A house must be bedded in the landscape. They both have to work together. In and out, every view from a window has to be sensational. Every view into the house must be the same to ensure continuity.
Work’s a way of life. It’s the way you live; it’s what you do, and it’s how it is. It’s not work. It’s a lifestyle. It’s life. It’s what one does. You can’t not work.
When building in a place that already has a dominant style, it’s important to behave yourself. Look around; refer to what you see. In the mountains above Salzburg, I saw charming chalets and wildflower meadows. The chalets are cozy – I don’t do cozy. The meadows are in a soft disarray – I don’t do soft, and I don’t do disarray. I do order.
I’m not an interior decorator; I’m a designer, and that includes the architecture. The package must be strong and controlled, the rooms aligned, and the windows positioned to make sense with the furniture. Fluff it up, and you’ve got big trouble.
‘It can’t be done’ is not a phrase I recognize.
England used to be known for making beautiful things. Then we became the rag trade, known for our street fashions, which were picked up around the world. I want us to be recognized for quality. We have the hands to make the clothes. What we need is the motivation.
I buy the best fabrics from small mills in Italy. That is the basis for my clothes.
It is not me who is to be noticed. It is my work.
From the age of five, I was organizing everybody’s everything. If I didn’t like the way it looked, I’d rearrange it. From a very early age, I saw life from my point of view.
Being a rather second-rate actress, I finally thought, ‘I’d rather be a designer.’ I knew I could make things look good.
If I set off to do something, why not do it properly? Otherwise, what’s the point?
Comfort? If a choice has to be made between style and comfort, style wins every time.
The champagne tastes the same if you’re sitting bolt upright or sunk back into a sofa, so you might as well be upright, because you look better.
Sure, I’m hyperactive. I make my staff a bit hyper, too, but motivating someone else is what gives me a buzz.
I think if you have an eye and the ability and the confidence as a designer, you can turn your hand to anything.
I’m never short of inspiration. There are always new ideas – and new adventures.
It was the corner sweet-shop in Australia that first piqued my interest in interior design. I went into this space with a mixture of apprehension and excitement as a child. It was filled, floor to ceiling, with the most incredible rounded glass bowls filled to the brim with bonbons, buttons, and sweets.
The architect who first inspired me to follow this profession was Sir John Soane and his Regency home; well, his three homes, now a museum. The place is like an encyclopedia of paintings, antiquities, furniture, sculptures, and drawings.
I feel that, historically, the Art Deco period has the most resonance for me. As a person, it has to be the plucky Clara Bow, the heroine of American silent movies of the 1920s. She embodied feminine dressing mixed with men’s style. All this then evolved into the exquisite style and simplicity of Coco Chanel.
The building I most admire is the Doges Palace in Venice, both by day and by night. Looking at it from the lagoon, it resembles a floating kilim carpet. I love all the bridges which connect houses, people, gardens and palaces. I also love moats to isolate yourself. A ha-ha for secrecy, as in every English country garden.
Never let anyone go home feeling bad at night. You can bark away during the day, but you must always put that right.
My father wanted a boy. I was supposed to be called Albert. That was probably the beginning of why things got so complicated, because I wasn’t a boy.
I don’t let many people in. I don’t discuss everything. If I don’t want to discuss it, I’m not discussing it. I think that annoys the hell out of an awful lot of people.
I really should have been a pharaoh – do you know that?
You’ve got to be the best at what you can do – be the best at it! And the best has to be the best; you can’t just fiddle around and hope.
Acting was fun for a while. I loved every minute of the really good things I did but probably wasn’t as good as I should have been.
I like people. Listen, if you’re a hotelier, if you’re a creative person, and you’re working with the things that I do, then you have to like people; otherwise, you simply can’t get anywhere.
Good people can get you out of a thousand problems with charm and kindness.
Unless a design is infused with a personality – and by that, I mean mine or someone else who really understands what design is all about – it will never, ever have any mystery.
Everything I’ve ever done has been because of travel. Right from leaving Australia to where I am today – it’s all been about exchanging different points of view. The most important lesson I’ve learnt is to look and listen to what’s happening around you.
I always like to read something romantic about the place I’m visiting.
India. From Goa to Kerala and Mumbai, it gets me every time. It’s the food, the people, and the colours. The magical atmosphere and the accepting nature of the locals.
I love to get on the road, but I also think arriving is such a thrill. Turning up at the train station in Mumbai, for example, to see people hanging off all the wonderful old carriages. It’s extraordinary – everyone sitting with their chickens on their laps, moving forward but not going anywhere fast.
I’d always been acutely sensitive to my surroundings – and aware that I could make them rather than just observe them. So I began by designing interiors for myself, for friends, for clients – I just felt that I’d discovered my element, and those who really looked at what I was doing liked it – and the rest followed.
Design, refine and repeat, and keep learning all the way along. It sounds bland and pedestrian, but in fact, it’s the reverse.
I get up in the morning, look around, arrange and rearrange things, and imagine how I might like them to look. Why doesn’t everybody?