My Modern House: interior designer Hollie Bowden on the pared-back interior of her De Beauvoir flat
“I’m a bit of a minimal-maximalist, if I can say that?! There’s not loads of stuff, and I lean towards a pared-back interior style, but a lot of my friends feel it’s a ‘home’ of theirs too, which is nice.
“I was living in a quiet 17th-century cottage before I moved here, surrounded by horses and fields in Gloucestershire, which is about as far from here as you can get really!
“The first thing that attracted me to this house was the living space. Because the house is south-facing, it’s very bright and airy, especially when I have the doors to the balcony open in the summer.
“I also love the area. I’d always lived in west London, previously in Holland Park and Notting Hill, but De Beauvoir Town really drew me in.
“But, and perhaps most importantly, I felt this house had a soul to it, with a lot of character and a homely feeling from the start.
“I moved here about eight years ago and have put the property through a few incarnations as my taste has evolved.
“The main architectural change I made was to extend the kitchen. It was kind of clunky and awkward before and we turned it into a more lateral space, opening it out so now the patio doors are directly opposite the entrance to the kitchen and the light spills into the hallway.
“I love it in the morning when the light is pouring in, I think it’s so important to have a lot of natural light in your personal space.
“I re-did the bathroom, and the living space gets reconfigured from time to time. I love updating the pieces and making use of the height.
“The house is ever-evolving. In my work as a designer I’m eternally inspired and I often use my own home as a place to experiment.
“I’ll fall in love with a new paint shade and get the floorboards repainted. I collect objects, art and antiques and I’m forever buying pieces that might live with me for a while before I find the perfect project to put them in or sell them to my clients.
“My art changes all the time. There was a time when the walls were very full but I’ve got a more pared-back thing going on now which gives more focus to my shelves of objects and all my books.
“My things make me very happy and I remember every piece – there is a story to all of them. I travel a lot and mostly shop in Belgium, Paris and Italy and I also buy quite a lot from America. A big part of my life is sourcing weird and wonderful objects.
“One of my most treasured items is my Corbusier book which inspired me to commission a mural for my living room by my good friend Rico White from art school in Gloucestershire.
“Materials are really important to me as texture and pattern are integral to my aesthetic. I’m drawn to natural materials such as hemps and linens and I like to source textiles from all over the world.
“I love pattern and my taste for my own space leans toward monochromes and earthy, natural tones. The combination of the leather Martin Eisler chairs, the walnut wood secretaire alongside the African textiles is a good example of that.
“Ambience is key for me. In the evenings I like to have all the main lights off and have more of a soft glow. I’ll light some candles and curl up on the sofa with my books or magazines looking for the next bit of inspiration.
“I collect books and I like them just piled up and moving around on rotation; reference books usually end up on the ottoman, which I designed myself. I upholstered it with a white and indigo cotton ‘walani’ blanket from Mali and it’s proved so successful I’ve made several more for other projects.
“I’ve had many of my friends stay with me over the years as it is a good social space and we all gather on the patio, even in winter because I have a little wood burner out there!
“I’ve kept my bedroom very minimal with a low Japanese bed and I fashioned a ‘four-poster’ canopy out of some beautiful textiles I’d found. I’ve used one wall for storage which means the rest can be very bare and uncluttered, which I find to be more peaceful and relaxing.”
Hollie, what do you think it means to live in a modern way?
“I think living in a modern way, or, rather, I think what needs to happen to cope with modern living in a city is to create a sanctuary. It’s about finding a quiet place, or making a space where you can have peace, calm and tranquillity in order to balance and offset the noise and the stress of busy modern life.
“Ideally I would live in a more open-plan space – that’s my next move. I think clever storage is crucial too; modern homes should be functional and beautiful and have great storage plans!”
If you moved, what would be the first thing you’d take with you?
“The picture in my bedroom, which I found at a market and is my most prized possession. I don’t know who the artist is but I absolutely love it and it makes me so happy to wake up and see it.
“Secondly, and almost as important, is my miniature chair collection. I’ve been collecting for years and it’s growing steadily. The miniature ones are almost as costly as the life-size versions so the collection is evolving at a casual pace!”
Is there a home on The Modern House website that has caught your eye?
“Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s Crowan. That house would be perfect if you could move it to Gloucestershire! I love all the exposed stone, it’s so raw and seamlessly brings the outside in and integrates effortlessly into the other materials. The grounds it’s in are great too – it’s just beautiful!”
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