Brown and his husband Steve, 50, live in a converted warehouse apartment. It’s tucked in a quiet side street, right on the border of Spitalfields and Shoreditch, which, with its health food shops and new bars, feels like Notting Hill of the east.
“It looks very grandiose, but actually it is quite modest,” adds Brown, 47, striding off down a broad central corridor, his considerable height dwarfed by the towering ceilings of the former knicker factory. “We used to live in Hampstead, in a tall, thin house, but this is lateral, which is great. And it’s also lovely to be able to swan about and not touch the ceiling.”
Brown, who has directed more pop videos and commercials than he can remember, is currently writing an old-fashioned musical called Blue Jean with songwriter Mike Kintish — planned with Hollywood glamour and great songs and costumes — and, he adds, a moral heart. He is known for making stylish, colourful and often nostalgic short films, so the musical is a logical step. And since Brown also has an MA in fashion design, those costumes will be good.
A TOUCH OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Home is something between a glamorous dream and a film set, with a touch of Alice in Wonderland, too. Super-high oak door frames, stripped brick warehouse walls, a flouncy, white-painted armoire to take coats… and then, right in the middle of the apartment, a glass-walled office showcasing a black-and-gold ormolu desk that came from Saudi Arabia via eBay, lit by a dramatic Castle Gibson chandelier with glass drops shining like cabochon rubies.
The large sitting area, open-plan to the big kitchen, has a huge green leather Ligne Roset sofa, and a 1901 Bechstein piano that has been revamped with a nod to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, on which Steve, an entrepreneur who used to run a successful gastropub, is learning to play. Big pieces work really well, holding their own in the broad, high space.
AN EYE FOR DETAIL
The master bedroom has a sensational steel “Tomcat” bed by British designer Timothy Oulton, with Spitfire-influenced leather backrests that pull down, like two giant glove compartments. However, the aeronautic look is softened by a large-scale circular daybed upholstered in startlingly pretty turquoise floral Christian Lacroix fabric.
Oulton also made the steel-topped dining table in the kitchen, animated by mismatched Victorian chairs, their seats covered in various blue-green shades of velvet and silk.
Just feet away, a high-walled courtyard, invisible to the outside world, opens up via sliding glass doors. It has a living wall of fragrant green herbs for Steve to cook with, and a mirrored wall that appears to double the space.
FUN AND LIVELY
The mix-and-match eclecticism of this dazzling apartment keeps things fun and lively. And it took years to put together, right? Wrong. The whole thing took just a few months from start to finish.
“When Steve and I set our minds to something it happens very quickly,” Brown says.
They married last December and went house hunting. They wanted a warehouse they could do up. “At first we thought we were too old for Shoreditch, but it’s such a great area, with all these pop-up shops, and Shoreditch House round the corner,” adds Brown.
“In early January I was making a commercial in Bollywood when Steve rang and said he’d found something. He was so excited about it that I flew back to see it.”
The flat was still a building site. The developers were working on the warehouse floor by floor, and since the one the couple were there to view was being done last, it was still full of rubble.
The architects had already put in a bathroom with subtle matt grey wall tiles, but the overall plan was to create a three-bedroom apartment.
Brown and Steve wanted two bedrooms so the architects modified the design, put in the polished concrete floors the pair liked best, and they completed at the end of February.
The couple sold their previous Hampstead home lock, stock and barrel. “Which was an amazing opportunity to go shopping,” says Steve, laughing.
“A set design,” Brown explains, “works for the camera — but it’s not for life. Here, the architects put everything in the right place, they chose really nice things — credit where credit’s due — and then we decorated it. This is a perfect, functioning home. After travelling, I really look forward to coming home.”
A DIRECTOR’S LIGHTING TIPS
Go for a collection of all sorts of lamps — industrial overheads, wall-mounted anglepoises, chandeliers, and standards. They have incidental, ambient lighting on one five-amp circuit, so that everything goes on, all the side lamps, with one flick of the switch, giving instant atmosphere. Then you can add other lighting on a second circuit. Use different lamps and lights for different effects and moods.
GET THE LOOK
- Architects: www.chrisdyson.co.uk
- Living wall: by www.treebox.co.uk
- Outsize sofa: from www.ligneroset.co.uk
- Steel bed and kitchen table: by www.timothyoulton.com
- Circular daybed: by www.roche-bobois.com
- Taupe grey brick tiles in the bathroom: by www.towerceramics.co.uk
- Harvey B-Brown at www.harveybbrown.com
Photographs: David Butler