Isobel Diamond takes a tour of interior designer Gavin Houghton’s Stockwell home where 1920s London meets modern day Morocco
The south London home of interior designer Gavin Houghton is a vivid culmination of his inspiration and ideas. ‘I like to feel I’m in the country,’ he says. Though as cars whizz by outside, there’s no escaping his suburban setting.
Houghton bought the three-storey Georgian terrace in Stockwell, which he shares with his partner, landscape gardener, Bozho Gagovski, and dogs Boris and Loulou, 10 years ago. Following its tenure as bedsits, he took the property back to its original layout and has, since then, been slowly reflecting his unique style across each room.
His look exudes 1920s London, paying homage to the Bloomsbury Group and Charleston, their country pile in the South Downs. Houghton has just completed renovating a property in Tangier, and the essence of Morocco imbues his London home: ‘I’ve always loved Moroccan interiors, so to have my own project is a dream come true,’ he says.
His ‘country house-inspired’ style is accentuated with vintage and antique pieces: ‘I buy a lot in Oxfordshire, where I have a country place, but also Golborne Road and the warehouses in Bermondsey’, says Houghton, who doesn’t seek out particular styles, instead buying eclectic pieces he loves: ‘Interiors are a big part of expressing yourself and I’m a show off’.
The living room shelves are crammed with interiors and art books, like Matisse at the Alhambra – a collection of the artist’s Moorish works, providing a stimulus for Houghton’s Moroccan-inspired look. He had visited friends in Tangier for just under a decade, before deciding to buy his traditional Riad bolthole, which is available for short-term rental through Airbnb. The city is ‘rough round the edges, but less touristy than other parts of the country,’ Houghton suggests.
Across his London home, he displays an enviably impressive art collection. There are five original Duncan Grant sketches, a black and white personal portrait by photographer Jan Baldwin, and painterly landscapes and mounted ceramic plates.
Art is a beautiful thing, I don’t think it should be bought to fit into a room, like an interior object
‘I grew up in Hampshire and my parents were both artists,’ he explains. ‘I paint myself, though I find less time to than I’d like. Art is a beautiful thing, I don’t think it should be bought to fit into a room, like an interior object.’
Houghton studied fashion at Kingston University, before beginning his career in menswear design for 1980s label, Crolla, famed for its use of flamboyant fabrics and earning a bevy of famous fans, from Princess Diana to Isabella Blow. He was later Art Director for Vogue promotions and head-hunted by World of Interiors magazine where he became interiors stylist. He has worked on properties in the UK and internationally ever since and was recently named in the Top 100 Leading Designers list by House & Garden magazine.
‘Every colour goes with everything, it’s about how much you use,’ says Gavin, nodding towards lemon yellow cushions on a calm, green sofa in the double reception room. In these adjoining rooms, his style is most accentuated, playing with shade, texture and layering: ‘The more layering you do, the calmer it becomes,’ he says.
Though the style is quintessentially English, there are suggestions of Morocco: brass candlesticks adorn tables and walls, a fez sits next to a 1950s black telephone and two small white tables are carved with Arabic arches.
The dividing doors are painted in a striking Dulux shade of Tarragon Glory. ‘I love gloss, it feels vintage, old,’ says Gavin, whose statement colour is green, in its multitude of hues. ‘My favourite shade was apple and now it’s slightly richer, darker.’
Pattern-on-pattern is a recurring theme
Pattern-on-pattern is a recurring theme. A blue and white classic floral chair stands next to a handmade viridian green sofa by Christopher Howe. The leafy patterned curtains are made from a Colefax & Fowler fabric. The rear shutters are stripped wood, so too is the mantelpiece. Above it hangs an original screen-print by the late, great British artist, Patrick Procktor.
I’d love to have four-poster beds in Tangier,’ says Houghton, as he animatedly describes draping mosquito netting over his own teak, four-poster bed in the master bedroom. A structured diamond pattern is mirrored in the wallpaper by Brunschwig & Fils and the curtains by Madeleine Castaing. The coordinated blue and brown colour scheme creates a linear look. ‘This room reminds me of my university days,’ he says, ‘the colours are reminiscent of a Gitanes cigarette carton.’
The ground floor hallway is decorated in hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper. ‘I love wallpaper. It’s the instant-ness of it. It’s joyful.’ A gild-framed painting of Paris, costing £20 and found in a flea market, hangs on the wall.
Bathrooms feel French, with hints of Victoriana and a little English chintz is added with floral curtains: ‘French is more decorative, prettier, it feels less cold,’ he says. His brilliant eye for adaptation is displayed in his recreated furniture pieces. In the master bathroom, a French chest of drawers with a marble top is transformed into a sink, which is something he does for his clients.
Houghton also designs chairs and in the living room he displays a playful red-and-white candy stripped armchair. ‘It’s called the Beaton, after Cecil Beaton, inspired by his costume designs for My Fair Lady,’ says Gavin. He is also a self-confessed lamp addict – the tasseled lampshades and brass lampstands displayed across the ground floor and two bathrooms add a playful touch.
The lower ground kitchen/diner is a capacious socialising space, with large trestle table and white-painted chairs. The green, ivy-patterned wallpaper by Pierre Frey makes a statement. Against it stands a dresser painted in a shade of English mustard, which Gavin describes as a utilitarian colour: ‘I wanted it to have an industrial feel, not at all pretty.’
A door leads out to the garden, designed by his partner, Bozho, which provides the couple with an outdoor sanctuary. In keeping with the rest of the house, verdant green is of course the signature colour.