Heal's chairman Will Hobhouse: my design London

Will Hobhouse, chairman of Heal's, explains why he lives in Soho, which designer he finds the most interesting and where he loves to shop in London.

Will Hobhouse, who took over as chairman at Heal's in July 2012, describes himself as a shopkeeper. But he's a shopkeeper on a rather grand scale with a colourful entrepreneurial history, having been involved with high street names such as Tie Rack, Le Pain Quotidien, Jack Wills and Whittard's.

Now he is enjoying the challenge of restoring the vision of Ambrose Heal to the Tottenham Court Road department store. Here he tells us of his secret shop, where to buy the best mojito in town and why he covets a Barbara Hepworth sculpture.
 

Will Hobhouse
© Nick Holt
Will Hobhouse has been transforming Heal's since he took over as chairman in July 2012

 

Will Hobhouse
© Corbis
Barbara Hepworth's 1959 work Head (Mykonos) Opus 87

Where I live
During the week we live in the heart of Soho. My wife Kate is chair of Fortnum & Mason and a trustee of the Garfield Weston charitable foundation, so we need to get everywhere easily, and we love Soho because we can walk or bike. The house is right next to every sort of café and restaurant and surrounded by life in all its forms. We share it with a random selection of our five children, aged 15 to 22, depending on who is around.

My vision for Heal's
We intend to restore Heal's to its rightful place as being at the centre of British design and craft, and to follow Ambrose Heal's vision for London homes and the place Heal's has in them.

Favourite colours for the home
White, white, white and off-white for the walls and neutrals for the furniture. Colour should come from cushions and rugs, which are blue, blue and blue — although indigo is the current favourite. Naturals are best for me as I love seeing the character and the grain of the timber on our wooden furniture. The same goes for the floor in my office, a leather floor from Bill Amberg.

Most coveted design object
A stone sculpture by Barbara Hepworth (right). I love the way she created such characterful, organic designs from stone just with a hammer and chisel. They're so full of thought and skill.

 

 

 

Will Hobhouse
Will likes designer Simon Hasan, who works with wood, glass and leather

The most interesting new designer
Simon Hasan, whose love of craft and British craft traditions manifests itself in a terrific use of mixed materials including wood, glass and leather. His work sits somewhere between art, craft and industrial design, and I hope we are going to be selling it at Heal's soon.

Best-kept secret shop
Sigmar on King's Road. It's filled with wonderful vintage pieces of midcentury modern and Scandinavian furniture. The last thing I bought there was a beautiful Forties light fitting which we have hanging at home in the dining room. Their lighting range is inspiring.

Favourite piece of memorabilia
Our bathroom windowsill has shells, rocks and pieces of wood picked up from beaches and holidays around the world. My favourites are the grey pieces of wood gnawed by beavers in Algonquin Park in Canada, where we have big family holidays.

My favourite museum
The British Museum. Its Ice Age art exhibition was extraordinary, with carvings and objects that could have come from a contemporary art show. The passion and depth of knowledge among the staff is also completely humbling.

Secret escape
Regent's Park early in the morning. I like to run among the trees and smell the grass. On the weekends I escape to the river valley near our house in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire and go running with our four dogs.

 

 

 

 

Will Hobhouse
© Alamy
Will enjoys mojitos at the downstairs bar at Mark Hix

My favourite restaurant
I always have the porridge and stewed fruit at Villandry when I have breakfast meetings. I love the leather banquette seating and simple, elegant design at the front — and the way the atmosphere seems to change throughout the day.

A perfect evening out in London
I'd start with mojitos in the downstairs bar at Mark Hix — they are the best and it's so glamorous — and then have dinner at Robin Birley's club in Mayfair, 5 Hertford Street. They have managed to find a great mix of modern and vintage design, furniture and art which sit very well together.

 

 


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