A tastemaker of the interiors world, designer and Notting Hill-local Suzy Hoodless knows what makes a house a home. She lets us in on how to create a personal sanctuary as well as her favourite neighbourhood hangouts.
Having cut her teeth at Designers Guild, Suzy Hoodless worked as a stylist for interiors magazines including House & Garden and Wallpaper* before opening her eponymous studio in Clarendon Cross in 2000. Over the last two decades, her signature style – timelessly modern and eclectic – has transformed homes, private members’ clubs, restaurants and hotels in west London and far beyond. She’s “one of the true movers and shakers of the interiors world” says the Telegraph and “Britain’s brightest tastemaker” according to Harper’s Bazaar – and if you flick through her roster of past projects, it’s not hard to see why.
What is the mark of a well-designed home?
When I design a place, I’m responding to a client’s personality. It doesn’t matter what the brief is, it always ends with a client saying: “we want a comfortable family home.” So it’s marrying an aesthetic that is unique to them with practicality, comfort and longevity.
We often work on homes before a client moves in, so it’s our job to create a space that looks as if it has organically grown – even if everything has been delivered and installed within a matter of days or weeks. Every single thing should be nice to touch, be ergonomic, be there for a reason, should be loved and should play off the piece that it’s next to.
Why do you think good design is important? Does it affect the mood of a place?
Definitely. Good design is vital to the wellbeing of a home and the person living there. It’s something that’s especially relevant right now. I think it’s essential to surround yourself with pieces you love and also pieces that support your everyday life.
Can you tell us about how that manifests in your own home?
I’ve got three young children, so the interior is far from minimal – but everything I’ve got in my house, I’ve got because I love it and because it supports my busy life.
My bathroom is my sanctuary. There’s lots of eye-level lighting and storage, as well as storage under my basins. When I’m going through the everyday rituals, getting reading in the morning or winding down at night, everything I need is to hand, but there’s also this very supportive, cocooning feel to the room. The lighting is soft but it’s also task lighting – it’s where it needs to be. I’ve got several plants too, which lends a natural quality, and Santa Maria Novella candles. The design element comes in through a Josef Frank blind and a really comfortable Danish chair next to my bath.
So, your bathroom is where functionality meets beauty. Is this a principle you stick to?
It’s essential. Both elements work together. Design is about layering. Downstairs in my sitting room, I’ve got a comfortable George Smith sofa that I invested in years ago – I wanted a sofa that could seat all five of us when we gather to watch a film. Then, the room is layered with low-level lighting: wall lights, floor lamps, table lamps. I’ve collected these lamps over time; that’s part of the joy of my job. I’ve built up an address book over 25+ years, so there’s no one place that I go to buy. I buy from auctions, markets, fairs, dealers, from 1stDibs, from Pimlico Road, Lillie Road. With the internet, it’s so easy to buy from all over the world.
What makes you feel at home when you’re travelling?
I want to stay in homes that appeal to my modern sensibility and support a fast-paced life. It’s about good design, modernity, functionality; those things that make life not only easier, but better. It’s a space to hang out, work, meet with friends, eat, sleep. Every possible part of our lives happen in homes and that’s only increasing right now…
Very true. Do you think our relationship with our homes is shifting?
When I started in the industry in 2000, I was mainly employed by Americans, but today it’s far more commonplace to employ interior designers and decorators. People understand their homes much more than they used to, and they want more from their space as well. Homes are space to retreat, but they’re also places that people entertain and inviting others in – people want to be proud of their home.
How will lockdown affect this? I think people are at home looking at what needs doing, at what could be done or could be achieved. I think homes should be wonderful havens, a total expression of their owners – and that’s what I love doing: extracting and developing that personality and character while thinking how people live too. Are they working from home? Exercising at home? Watching films? How many people? It’s crucial to understand the nuts and bolts of how people function.
What small, simple changes can we make to our homes as we go into lockdown?
It’s all about layering. As we move from autumn into winter, it’s all about blankets and cushions. I recently got a sheepskin rug for beside my bed and it’s such a comfort to put my feet on first thing in the morning. Plants are also great for cheering up the house; I’ve got them in most rooms. Lately, I’ve been taking cuttings and the children have been growing them in their bedrooms. It’s a really nice pastime, bringing together a sense of caring for nature and education. Smell is so important too: I love my candles, sprays and bubble bath – especially Santa Maria Novella products. They really lift your mood.
What first drew you to Notting Hill?
I was first drawn here for work, but I loved the area’s eclecticism – and still do. I like the vibe of Portobello and Golborne Road. I’m really into cooking; I love exploring speciality shops – Moroccan shops, Spanish shops, spice shops – and being able to buy all sorts of incredible ingredients within minutes of home. There’s a brilliant mix of architecture here and a great group of like-minded people, too. Notting Hill has an incredible community.
If someone’s less well-acquainted with the area, where can they tap into Notting Hill’s vibrant community?
Golborne Road is amazing, from Golborne Deli at one end to the fish shop at the other. There’s a Moroccan shop where I buy vats of harissa and, every Friday, I buy incredible lamb kebabs from a guy who sets up stall on the road – I’ve been going to him for 10 years. The cash-and-carry is a regular haunt; it stocks every shape and size of pasta imaginable.
Tell us about your studio on Clarendon Cross.
It’s in an old post office I bought about 15 years ago. The ground-floor space where I meet clients is a bit like a laboratory; I’ve got a library of samples and fabrics, and it’s where my team works under usual circumstances. I like to be surrounded by good design; I have bright-red Børge Mogensen chairs, the Home table by Isokon Plus and FlowerPot chrome pendant lights. Downstairs feels cosy thanks to a fireplace and big plants.
Outside, Clarendon Cross is like my second home. It’s got The Cross Shop, Richard Cave’s antiques, Summerill & Bishop, Piano Nobile, Myriad – places that have been there forever. It’s very community-based, almost like a village.
You’ve designed several townhouses in Notting Hill. Does the sense of place feed into your design process?
Absolutely. The bones of the architecture, the environment and what a client likes about an area are as important as the client’s own character. For instance, working on AllBright, a women-only private members’ club near Savile Row in Mayfair, I was inspired by typically male tailoring, so we used lots of tweeds, wool and herringbone fabrics in the upholstery.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
We’re very lucky to have projects in west London – Notting Hill and Holland Park – as well as across the country. We’ve just started a project on one of Notting Hill’s premium streets for an incredible entrepreneur – it’s Italian and mid-century and somehow going to happen in the space of about six months. We’re good with a challenge.
Suzy Hoodless' "Pocket Guide" to Notting Hill
Eat: Gold, Portobello Road; the kebab stall on Golborne Road
Drink: Julie’s, Clarendon Cross
Do: Golborne Road Market