Top London interior designer and veteran socialite Nicky Haslam is as famous for who he knows as what he knows. The energetic partygoer has just launched a second career as a singer, recording an album with friends Rupert Everett, Helena Bonham Carter and Bryan Ferry — but still had time to design a new furniture and home accessories collection for his old chum Annabel Astor, the Prime Minister’s mother-in-law and co-founder of OKA, the urban-meets-country chic shop in Fulham Road.
© Nick Holt
Haslam’s new collection is all about pared-down luxury with gothic-style influences inspired by his Jacobean hunting lodge in Hampshire. During the week he’s a man about town. He tells us why he loves having a ballroom in his new London pied-à-terre; where he finds the finest bed linen, and why you should never leave a tablecloth dangling.
Where I live
I’ve just moved flat from one end of Cromwell Road to the other. In the past I always said I preferred small rooms but my new flat comes with a 40ft ballroom. It is exciting just to sit in it and look at the corners from a distance.
Being in Cromwell Road means I can get straight on to the M3 and head off to my beautiful hunting lodge in Hampshire, which is where I spend most weekends, so I’d never live anywhere else in London but here.
Paint colours at home
I don’t have any set rules about which colours you should paint a home. A room’s position, proportions, atmosphere and the amount of light it gets should dictate the colours. In my new flat, I’ve painted one end dark, including an oily green in the hallway, and the other end is white. I’ve added false, very roughly painted panelling to catch the light.
I adore the portrait that was given to me of my friend Prue, Lady Penn. It’s of her and was done in about 1955 in that precise, beautiful style of the time, almost like a Pietro Annigoni, using very fine paint. It’s such a period piece with her in a satin stole looking beautiful.
The colours in it are wonderful and I’ve done my whole colour scheme in the room where it hangs in turquoise blue to match it. I always think it’s a good tip: be inspired by one special painting or object and plan the colour of your walls to co-ordinate.
Best secret shop
Gayle Warwick is a genius designer who makes the most fabulous fine linens for tables and beds. You can buy them at Thomas Goode in South Audley Street (gaylewarwick.com).
Hawksmoor’s church masterpiece, St George-in-the-East in Stepney, in which you can see the beginnings of 20th-century architecture. When I was young it was next to the now-demolished Swedenborg Square, where Peter the Great lived while learning shipbuilding. It’s still so romantic.
© Barry Phillips
I’m never lazy in London. Take a Tube to Arsenal, walk up the street and you’re in Turkey. Or go to Morocco by visiting Goldborne Road, W10. Go to the Caribbean in Brixton; or India, visit Southall. You feel as if you’ve been away. It’s a mini break.
How not to decorate a home
No framed photographs on pianos or mantelpieces, especially colour ones. And no three-quarter tablecloths — they look as if they’re dangling, which is terrible. Tablecloths should either reach the floor, or not at all.
I love the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. It has fascinating and well-curated shows about science and every aspect of medicine. There was an incredible exhibition called Madness and Modernity about the terrible electric shock treatment that 19th-century Viennese doctors gave their patients. You can see exactly where the artist Egon Schiele got his ideas from. It’s not very easy to get to but I love it whenever I go.
Nicky Haslam for OKA (okadirect.com)