Lucinda Chambers has enjoyed an astonishingly varied career in fashion, spanning her influential tenure as fashion director at British Vogue, consulting for Marni and Prada, and more recently the launch of sustainable fashion label Colville and her new digital platform, Collagerie. But she asserts that she's neither naturally stylish, nor particularly materialistic. We sat down with the mistress of maximalism in her eclectic London home, a cosy, colourful space crammed with books, paintings, textiles and fashion ephemera, to find out how she refined her unique aesthetic and how she's learned to be fearless in both fashion and interiors.
We’ve lived in West London for probably 30 years now. What’s great about Shepherd’s Bush is it’s never got chichi. It’s still got incredible personality. I like the house because it’s got layers and layers of love and memories. Every now and again I think that it looks like a little mad person lives here, and then I do a bit of a clear out. It’s funny, I’m not really sentimental about stuff but I will suddenly notice the cobwebs are flying from something that hasn’t been moved for 20 years and then I will move it.
'You've always got to think where can you sit? If you can't throw yourself down comfortably then something's got to give. It's great to have stuff but if there's nowhere you can put your coffee cup - which, at points, this house has reached critical mass and there isn't - that's when you think OK, cull. I learned that from a friend, Russell Marsh. We have a higgledy-piggledy farmhouse in France and he and his husband stay every year. They often get down before we do and make a pile of all the things that they don't like! Russell's brilliant at looking at spaces as places that you want to be in. I learned from him to make spaces functional. I love it when people have a fresh eye.'
'The nicest thing anybody's said to me is that I'm the queen of cosy. A lot of people come and stay here - my partners in Colville come from Milan, people come up from the country. My married name is Crow and they call it the Casa Crow, or the Crowtel. I like making people feel very comfortable and warm. Cosification is definitely my first priority. Comfort is really underrated and that goes for clothes as well. Style has to be not too self-conscious. If you're not comfortable in your clothes you can't be stylish and if the house isn't comfortable I would find it quite a stretch to find it stylish. It becomes too self-conscious - with style there's got to be a lack of consciousness.'
'Growing up I was the least stylish of my friends. At school I had two really groovy friends (they still are), Polly and Georgina, and they had innate style. I don't think I'm super stylish - homes was my comfort zone. My mother was a real craftswoman - she was a bookbinder and a marbler. She would build dry stone walls and wallpaper whole flats on her own, and I learned from her how to be fearless in interiors. But clothes, no, very underconfident. I grew up in a time where you wanted to look like you had your own style and I had no idea what that was, so I experimented a lot. Now, in my late fifties, I'm my most comfortable. It's taken a long time but it is something you can learn. For me it was a source of anxiety and It think it is with a lot of people. It's like, how do you find that? You only find it by feeling quite brave and prepared to make a lot of mistakes.'
'I am drawn to green, stripes and old chintz and in some way they all go together. I was lucky to be trained by Grace Coddington who went on to be fashion director of American Vogue. She looks at everything like a child does, without any judgement. She taught me to look at stuff in that way - like everything could be a picture and or something to use for a picture. I think that's really great, that you look at objects and clothes as something that would really make a fabulous picture. It's the same with homes - you look at vases, at a bunch of leaves, a scrap of fabric, whatever it is and that can make a beautiful thing for the home. I like making lampshades and collages and I still use my old Singer sewing machine to make stuff. Recently I wanted to make glasses out of all our wine bottles so I went on YouTube and got a little kit from Amazon. I do like getting crafty.'
1. What goes with what?
'I love decoration - whether it's for the body or the home, for me it's one and the same. It's life-enhancing. It's pretty simple. It's about getting the building blocks right in a room, you've got the 'earrings' - those would be the cushions - you've got the main stuff going on with the sofa and the tables and then you just add on or subtract. I do love everything; I love Moroccan, I love things that are complicated, things that are detailed, but I also love mid-century modern. I don't ever think about things 'going together' but the things that you are drawn to somehow do, because it's one eye over it. I don't think I've ever said to myself "That doesn't go" - if you love a lot, it somehow works. My biggest problem is I like a lot of stuff. I'm not very good at editing. I admire people who are disciplined and who edit really rigorously.'
2. Favourite markets
'Kempton is a favourite, and Chiswick car boot is brilliant. I never can go to Morocco without picking up a rug. The best market that I've ever been to was in LA; it's amazing, the Rose Bowl, absolutely incredible. But Portobello market for me on a Friday morning is essential. Then lots of my favourite antique shops: Myriad in Notting Hill, on the Golborne Road; shops like Bazaar; there's a Moroccan shop called Fez which is brilliant for green pottery and lamps, it's really nice. As I get older I buy less because I probably realised that I've reached critical mass. I wouldn't say I'm an interiors specialist, I just like stuff. I'm a great believer in using things up - I'll paint a chair or a lamp in the colour that I've painted the bathroom. So it all works because I'm using the same colours. I tend to refresh things and then I'll buy the odd thing.'
3. Think in colour
'Colour is really important. I love colour in styling, in clothes, on walls. If there's an opportunity for colour, I would always use it. I love putting colours together. It usually starts with swatches - I put them together and see if they talk to each other. The last thing I painted was the little bathroom upstairs which has about five shades of grey on it with lilac and plum, but the ceiling's green. I don't spend a long time deliberating. It's a gut thing, you see a lilac in a curtain and think "That would be really nice if there was a brown next to it or a darker green or a grey…"'
4. Treasured things
'My most treasured thing is probably my mother's ring, which I always wear. I've just bought these marbled lampshades - they match and I've never had anything matching before. My mother was a marbler and I grew up with her papers everywhere, all over the kitchen. Suddenly I've looked at marbling in a different way and I feel that's a bit of her coming back in. I don't hang onto things - stuff does stay but I don't feel sentimental about it. If the house burned down, I'd be wearing my ring, I'd be fine. Even though I've got a lot of stuff, I'm not necessarily materially attached to it.'
'I never thought that I would be part of tech, it just wasn't part of my landscape. The tech world is very generous, and everybody wants to share the knowledge. People are very collaborative. I'm an enthusiastic convert to social media. I was the last person I know to do Instagram. I only started when I left Vogue and my younger son said, "I think you'd really like it" and I was like, "Oh no, I'd never be able to…" I've never taken a selfie. There are some things I wouldn't do on it because I'm just not interested, but I love to discover new talent and brands and I love putting up things that I'm looking at. It's always quite spontaneous and I'm getting the hang of it in the sense that I don't get nervous when I post at all. I'm just very happy to shout out about stuff, I love that. It's a great tool.'
'I love Soho House style and when we want to have a private meeting in the Collagerie office or just a change of scene we often go to Soho Works at White City. I love the fact that their taste is very eclectic. It was really easy [picking the pieces]. The Redchurch rug is amazing, because it sounds funny, but I I love things that are neutral like wicker, rattan (f you say the word 'rattan' to me I'm like a rat up a drainpipe!), anything naturally woven and colour - and Soho Home does both. I love the white vase because I've got a shelf with only white things, I'm a huge black and cream freak and they've got beautiful cushions like that. I love ikat and they have these ikat lampshades but the lamp is bright green which is so my colour. This rope-back chair is so smart. So it was like a no brainer, a really good fit. When we put things in, I was like, where've they all gone? They just blended, they totally absorbed.'