With an address book full of treasure-filled antique shops, and an eye for rich homewares as she travels the world, jewellery designer Didi Ilse has created a truly eclectic London home.
German jewellery designer Didi Ilse’s glamorous, bohemian style is reflected in the interior of her elegant west London mews house, a secluded haven close to the hubbub of Notting Hill.
When she bought the property in 2013, she gutted and rewired it, knocked through the ground floor to create an open-plan space, then infused the house with colour and character.
An avid traveller and collector, she has gathered textiles and accessories from far-flung places, among them Namibia, Mexico, Brazil and Bali, as well as the nearby Portobello Road Market. Every individual thing, from the art to the furniture, has been thoughtfully chosen to create an ode to her nomadic lifestyle, as she explains.
This isn’t a typical London interior. How do you describe the style and vibe?
My approach is kind of eclectic bohemian. I grew up outside Düsseldorf in a home that was both contemporary and classical – a lot of old furniture in a modern house.
Here I have done my own thing; it’s an expression of myself. I love contrast, and I’ve always liked mixing up styles – Moroccan, Indian, African, nothing too slick or modern. I particularly love the ’70s look, for clothing and interiors.
How did you go about reconfiguring the space?
I didn’t make too many changes, but I did knock down the wall between the kitchen and the spare bedroom next door. I wanted the ground floor to be more open-plan, but I put in folding doors, so I can still separate the two rooms when there’s someone staying.
Originally, there was a flimsy spiral staircase going up to the top-floor sitting room, so I put in a more solid stairway.
What was your inspiration for the bold colour palette?
As the climate in the UK is so grey and dull, I wanted to go for colour to brighten up the atmosphere. The burnt orange in the kitchen is warm, welcoming, comforting and happy. It goes with virtually everything, and the art I already had worked so well against it.
I went to Papers and Paints [in Chelsea] to get the colour specially mixed. The wallpaper in the spare room is by Marthe Armitage, who makes detailed hand-blocked prints; she colour-matched it with the paint in the kitchen.
The other colours are by Farrow & Ball. The bathroom is a very warm, feminine lilac, which makes a good contrast with the turquoise Moroccan tiles. The eau-de-Nil shade is very calming for the bedroom – I want it to feel like a sanctuary.
Where do you look for furniture, accessories and fabrics in the UK?
A lot of my furniture came from various shops on the Golborne Road [in west London]; I like Les Couilles du Chien there for lights and crystals, too, and my favourite London shop is Universal Providers by Kokon to Zai – it’s so quirky and original. I also found things at Alfies Antique Market [in Marylebone].
There’s a bit of a bird theme going on… I have been drawn to birds since I was a kid. I love them and what they represent: freedom, flying, colour.
I found the painting of the two cockatoos, which came from Bali, in an antique shop on Kensington Church Street. Amazingly, it picked up all the colours in the kitchen. Because they have always appealed to me, I have collected bird-themed items all my life, which is reflected in my jewellery.
Do you have a favourite room?
I like the kitchen/dining room area because I often design there, but also I love being in the top-floor sitting room as it feels like a safe space with all the bits and pieces that I have collected there. It has really good energy.
What are your decorating tips?
Look at the existing pieces you have, then decide on a colour and choose fabrics and other pieces with that foremost in your mind. For me, it always starts with a colour.
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