My Modern House: SEEDS gallery owner Nathalie Assi on living with design at her home and showroom in Kensington
“Before my family and I moved into this house we were living in a lateral flat nearby. Around that time, SEEDS was born as a retail gallery space where we were showing projects by talented designers and artists.
“But the idea of our newly-acquired home becoming a showroom for SEEDS pieces was sprouting, as I felt that people could project into their own homes in a more straightforward way, seeing objects in a domestic environment. So, the idea of a home-based gallery definitely shaped the way we designed the house.
“The transition from a commercial space to a home gallery is a totally different approach and one that feels much more personal. People are immersed in a home, where they can sit, touch and use objects freely and take time to understand more about the designers and the pieces.
“I had imagined the house as an experimental project where every piece, from furniture to everyday objects, would have a story. I didn’t want to surround myself with meaningless objects.
“As I was looking for interesting pieces and meeting designers to commission objects for the house, I was doing it for the gallery space as well. Every object was curated, commissioned or collected by me.
“For example, the table in the sitting room came about from a project with Francois Dumas, a French designer, where the starting point was 200 meters of extruded aluminium profile that we had bought. Francois was able to make beautiful furniture, mirrors and various other objects.
“I believe in living with design in a very casual, everyday way. Design has a functional element to it of course, but pieces can also be appreciated for their true beauty and be more assimilated to sculptural objects.
“Design can come close to art in that it can make you dream, open doors, stimulate creativity and change the way you look at things. It can make you ask questions, rather than just be functional.
“I think people are realising that meaning is what matters. In design terms that means finding connections with objects, people, the past and present.
“That idea also extends to our definition of luxury. Bespoke might not be the right word but heritage, story and meaning might be better.
“That process of making relationships and hearing people’s stories is what I love about my work. Most of the designers I work with are bright, young, wonderful people and it’s an exciting community to tune into.
“Getting to know people who make objects – what excites them, what materials they are experimenting with, what research they are developing, what ancient technique they are rediscovering – means I get to carry a bit of their creative energy around, and that is a beautiful thing.
“London is a city that can seem quite polarised but I think it is far too simplistic to say that east is creative and west is more traditional. I find it is very natural that people in the west of London would be interested in the creative energy of the east.
“I like to have both worlds in my life: I am very happy to be close to the creative field but think that it needs to reach the maximum number of people for there to be an ongoing conversation, and any bridge or connection that we offer helps achieve that.
“I have three children and the house works perfectly for us as a family. During the day, when the children are at school, it’s just me and my team in the house. The showroom is available by appointment, so the house is organised and contained during the day.
“In the afternoon, I close the gallery and it becomes a home. The transition happens every day, from workplace to family home.
“I suppose the children understand that it’s important not to destroy things around them, that they should appreciate them.
“We tell them about the designers and they have met a few of them, so they wouldn’t knock or damage the pieces.
“When you are not too careful with things and are natural around objects, children also become more relaxed and don’t think they should transgress things that are forbidden.
“It becomes natural for them to touch and use objects without feeling too stressed out by them, or, on the other hand, too relaxed. There’s an understanding that the pieces are nice objects and we have to be careful, but not too precious.
“This house works so well because it allows us to have different moments. We can have a barbecue in the garden in the summer, read a good book in the sitting room, or use the study when we want to concentrate.
“We can choose to have different moments for different moods – the different levels help with that. Living in a one-storey flat meant we felt we were always together, doing one thing, and it was much more difficult to seek out some privacy.
“Building memories in a space is quite an extraordinary thing, and I’d like to think that we’re on a journey of building lots of memories here.”
Nathalie, how do you define modern living?
“I believe it has to do with creating a space that fosters positivity and happiness. Through its architecture, light, energy flow and what you surround yourself with, special moments happen.
“I also believe in flexible and open structures that serve different purposes, which enrich the way you live in a space. For us as a family, we often spend our afternoons in the open kitchen space, where cooking, homework, reading, lounging all happens concurrently and brings us together after a day of school and work.”
If you were to move, what would be the first thing you’d take with you?
“My family as, together, we can start again anywhere.”