The founder of Central Design Studio shares his 1960s three-storey townhouse with partner Briony and their two small dogs. He has created a sympathetic interior that plays with the mid-century aesthetic but is, above all, timeless
What’s the appeal of a 1960s property?
The thing I love about ’60s architecture – apart from the aesthetic – is the use of space. Before this we had a Victorian flat. The building was a lovely old schoolhouse but the use of space was terrible – the rooms were all wrong! You move from that into this and it’s like, wow, everything makes sense. It’s really nice that you’re elevated off the street and you have these huge windows that give you lots of natural light.
To what extent did the architecture inform your interiors choices?
We had some items beforehand, like the sofa. And the mid-century sideboard – Briony’s mother found it in a charity shop in Essex for about £70 and we thought, brilliant, we’ll have that! So yes, it’s influenced us a bit, but we didn’t want to make this a history lesson or too themed. I guess the mid-century style is something that I personally really like, but there are older pieces, quirkier pieces, and we’ve tried to make it look a bit more curated and collected, if you like.
How does your personal interiors style differ from that of your work?
What we do at Central Design Studio is very relaxed, informal and comfortable. It’s very natural in feeling and I guess that’s my personal style as well. With work you always have the commercial constraints, so that’s a very tangible difference, and because what we do is commercial it’s hardly ever about someone’s personal opinion. Luckily Briony and I agree on most things. She has a good eye for design.
Tell me about your interiors shopping habits. Are you impulse buyers?
We try to buy stuff as and when, so it’s very much built up over time. And I think it’ll probably continue to evolve. The coffee table we found on Etsy, from a guy in America, and we thought: that looks pretty cool, let’s get it shipped over. So that was one purchase from the other side of the world, whereas the wingback chair is from a local shop. We were looking for ages for a modern one and this was perfect. Artwork’s a big thing for us, too, but having so many windows, you don’t always have enough wall space to hang stuff.
And which finds are you most proud of?
The table lamp is a good one. I found the base in a junk shop in West Norwood for about £3, and then I bought the fabric in Berwick Street. It was just a metre of patterned silk, which we got made into a lampshade. It’s a quirky piece. I like it because it’s so individual. The tiles are from Mexico. We were looking for something interesting for the fireplace and we didn’t want anything overly mid-century, or overly ’60s, and we found these handmade Mexican tiles online. Our builder had a nightmare because they were all wonky.
You’ve designed the interiors of top restaurants. Why eateries?
I’ve always loved food. I grew up with an Italian mother, surrounded by food and the preparation of food. I’m a bit of a frustrated chef myself – I love cooking but it was never going to be my career. I studied spatial design, which is a mix of architecture and interior design. I was interested in how buildings were used and how they made you feel, focusing on this whole idea of creating an atmosphere. Hospitality design was just a natural fit, really. I was lucky enough to land a job designing bars and nightclubs in my early 20s and it just went from there.
Does outdoor entertaining feature heavily at home?
It’s hugely important for us because in a house with this small a footprint, to have that space as well, and to have that inside/outside connection is a real bonus. It almost doubles the size of your living space. The garden is very much an extension of our kitchen and we’ll eat outside at every opportunity. In the evening it’s such a great atmosphere sitting out there with the festoon lights strung up.
What’s next for Central Design Studio?
We’re opening Salt and Pickle, which specialises in cured and preserved food. It’s actually a joint venture with four of us in total. We thought, let’s do something different – instead of just designing a restaurant, let’s invest in one as well. Long term, we’re working on a restaurant in the Cotswolds, a roof bar in London, a couple of hotel projects – one in Liverpool, one in Cardiff, a restaurant in the Middle East… That’s about it at the moment. But that’s more than enough to keep me busy! (centraldesignstudio.com)
Photography: James Balston