A fashionable life
Mid-century heirlooms and African finds make a homely west London sanctuary for Sarah Crook, the powerhouse behind some of Britain’s top designer labels
Lots of people claim to ‘work in fashion’, but few can have been so instrumental in the success of beloved British fashion brands as Sarah Crook.
‘I was lucky enough to be offered a job straight from university with Club 21, which worked with many of the superbrands of the time, including Armani, Donna Karan and Prada,’ she explains over tea in her North Kensington home. ‘I was very much thrown in at the deep end, but it was a great experience.’
That experience lasted 10 years, before she joined Stella McCartney, becoming vice-president before moving on to Christopher Kane as CEO. Right now she’s working on the launch of a new label, Dundas, with former Pucci creative director Peter Dundas, which promises to overturn traditional fashion business models.
With all the travel that her work requires (‘ the best and worst part of the job’), her basement flat in a converted Georgian house has been designed with relaxation in mind. It’s a small but perfectly formed sanctuary where Sarah unwinds after fashion moments (‘a private gig by Paul McCartney and Chrissie Hynde after one of Stella’s shows was a highlight’) and business brainstorms.
‘A private gig by Paul McCartney and Chrissie Hynde after one of Stella’s shows was a highlight’
What was the flat like when you moved in?
I wasn’t originally looking to buy in this area but I put an offer in as soon as I walked through the door, because the flat had a lovely feel and, most importantly, a 70ft walled garden. It was a well thought-out blank canvas, so I didn’t carry out major renovations, but I did change the overall look quite significantly. I immediately lightened the colour of the floor, as light is the most important factor for me, particularly as the flat is lower-ground.
How would you describe your decorating style?
It’s a mishmash of mid-century and Danish with African influences, particularly in the ceramics and textiles. I usually work with variations of white on the walls and add texture and colour through objects in each room. The most important thing for me is a homeliness that I hope extends to everyone who spends time here.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My passion for mid-century furniture stems from my grandma. She was very stylish, and had some amazing pieces, which I inherited, including my coffee table and a 1950s sideboard, which is on its way to my new house in
‘Buy a piece you love and not a piece you need. Iconic furniture is timeless, and you will never tire of it’
Ibiza. My love of Africa comes from time spent in South Africa, where my parents have lived for the past 15 years.
Your best decorating advice?
Buy a piece you love and not a piece you need. An iconic item of furniture is timeless, and you will never tire of it. And if you do, you can appreciate something anew just by changing its location. Buying chairs is a passion, and my hallway could often be mistaken for a doctor’s waiting room while I try to work out a home for each of them.
Do you have a favourite?
A Pierre Jeanneret Lounge Chair. Actually, it’s still on my wish list.
Are you disciplined about decluttering?
No! I’m a terrible hoarder, but making sure my living spaces aren’t too cluttered is essential for a relaxing feel.
Was clothes storage a consideration?
Accommodating my wardrobe is a work in progress…
Where in your home are you happiest?
Cooking in my kitchen with the radio on. I cook more in the summer as I love doing leisurely garden suppers.
What’s the possession you would never part with?
My set of Nelson Mandela lithographs and a photograph of my grandma when she was young.
If you could change one thing about your house…
I would knock through to the flat above, which I bought five years ago with the intention of doing just that. It would give me space to have a huge bedroom overlooking the garden with its own fireplace: true luxury.
Left The bright master bedroom is peppered with vintage finds, such as a reupholstered 1950s armchair. ‘I love the process of hunting out vintage pieces,’ Sarah says. ‘ When it comes to decorating, I’m not a planner and always end up buying something I love rather than need, more often than not a chair.’ Right ‘I am more about using texture than colour,’ says Sarah ( below), whose collection of Moroccan rugs includes a beni
ourain in her sitting room
Right A retro hostess trolley and lamp add warmth to the sleek white kitchen. ‘I was lucky in that the house already had very good storage,’ Sarah says. Below Although the room is compact, she had a range installed as she enjoys cooking