My Modern House: step inside an interior designer's own home at Ebba Thott's flat in Notting Hill
We talk to interior designer and Sigmar design shop co-founder Ebba Thott about the role of an interior designer, how to observe your needs and wants and the importance of having somewhere to put your keys.
Ebba: “The best part of being an interior designer is when you can see that you have catered to the needs and wants you have observed in your clients. I think it’s like the moment when a rock star walks off stage, actually – it’s so satisfying.
“The role of an interior designer, at least in my mind, is to observe. I observe my clients – how they move, how they interact with surfaces and objects, how they sit down, everything to do with their occupation of a space – and, instead of placing judgment, I use my knowledge and experience to makes a space that within a minute of entering their home, they feel relaxed.
“But, as a designer, the questions of whether I can observe myself is key. If I’m not able to pay attention to my needs and wants, and create a home that caters to me, how can I make one for you?
“I’ve figured out that I, and perhaps all people, don’t need a whole lot, really. Having lots of space is not all that. I had a bigger house and, yeah, it was very nice. Do I miss having that? Well, there are aspects of it that I do. I miss having guest rooms so I can have people to stay. I miss having outdoor space. Do I need a bigger house? No, I don’t. Not for a second.
“When you downsize you are made to realise the stuff that is important to you, and all the things you have just accumulated. In my life, I realised that I love my books, and I need them. I need most of my art around me.
“You just need things that fit how you live your life. So, if you’re a house mouse – which I am – you do need somewhere comfortable to sit and read.
“I know how I use my home. I know what colours I’m attracted to. I know what calms me instantly. I also know that if I don’t have somewhere to place my keys within the first 30 seconds they will end up in the freezer or somewhere.
“I also have the need to be welcomed, to have a reveal when I come into a space. The reveal here is me opening up this flat, immediately coming into my texture and colour world. So, I like details like the flat weave rugs, the fabric wallpaper folded into my storage wall, the texture on the chair versus on the sofa versus on my cushions, meeting all the graphic colour changes – that calms me.
“And storage. Storage is key and it’s also ridiculously underrated. Storage is key to order. Order is key to calm, which itself is about discipline. Yeah, I hear myself talk! I sound like the most un-chilled out person on the planet. I’m not! I’m just disciplined.
“It takes discipline to do something that is really hard, but that brings so much benefit if you figure out how. Success levels vary for me and we all fall off the trolley now and then, don’t we? But trying to be disciplined about what you do is what gives you balance.
“What is balance? Well, balance extends to a lot of aspects to your life but there is a balance to how you use your home. Yes, my home is my sanctuary but it is also where I entertain and take care of people and it’s sometimes where I work.
“I ask my clients: How long are you planning to live here? Do you have to move soon? What do you need your home for? Do you expect those needs to change? The constantly evolving idea of home now requires us to think a little bit further.
“As an expat, a steady sense of place and home is important to me. The fact that this flat gives everybody who enters it a feeling of well-being and calm grounds me here. We don’t live in the same countries that we were born in anymore. We move about – we have become nomads again. In all of that, a sense of balance in the home is crucial.
“I’m obsessed with Notting Hill, which is so sad because so is everyone else. I’ve lived between Holland Park and Notting Hill for the better part of a decade and I’ve had moments of madness when I’ve moved elsewhere, but I always come back here.
“Because I’ve been here for so long, there’s a familiarity for me. I remember moving back here after a year living in a different neighbourhood and I was on the bus home when I saw a guy looking at me. He said, ‘You went away for a while didn’t you?’ When I said yes, he said, ‘Welcome back’. I have no idea who he is, but I love the interaction.”
Ebba, how do you define modern living?
“Modern living has many facets that define it. However, in our fast-moving almost transient lives of today, our focus is shifting to the importance of personal space. Respect for our daily movements, in and around the people in it, having good storage so everything has a space so you allow space for thought.”
Is there a home on The Modern House website that has caught your eye?
“I think Shoreditch High Street is lovely, with an almost translucent natural beauty to it – Chan & Eayrs are amazing designers with such delicate touch.”