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Inside the antique-packed home of jewellery designer Didi Ilse - and why it's not a typical London interior

Didi in her sitting room, wearing a dress from Goa and her own jewellery. On the sofa are cushions in African fabrics bought on west London’s Golborne Road. The bronze bird candlesticks are antiques, and the Indian carved shutters came with the house; Didi had the wood spray-painted white
Didi in her sitting room, wearing a dress from Goa and her own jewellery. On the sofa are cushions in African fabrics bought on west London’s Golborne Road. The bronze bird candlesticks are antiques, and the Indian carved shutters came with the house; Didi had the wood spray-painted white Credit: Ingrid Rasmussen 

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.

In the guest room, Indian fabric and cushions from Holland Park’s The Cross cover the sofa bed. The mirror is from Les Couilles du Chien on Golborne Road  Credit: Ingrid Rasmussen 

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.

Orange walls offset white Corian kitchen units. The etched bull’s skull is from Tulum, Mexico Credit: Ingrid Rasmussen 

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.

Eau-de-Nil walls create a soothing backdrop in the bedroom. The four-poster bed, cushions and bedspread are from India, while the bedside tables and chrome lights are from Alfies Antique Market Credit: Ingrid Rasmussen 

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.

In the bathroom, a chest of drawers was converted into a basin/washstand, doubling up as storage. The wall above the bath has been decorated with French mirrors found in antique shops on Lillie Road, Fulham. The little paintings were found in an antique shop in Portobello. Walls in Calluna by Farrow & Ball offset bright Moroccan floor tiles  Credit: Ingrid Rasmussen 

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.

The metal dining chairs are from The Conran Shop, and the rug is from Marrakech. Didi found the palm-tree lamp, originally from Paris in the 1960s, at Pushkin Antiques, now based in Mayfair Credit: Ingrid Rasmussen 

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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