's yours and you can do whatever you like with it, paint it any colour you want – it will be yours for as long as you want to be here". So the first thing I did was have it painted, top to bottom, in bright Mexican colours: pinks, oranges and violets.

I love living on this estate. Nobody knows me from my fashion, television and writing careers. It is a bit like living in the Tower of Babel – a lot of the time, in the lift, no one knows what anyone else is saying because of the difference in languages – but since I'm from the Welsh valleys, I've always felt like a refugee in London, so I feel at home in this environment.

It is quite a small flat though, and not what I'm used to, so I've had to cut back. I'm used to a more mansion-style abode – I lived in a four-storey house in Old Church Street, next to the Chelsea Arts Club, with my husband and ex-husband at the same time. It was quite an unusual set-up. I had so much room there – a whole room devoted to my David Shilling hats and Manolo Blahnik shoes, and my own art studio and lots of rooms for parties – it was riotous.

Here, everything is on a smaller scale. I have my bed in one corner, next to my bookshelf, and a desk beside it with my Apple Mac and a lot of books and magazine cuttings. When I moved here, I gave most of my clothes to charity. Now my canvases take up most of the space; I'm currently working towards a solo show. After I split up from my ex- husband, the muse left me for 25 years and I couldn't paint at all – now I paint every day and I'm also working on a screenplay for a film about my life.

I love having colour around me– it's very inspiring and I don't understand those that can't appreciate it. I recently had an exhibition in Tunbridge Wells and a lot of ladies came up to me and said, "Ooh, I do love your work, Molly, but it just wouldn't go on my magnolia walls". Magnolia is anathema to me! It may be good for stressed businessmen at the end of the day, but I can't stand it. Far too boring. Once, when I was trying to sell one of my flats some time ago, I was dressed in scarlet and the whole flat was painted scarlet, too. The carpet-layer said after 15 minutes, "I'm afraid I've got to leave as I have a blinding migraine from all this red".

I've realised now that you don't really need many material things to be happy. All the things I have are very special to me in a spiritual way, and are from a significant journey in my life. The silver elephant I bought on a recent trip to India, and I love him. He holds my passport and many wonderful memories. There's a praying mantis on the bed that I found on a street market in Bangkok. I have a Virgin Mary in the kitchen that I got from Ireland, and next to the front door I have a Buddha draped in ultraviolet fairy lights. I was told that every artist should have ultraviolet light around them as it's creatively stimulating.

I have bought and sold a lot of properties in London – huge places in Holland Park and Notting Hill. But now I would never buy, I would always rent as I am an impermanent bird; I like to fly the coop a lot. Everything in this flat is movable, fold-up-able, disposable, leaving me as the only solid thing in the room. I even literally sleep on air: I saw the two-minute inflatable bed advertised on TV and thought, that's what I need. It's great – it gives me extra space if I've got very large canvases, and is very quick to set up and put away.

I've been sober for many years, but when I did drink, my favourite companion was Francis Bacon. By the end of my drinking career, I spent every afternoon with him in the Colony Room Club. I admired his painful sense of discipline. He got up at 5am and did five hours of painting, which earned him the right to come drinking with the likes of me and then go off gambling in the middle of the night. Although I don't drink now, I still go out a lot in London, and have recently started DJing at a club in Soho, The Green Carnation, on a weekly basis. It is a fun mix of music from the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s, right up to the present. I DJ with my daughter Sophie and grand- daughter Carson, who is 18.

The one place I like to relax in is my garden. I have put a lot of work into it, and it's where I sit and meditate in the mornings and have breakfast. It is beautiful to sit among the roses and the honeysuckle. Even if it's raining, I put my mac on and sit here as I feel so at peace.

Many people are surprised that I put so much work into the garden as it's not my own, but I think it's a wonderful legacy. If I move or if I die, the next person will surely appreciate it, and even those looking down from above must get some pleasure from seeing all the flowers and colours.

The Parkin Lot (Molly Parkin's DJ set with her daughter and granddaughter) is on Tuesdays, 9pm-1am, at The Green Carnation, London W1

Molly Parkin, 76, founded Nova magazine in 1964. She was also the fashion editor of Harpers & Queen and The Sunday Times, and became a well-known TV personality. Author of bestselling erotic novels, she also paints, exhibiting with CCA Galleries. She married twice, and has two daughters.

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