The queen of ‘undone’ interiors style, Rita Konig talks taste
My personal style signifier is shirts – I mostly wear Celine or Aimé, tucked into jeans or skirts. There are two crucial elements to a good shirt: it has to be made of a delicate enough fabric that it falls nicely and the buttons must be well positioned – there is a perfect spot around the bottom of the breast bone that allows the shirt to be open enough that it is feminine, but not so high that you feel like a schoolmistress. Budd has just copied one of its vintage shirts that my father wore for its new collection with Laura Bailey and Cathy Kasterine. I think it’s pretty spot-on and is made of that perfect slubby silk that men’s shirts used to be made of. From £270, buddshirts.co.uk
The last thing I bought and loved was a large bedspread from Nushka. It’s a vintage Suzani tent-hanging from Uzbekistan and I love the colour palette – dusty pink and sandy beige with a pretty border of sea greens and blues. Similar, from £420
And on my wishlist is a four-poster bed à la Veere Grenney or David Hicks, one that is really tall, with curtains. I’d also love some diamonds. At Harry Fane I saw the most beautiful diamond-bead necklace that was strung in such a way that when you dropped it, the beads formed a little pile of mesh – it cost £80,000 but looked like nothing.
The place I can’t wait to go back to is LA. I want to stay at the private members’ club San Vicente Bungalows, which I decorated for hotelier Jeff Klein in 2018. I haven’t been back since and I’m longing to go and enjoy it now that it’s done – it really takes a year or two before a place starts to settle and feel good. I’d also see my best friend, gallerist Honor Fraser, whose kids are my godchildren. And I’d go to Santa Barbara and explore the Pacific coastline – there’s something about palm trees, mountains, beaches, deserts, extreme sunlight and the can-do attitude that makes California fun.
The best souvenirs I’ve brought home are rugs from the Datça peninsula in Turkey. I’ve spent a few summers with my friend the interior designer Peter Mikic and his partner Sebastian Scott, whose brother has a house there. They’re such good sports on holiday – we would go off to the local village in the afternoons to buy rugs. I’ve got a brown and cream striped runner that is up in North Farm – my house in County Durham – and some white ones with tufts in pale pinks and greens that look like sweets, which are a lot of fun.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It’s an extraordinary tale of survival, complete with a heartwrenching love story. Set in North Carolina, the novel captures the racial divide and how tough life was for women and children in the early 20th century. I loved the spirit, frailty and self-taught knowledge of the main character Kya. It’s such a page-turner and made me rather weepy.
A recent “find” is [London shoe- and handbag-repair service] The Restory. The work I’ve seen on Instagram is amazing. There was a pair of beautiful Christian Louboutin shoes where the heel had been smooshed and they completely reinstated it. I haven’t used them yet but I’m longing to send things there. I’ve got a red Chanel bag and an old, faded Louis Vuitton bag that could both really do with a polish.
The best gift I’ve received recently is a Victorian diorama. The picture is in a carved oak frame with very delicate skeletal leaves, seed pods and grasses mounted on dark-green velvet. It’s pretty but also very unexpected, which is what makes it such a good present.
The last music I downloaded was a song called “Ubomi Abumang” by Sun-El Musician. He’s a South African artist and makes the sort of music you can get lost in. The song is really long and transcendent and it makes you want to dance.
I have a collection of bed linens – I’m slightly obsessed with them. I love the cool crispness you get from a sheet tightly pulled over a mattress like a drum, and the cloud-like feeling from a duvet or the weight of blankets while you sleep. They’re a very expensive undertaking and it’s something I’m really pleased I’ve collected for so long. I’ve always bought them in sales and on whims. I have quite a lot from D Porthault in Paris, which I often get in New York, and the Monogrammed Linen Shop.
In my fridge you’ll always find white wine, San Pellegrino, tonic water and a bar of Italian dark chocolate with almonds from Supermarket of Dreams on Holland Park Avenue. I have two fridges, one for drinks and the other for food, which tends to be feast or famine. I am envious of those American fridges that are so perfectly styled, full of glass Tupperwares with delicious things in – mine is sadly not like that.
The best property advice I’ve been given is to avoid buying above a restaurant and to look for good proportions, ceiling height and large windows – you can usually change the rest.
I’ve recently discovered meditation and rediscovered caviar. I try to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. I feel like in all the gloom it’s more vital than ever to calm anxiety and to help you see a different viewpoint. At first I wondered how you can empty your mind completely, but then the founder of MindMojo, Anthony Thompson, who taught me, explained that it’s like going to a cocktail party in your head. You arrive with “somebody”, which is your mantra. You then drift between people and conversations, which are your thoughts coming and going – you can sit with them for a bit or let them go and move on. mindmojo.co
An indulgence I would never forgo is getting everything pressed. I’ve put it to the test at moments in my life where I’ve changed careers and had to really tighten my belt – even then I still sent all my sheets to the laundry.
My favourite apps and websites are Instagram for antiques. In fact, I have an account that is only for following antique dealers. I also use AVW all the time, and Decorative Collective, which is great because it has so many dealers. I use the Spectator app for news – they have quite interesting people writing for them. Also Shazam – I feel very self-conscious asking people what a song is and there is something so wonderfully private and instant about the app.
My style icon is the American socialite Lee Radziwill. She always looked terrific and had that ability to be dressed in the right thing for the right occasion, which I find rather enviable – whether it was a Givenchy suit for lunch on the Upper East Side or a kaftan in one of her apartments. I do love that ’70s style – not crazy bell bottoms but ribbed sweaters, big sunglasses and a scarf wrapped around the head. I think it was the last time that people were really polished.
The beauty staple I’m never without is Sisley’s Soir de Lune scent. I like that I don’t really know what it smells like. It’s not cloying and people don’t recognise it easily – it just becomes a part of you. £194 for 100ml
An object I would never part with is my 1950s Cartier watch. I bought it for myself last year; I wasn’t necessarily looking for one but I have a weakness for watches and I had this visceral feeling when I saw it. It has a leather strap with white stitching and I love the simple, round face, which is quite unusual for a Cartier watch.
The design idea I wish I’d come up with is the Post-it note. I am impressed by incredibly simple ideas that turn into items that every household has, and then we wonder how we managed without them.
My favourite room in my house is my bedroom. I’ve layered around the windows so at night I can draw the heavy wool curtains across and block everything out. In the morning when I open them, the sunlight shines through my blinds, which are in a Robert Kime pea-pod print, and the branches from the trees outside dance on the walls. I think the view out of a bedroom should always be slightly gauzy – it makes you feel safer and distant from the world. I also love the two new Rory McEwen tulip prints that I bought at KRB in New York last year. I’ve hung them opposite my bed where the TV used to be and it has made the most incredible difference to the atmosphere. It’s now the sanctuary I think a bedroom should be.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is New York, where I lived for six years and still have many friends. I feel a little out of date with the city now, so the places I love are quite nostalgic. The Waverly Inn was my local; it’s slightly subterranean and very cosy with murals on the wall. I used to decorate it at Christmas and in exchange I could eat there for free, but I don’t think anyone really kept track. Paula Rubenstein is fabulous for vintage textiles and lighting, and of course there is John Derian’s shop for pieces by Hugo Guinness and Astier de Villatte. I often had lunch with John and Hugo at Bar Pitti, which is another great place. Also for food are Buvette, where I would go for a quick breakfast before meetings, Via Quadronno for lunch uptown and, when I was downtown, Sant Ambroeus for insalata di carciofi. I wish I could work in New York but come back to London in the evenings. I like how helpful and open to opportunity the Americans are – they’re also consumers, which is fun – but I love the social life in England.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Rothko. His work is so beautiful and really cheers up a wall – I love his use of pinks.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a ceramic seed pod by Frances Pelly – it has a fern imprint and fits into the palm of the hand. I was in The New Craftsmen [in Mayfair, London] buying for a client when I saw it – I think you always find the best presents when you aren’t looking for them. I gave it to a friend this Christmas, guessing it would sit easily on the long table of curiosities he has in his house.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe is a really pretty Etro skirt with layers of black chiffon and gold paisley details. I bought the matching top as well so it can be worn like a dress, or I pair the skirt with an old satin Saint Laurent T-shirt. I also recently got a couple of cashmere cardigans from a brand called Aethel. Loro Piana spins its cashmere yarns and they’re a great length and thickness. Aethel cardigans from £275
The gadget I couldn’t do without is my Apple pencil. I use the Notability app a lot for work and it’s brilliant for marking plans. The trouble is, I’m on my fourth one – two were lost, my daughter pinched one and my dog ate the other.
I’m planning a refurb on my flat. I want to reconfigure the space –create two new bathrooms and a small TV room. I’ve asked Gil Schafer, a wonderful American architect who I’ve worked with before, to do the drawings, which I’m so excited about. I finally feel like a grown-up, having an architect work on the details so that it’s all proportionally correct and flows.
My grooming and wellbeing gurus are Marilyn at Josh Wood for my short haircut, which I love – she was recommended by my friend Bunny Turner, who always has a great cut. For my hair colour, I rely on David Taylor and Nicola Clarke, who call it “shipwreck blonde”. Amelia Freer is my nutritionist; when I’m looking or feeling my best, it’s because I’m following her advice, which is really just eating well and avoiding sugar and carbs. My life coach Georgia Irwin is incredible. The sessions are like therapy but with a roadmap – you’re actually told what to do and not do. It’s been really helpful in clearing the way. Jayne Pickering, who used to be fashion editor at Marie Claire, is my stylist – and friend. She’s chic and brilliant.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a First Lady. I think it would be so much fun running the White House with that level of professionalism. For a grand-scale house, it’s a manageable size and I’d love to plan lunches and dinners, entertain and meet the sort of fascinating people you have access to in that position. Also, there’s a budget for decoration! Jackie Kennedy was the last First Lady with a real opinion, taste-wise. Since then it’s all been a bit vanilla until, of course, Donald Trump’s gold curtains. I think the Oval Office has been really dreary – I’d like to see it become more of a study than it is. I would lacquer the walls in some fabulous colour and add Chippendale-style furniture. The tall windows would suit pagoda pelmets and long drapes.