At home with fashion designer Matthew Williamson: 'organised bohemia' in north-west London

With electric blue, pulsating orange, butterflies and parrots, fashion designer Matthew Williamson fires his city home with his passion for exotic travel.

Organised bohemia is how fashion designer Matthew Williamson laughingly refers to his interiors style, as he points to the hallway painted in a sea of neon pink. 

"This place has great scale and bones, which I found immediately attractive when I first saw the apartment three-and-a-half years ago," he says. "It might look like it has all been thrown together, but actually, everything is in its place."

Williamson admits his taste is "very highbrow/lowbrow — I do like a bargain!" he says. At his north-west London home, he thinks nothing of teaming a simple table with a lavish-looking velvet buttoned sofa, or a Venetian mirror and intricate Turkish wall sconces with geometric flooring.

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"I have filled the walls with all my favourite things, like a memorabilia hall of fame," says the designer.Get the look: Williamson bought the old small bedside table seen here on eBay and repainted it bright pink. The blue vase is part of his Butterfly Home collection for Debenhams.

 

And there's always a touch of his own handicraft, from the découpage of Fornasetti-inspired butterflies disguising a boiler cupboard in the bathroom to some dip-dye fringing, left over from a dress in one of his collections, used to edge a lamp shade bought from John Lewis.

"My background is from making ends meet," he says of his humble Mancunian roots. The Williamson family may have had little, but "my mum always looked richer than she was — in a high street shirt, but with her nails always beautifully painted," says Williamson, proudly. "She was like a peacock in a sea of grey."

The collision of rainbow colours and exotic motifs, from pineapples to flamingos, is a Williamson hallmark. It's a look he first rocked 20 years ago when Kate Moss and Jade Jagger volunteered to model his debut collection in exchange for some of the clothes.

Whether lavishly embroidered on to a dress worn by bestie Sienna Miller on the red carpet, or in a repeat pattern for a wallpaper design for his collaboration with Osborne & Little, it's also in evidence in his Butterfly Home collection for Debenhams and a forthcoming capsule furniture range for Duresta.

 

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"The vintage chairs were sourced for me by my friends Lucy and Jane at Rockett St George," says Williamson.Get the look: the chairs were reupholstered in Matthew Williamson's La Desirade fabric for Osborne & Little. The Rhiad Blue lanterns on the terrace are by Rockett St George.

 

Calming contrasts
Yet the overall result, despite the infusion of electric hues and tropical flourishes against a backdrop of pale greys and blues, is "really calming," says Williamson. "I'm by no means an architect, but I think I have a good eye for interiors." 

In terms of building work, he did very little to the flat, which was structurally sound, with original parquet flooring and much of the cornicing intact. But he did remove an en suite to make the master bedroom larger. It meant having a smaller, galley-size bathroom next door, but it was worth the compromise, he insists.

He also sacrificed space from the kitchen to create a guest bedroom and shower room. "Everyone thought I was mad," he says. "It was a huge kitchen but it felt a bit superfluous and underused, so I marked out the divisions with masking tape along the floors and walls to show exactly how it would work, the builder came in and did it… and now everyone thinks it's genius."

Williamson is as confident working with neon and Perspex as he is with marble and stone. His passion for far-flung places such as India, Costa Rica and Mexico took seed many years ago.

 "The idea of travel provided a sense of escape from the surroundings of a grey, industrial city with not much light and shade," he says. He recalls as a child painting his bedroom in lilac with silver radiators. "Colour can be empowering and powerful, really changing your mood."

Filled with treasures from trips around the world, nothing in his home, except perhaps the Seventies chandelier in the living room, cost a fortune. "I picked up the candelabras on the fireplace from Sunbury Antiques Market for a bargain price, but I like to think they came from an old Italian church," he says. 

His home is like a "living and growing mood board", where he is drawn to pieces instinctively. "I don't know if they're right or wrong — they just have to make my heart race," he says. Our pulses are starting to go crazy, too… 

For more information about Matthew Williamson's work, including his range for Osborne & Little, and to shop online, visit matthewwilliamson.com.

 

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The ktichen space was originally a large bay-fronted room, which Williamson divided into three. The units were all inherited with the apartment 

 

HOME PROFILE 

The owner: fashion designer Matthew Williamson and his dog, Mr Plum. The property: a ground-floor flat in a mid-19th century, Italianate-style semi in north-west London. There's a living/ dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and shower room.

HOME TRUTHS 

"I can't live without my slippers, my watch from my best friend, a gold pendant from my mum and dad — and my dog Mr Plum.

"A mix of characters at a dinner party is always the most fun. Recently, I sat at a birthday dinner with a gardener, a singer, an events producer and a writer.

"I love Deia in Majorca for its undeveloped natural beauty.

"Most surreal moment in life? Sitting in the back of Madonna's car with her driving to the cinema after we'd had dinner together at Le Caprice.

"For inspiration, I love a lost weekend in Florence or Venice, or a trip to the V&A Museum."

Photographs: Paul Raeside

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The full version of this article appears in the April 2016 issue of Livingetc, out now.

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