My design London: an insider's guide to the best of the city’s design, architecture, homeware shops and secret spaces

The London Festival of Architecture’s Director says she loves ferreting through skips and junk shops for great finds to refurbish. Here, she shares her favourite - and secret - city spaces...

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I grew up in south London and am London through and through. We’ve just spent nine years living behind Rye Lane in Peckham but now we’ve moved to leafy Dulwich. It’s good for the kids and we’re enjoying being next to the park.

I can also see Dawson’s Heights, the Sixties brick estate that has become a south London landmark. Kate Macintosh, a rare example at the time of a lead woman architect working for a London borough, was 26 when she began to draw up designs for Southwark council.

South London landmark: the Sixties brick estate Dawson’s Heights


Our house is a classic end-of-row Edwardian semi with an enormous open plot and lots of light. We are skip ferrets. Last week we pulled out a really beautiful circular Sixties footstool, so that’s our new refurbishment project. Our dining room table is an old handmade library table from about 1910, and we also found some G-Plan chairs and a metal locker for storing the kids’ toys.


I love the junk shops of Crystal Palace. We bought our Sixties black leather sofa from IDforLondon in Crystal Palace’s Church Road.

Top shop: IDforLondon, mid-century modern specialist in Crystal Palace

A more curated option is nearby Designs of Modernity, a basement space on Jasper Road, where each piece is exquisite.

Mar-den on Asylum Road, Peckham imports 20th-century furniture pieces, mostly from Italy and the Czech Republic. We bought a beautiful Sixties Italian chair that folds flat, for our sitting room. 


The National Theatre, Westminster Tube station and the self-build Walter Segal houses in Honor Oak.

We got married at the Asylum Chapel in Peckham. It’s Grade II-listed, built in 1826 for use by the residents of Caroline Gardens, who were retired workers from the alcohol trade. There’s a classical façade of beautiful almshouses, like something out of Dickens, and in the middle is a chapel. We saw it at a London Open House viewing and just knew we’d found our venue. Two months later we were the first to marry there.
Amazing architecture: the Asylum Chapel in Peckham was Thomson’s choice for her wedding venue (Maverick Projects)


Rochelle Canteen, set up by chef Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold at Arnold Circus, Shoreditch. It’s in a converted school bike shed, now a hub of creative studios. Entry is via a buzzer on a tiny door in the brick wall — it’s very Hogwarts.

It’s a minimalist space furnished with tables by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto and chairs from Ercol. It’s only open at lunchtime. The food’s great and you bring your own bottle.

Secret space: Tamsie Thomson says the food’s great at the BYO Rochelle Canteen, E2


The J16 Rocking Chair by Hans Wegner is simple, elegant and timeless. It costs £1,622 at Skandium, so I don’t own one.

Coveted: J16 Rocking Chair from £1,622 at Skandium 

I’d love a British Standard kitchen. They’re handmade in England and there’s a showroom in Hoxton.

“I’d love”: a British Standard kitchen, handmade in England, sold in Hoxton


It has to be Peckham. It has seen amazing changes but I hope they keep the right balance because the nail bars are just as important as the cultural centres.

My favourite way of seeing art is when it comes out into the public realm. The last pieces we bought were from a pop-up in Holdrons Arcade, a shopping arcade in Peckham. South African fine artist Willem Samuel had painted these very realistic, classical-style oil paintings of the terrace housing of Peckham.

The Art Licks walking tours around small-scale London galleries and project spaces are great if you have kids.


It’s a bit like the Edinburgh Festival for architecture. We’ll be doing events with core sponsors around Nine Elms and the Royal Docks. And then we have our fringe — everything from exhibitions and installations to dance pieces and stand-up comedy in amazing buildings and estates.


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