My design London: Polly Dickens, Habitat's creative director

Habitat's creative director Polly Dickens shares her secret shopping knowledge of London, from the best interiors shops to her favourite food markets
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Polly Dickens
© Graham Jepson
Creative director of Habitat Polly Dickens sits on her "beaten-up" vintage 12-seater dining table found in a Battersea antiques market
Polly Dickens, 55, has spent a lifetime working with some of the biggest names in homeware. She is the former creative director of Conran, helped American import Anthropologie establish in Britain and has now been appointed the new creative head of Habitat, given the formidable task of reinvigorating the troubled brand for its new owners the Home Retail Group.

Dickens is famous for her expert eye, honed by years of travelling the world on buying trips. Here she shares her secret shopping knowledge of London — the city she loves best.

Where I live
I live with my husband, Mark Gilbey, on a 90ft Dutch barge called Klasina, which was built in the Forties. We spent 12 years restoring it and it's now a very comfortable home, moored in Blackwall Basin right on the edge of Canary Wharf.

At night we have the most marvellous views: it feels like being in Manhattan, then. But we also have the contrast of being on the water with lots of bird life by day and it's completely peaceful.

There are occasional visits from my three stepchildren and Mark runs a B&B from the back cabin, so we have a fairly constant stream of visitors.

Design in a small space
I like a neutral background with splashes of bright colour overlaid. The boat is painted cream right through, with a black-gloss timber floor. The exception to this is one of the bathrooms which is appropriately painted in "Rescue Orange" gloss.

My kitchen units are bright green and the 12-seater dining table is vintage from a Battersea antiques market, in beaten-up dark green. We have bright yellow for stools and the desk pedestal, and red for most of the upholstery. Built-in storage is key. Every space gets used. Beds lift up for storage underneath, and the kitchen cupboards all have pull-out shelves.

Polly Dickens' barge home
© Graham Jepson
Above left: Polly Dickens relaxes at her Dutch barge home; (right) one of the bathrooms features sculptures by her sister Sophie Dickens

Favourite clothes shop
Livingstone Studios, 36 New End Square, Hampstead, is a knitwear studio with a clothes gallery run by designer Inge Cordsen. It has a wonderful mix of Japanese and Indian clothing, like a more sophisticated version of Egg.

Jean Prouvé Trapèze dining table
Jean Prouvé Trapèze dining table, available in London at Vitra from £3,328 (
Most coveted object
I would love to own the black Trapèze dining table by Jean Prouvé. It is a most elegant and satisfactory design which stands the test of time.

My favourite homeware shops
Bruna Naufal has beautiful Thirties and Forties pieces in her shop, Bentply, 95 Lisson Grove, NW1 (

I bought an extraordinary table with a red glass top and rosewood pedestal legs and brass feet as a reception desk for Plateau restaurant in Canary Wharf when I was doing a refurbishment there for the restaurant group D&D London.

My idea of kitchen heaven is Leon Jaeggi & Sons, 77 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1, with every kind of useful and interesting gadget. I am continuously adding to my collection of cooking equipment from there.

Jasper Morrison
Jasper Morrison's genius: lacquered Plan cabinets, for Cappellini
Jasper Morrison's shop at 24b Kingsland Road, E2 ( has a very personally edited collection of products from all over the world which are not just covetable but useful.

It is a bit of a designer antidote, as much of it is anonymous and generic rather than by named designers.

Favourite piece of home memorabilia
This is an old painted wooden Indian figure of a dancing girl that I have owned for about 20 years.

I used to fill containers with Indian vintage furniture and artefacts on a regular basis for the Conran Shop from dealers on the outskirts of Delhi.

Indian statue
A treasured Indian dancing girl figure has been with Polly for about 20 years
I was on a trip with Terence Conran once and spotted this dancing girl on top of a pile of junk. I tucked her under my arm and when we had finished the Conran Shop selection I negotiated a good price for her.

I love her curvy shape and slightly spaced-out expression. She has been everywhere with me ever since.

Favourite food market
Every Saturday finds me at Maltby Street Market, Bermondsey. It's a great way to spend the morning. I love talking to the stallholders and thinking about all the delicious meats to cook.

We buy amazing prosciutto, salami and parmesan from Ham & Cheese Co; the best salad and eggs in London from Fern Verrow; sourdough from St John Bakery and fish from Dorset fisherman Les Lawrence.

If we are feeling energetic we get up early and buy fish at Billingsgate Market, which is on our doorstep: a box of prawns or a bag of squid or sometimes a large monkfish tail for a dinner party.

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