My design London:Christie's chairman and furniture maker David Linley

Furniture maker and Christie’s chairman Viscount Linley has had a 30 year career in design. Here he recalls coffee breaks with David Bowie and shares his must-visit London shops and secret city spaces.

Viscount Linley, 54, a furniture maker and the chairman of auction house Christie’s, is the son of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, and the nephew of the Queen.

After Bedales School in Hampshire, he studied carpentry before opening his own workshop. Later he founded Linley, a bespoke furniture and interior design business with a showroom in Belgravia.

In a 30-year career, he has designed everything from suites at Claridge’s to interiors for luxury yachts and apartments. This week he takes part in London Craft Week.

WHERE I LIVE AND WHY

We live in Chelsea Green. I’m afraid I’m too poor to have a house, but it’s a well laid-out flat from the Edwardian period. The interior design is very eclectic: a mix of funny old things chuntering about the family and new pieces. I’ve always loved collecting. It was my mother who first invented the word “antiquing”, rummaging around to find something tired and unloved and turning it into something beautiful.

We have some of my furniture, too. In the old days I used to commission things to see what they were like, and some of these then ended up with me. Over the years I’ve lived in fairly curious housing, from a former school house in Battersea to an old bakery. My first flat was in a former prison next to the Fulham Pottery I bought off the actor John Standing.

The prison has been turned into an enclave of artists’ studios, so that was rather nice because my next-door neighbour was the sculptor David Wynne. When I lived on my own, my studio was effectively my house — so we’d use it for endless shoots of furniture brochures. Now that we’ve got two children and a dog, you can’t continue doing that.

MY FAVOURITE HOMEWARE SHOPS

I would start with Summerill & Bishop in Portland Road, Holland Park, because it is just lovely. Interior designer Rita Konig recently showed me Labour and Wait on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, and last weekend I went to Portobello Road antiques market with my daughter and I showed her all the old places I used to go to. I was trying to teach her what to look for; seeing details that might start her to think about design and art and drawing things. And also it’s nice to find out what she likes.

In the past week, for my job at Christie’s, I’ve been to India, Doha, Dubai and Denmark, which is rather incredible. It has opened my eyes to many more tastes, colours and flavours. You can get very stale. India introduces you to all sorts of delicious textures, fabrics and patterns.

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Old Masters: Dulwich Picture Gallery (Getty)

WHAT I’D SHOW PEOPLE VISITING LONDON

We might visit all kinds of different artist studios — seeing people making jewellery in Hatton Garden, for example. We took some people the other day to see a renowned British artist working and that was really exciting and rejuvenating. Last year we took a group of collectors to see the Old Masters at Dulwich Picture Gallery and there were pieces by Conrad Shawcross whirring around in the middle of the gallery, and I just love that combination.

MY SECRET SHOP

My friend George Bamford has a shop called Bamford Watch Department which is in a secret location in Mayfair. You can go there and talk watches and have a little espresso. At Christmas I took my son, who is 16. Then we went to Nick Ashley’s (son of Laura Ashley) menswear shop on Duke Street, Soho, called Private White VC, then had a coffee in Mount Street Deli before going on to Rapha Cycle Club in Brewer Street. I took him to see one picture at the National Gallery, and we ended up at the Inigo Jones church, The Queen’s Chapel, in Marlborough Road, SW1, a quiet place to escape to. When the kids were a bit younger, I always made sure I took one of them at a time on a magical mystery tour.

SECRET SPACE

I took my son to see Bill Viola’s digital altarpiece at St Paul’s, which draws you into a church much longer than a static piece. St James’s Church, Piccadilly, has the most wonderful Grinling Gibbons carvings on the walls. When you are there you share that space with lots of homeless people and people coming and going, and you just sit down and all your problems are put in perspective.

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Local: Pimlico Farmers Market (© Julie Edwards / Alamy Stock Photo)

FAVOURITE MARKET

I think we can kind of claim credit for the organic farmers’ market on Pimlico Road. I was very keen to bring the community together and for young people to have an involvement in something that’s local to them. Admittedly trying to build a community on quite a busy main thoroughfare was a challenge. Robert Davis, chair of planning at Westminster council, said: “You can carry on doing it until I can think of a good reason why you can’t.” That was more than 10 years ago and it’s been really fantastic bringing the community together.

CULTURAL HOTSPOT

I’m a board member of the Royal Opera House, and so sometimes I’m very lucky and have the opportunity of seeing a rehearsal, or I go to something in the evening, which is absolutely wonderful. My father and mother used to take me to rehearsals. And I took my daughter and she said: “Papa, what’s that woman doing with her leg above her head?” And I said: “That’s Sylvie Guillem, she’s limbering up.”

WHY A LONDON CRAFT WEEK?

London Craft Week will give Londoners the opportunity to see the great talent we have in this country. Craftspeople are very bad at marketing themselves. Around me there will be live window displays on Pimlico Road, with everyone making things in the windows. So at Howe, Jeremy has upholstery going on in the window; at Jamb they’re carving marble. At Soane Britain, [co-founder] Lulu Lytle is doing a talk on how she revived the last rattan-weaving workshop in the UK. Mia Sabel is doing saddlery at Bentleys in Lower Sloane Street. The minute you put somebody in the window making something, whether it’s a clock or marquetry or chasing a piece of metal, people are absolutely delighted.

MOST COVETED OBJECT

I inherited a Land Rover from my mother, which is just a lovely simple design classic. Even if you’re going from one village to another, you feel like you are going on an adventure.

I have a childhood memory of sitting in the back and watching the road go backwards. And I’ve always put the children in the back, and now they’ve got that memory as well.

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Phenomenal view: apartments at 88 St James’s Street

DREAM PROPERTY

88 St James’s Street is being turned into apartments [prices start at £20 million]. The building looks on to St James’s Palace, over the park and on to Big Ben, which should be a pretty phenomenal view.

MY TECH TIP

I’m quite low-tech. I still listen to records on an ancient record player. It’s a Garrard 301 with an SME arm and Quad electrostatic speakers. I’ve still got all my mum’s records, which are 78s. Mine are 33s. And I’ve got all my 45s and tapes. It’s nice to be reminded low-tech is also pleasurable. I remember when the single Let’s Dance, by David Bowie came out. I’m lucky to have met him. He used to come to the shop and have a coffee and a cigarette and a chat. Very un-rock starry.

  • Traditional and Modern Craft takes place at Linley, 60 Pimlico Road, SW1, until Saturday as part of London Craft Week

 


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