Patrick Kinmonth: ‘We take Christmas stockings very seriously in our house’
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My personal style signifier is my handmade slippers. I’ve assembled many more than I could possibly wear – Turkish sabahs from The Sabah Dealer on Instagram, Moroccan babouches from Au Fil d’Or and Venetian gondolier shoes from Vibi Venezia. I tend to go barefoot at home and put on slippers when I go out in the evening and I know I’ll be indoors. They are one of the more expressive and decorative things that men can wear. @thesabahdealer. Au Fil d’Or, 38 Jemaa el-Fna, Rue El Ksour, Marrakech. vibivenezia.it
An object I would never part with is my Craigie Aitchison portrait. We were great friends and he asked me to sit for him. When he realised that I had to take out a loan to buy it, he also gave me a small picture of a sparrow that had flown into his house and died.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a tube of Lakrids by Bülow from Copenhagen – liquorice chocolate bonbons that I have with my coffee. I’m quite in love.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a fisherman’s jersey from Andersen-Andersen, a small family‑owned business in Copenhagen. Seaman turtleneck, from about £180
My festive decorative approach is multifarious. I’ve always found the idea of having one look for one season a bit fly-by-night. We use the same decorations, with adjustments, every year. There are glass decorations from my childhood, which are still pulled from the same box they were 50 years ago, and new iterations, including some wonderful glass whale ornaments I picked up in China. The aim is to transform a familiar room into a celebratory room.
I have a collection of textiles. I have hundreds, particularly English and Italian from the 17th through to the 19th century, and ranging from Japanese fisherman’s flags to Genoa velvets. I’m designing a collection for Chelsea Textiles called Venetian Damask, inspired by the interiors of the Palazzo Fortuny and the fabrics of the 18th century.
In my fridge you’ll always find White Truffle Sea Salt from Zest & Zing – it’s a major upgrade for a boiled egg. Also Polish dried sausages or “kabanos”, charcuterie from Cornish Charcuterie in Norton Barton, and salads, vegetables and edible flowers from our organic smallholding in north Devon, which we’ve farmed for 35 years.
The one artist whose work I’d collect if I could is Hilma af Klint. I first saw her work in Sweden years ago. It’s visionary.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled in the past year is Bhutan, a country of endless visual fascination. Botanically, for the wildflowers; architecturally, for its painted wooden houses; and sartorially, for its splendid traditional dress which is still widely worn.
The last thing I bought and loved was a portrait dating to around 1641, from Nick Cox of Period Portraits. I’m obsessed with the Elizabethan era, and fascinated by the fact that it’s an unfinished painting. It hangs on top of a tapestry in our house in north Devon.
And on my wishlist is a George I chintz, velvet and cotton tester bed. It’s part of a sale of the collection of Jasper Conran, who’s a great friend – and, like most truly beautiful things, it’s extraordinarily expensive and completely beyond my budget.
My style icon is Christopher Gibbs, who was so much more than an antique dealer. When I worked as an editor at British Vogue in the 1980s, I’d visit his showroom on New Bond Street regularly. It was full of magically curated things. He had incredible connoisseurship when it came to telling a story through objects. He elevated taste to an art form.
A recent “find” is the South African artist Ruan Hoffmann, who lives in Amsterdam. He creates paintings, fabrics, calligraphy and above all extraordinary ceramics. We’ve become friends on Instagram, where I’ve been buying his porcelain plates. I think he’s a genius.
The best book I’ve read in the last year is Gigantic Cinema, an anthology of prose and poetry about the weather that runs from Homer through to scientific reportage. Edited by Alice Oswald and Paul Keegan, it’s like a beautifully constructed museum of our complex relationship with weather. Nothing could be more current.
The best gift I’ve given recently is my own watercolour sketch. Rather than giving gifts that people so often do not want, whenever I go and stay with people I try to paint them a sketch of where we are – most recently that was the Greek island of Symi.
And the best gift I’ve received recently was a memento mori skull ring from Attilio Codognato. I’ve wanted one ever since I lived in Venice in the 1970s, when I first pressed my nose against the window of the shop on San Marco. This one was made in the ’80s, but to me it feels Elizabethan.
An indulgence I would never forgo is Olverum Bath Oil, because it transforms bathtime. It was originally made by a German winemaker, then bought and restyled by an Englishman. I used to gurgle it greedily into the bath until I realised it’s around £35 for a tiny bottle.
The last music I downloaded was Source by Nubya Garcia, a north London jazz saxophonist so brilliant I practically drove off the road the first time I heard her. Her music is spellbinding.
No celebration is complete without my wife Tessa Traeger’s cooking. She has made a huge contribution to the photography of food, shooting for British Vogue for close to two decades from the mid-1970s. Tessa’s cooking is concise. She’s mastered the rare art of appreciating the qualities of particular ingredients and flavours. Ours is the kind of house where the first thing discussed when you sit down for a meal is what the next meal is going to be.
The grooming staple I’m never without is bath and body brushes from Niwaki and Iris Hantverk. I’m a great believer in dry body brushing. When it comes to creams and lotions I’m hooked on Alleven Stellar Mask and Total Face Serum. It’s very effective at making you comfortable in your skin, and also happens to have a nice matte pomegranate-coloured bottle. Alleven Stellar Mask, £58, and Total Face Serum, £110
My favourite room in my house in Devon is what we call the White Bedroom. It looks out into the back garden, and at night you can hear the owls hooting and see the stars from your bed. Despite the name, the walls aren’t actually white – they’re a creamy grey distemper with plasterwork that dates back to the 17th century.
My grooming guru is Korel at Ted’s Grooming Room on the King’s Road in Chelsea. They offer traditional Turkish barbering services. After a lashing of perfumed towels and a body massage in the chair, you come away feeling thoroughly well attended to.
If I didn’t live in London and Devon, I would live in Connemara, where my family is from. I’ve recently applied for my Irish passport. The people of the west of Ireland are some of the most eloquent you could ever hope to meet, and the landscape is breathtaking, especially by the sea. I have a fantasy of finding myself a ruined house on a cliff there and returning to my roots.
The festive tradition I look forward to most is Christmas stockings. A stocking is a marvellous thing. We take them very seriously in our house. There’s no mad bolt round the high street – we collect things for them slowly and carefully over the year, so they become a kind of annual diary. We use my father’s knitted shooting socks, filling them with gadgets, tech and useful surprises.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a butler. It would give me huge satisfaction to run a great house. It’s not enough to have beautiful rooms, beautiful food and beautiful flowers – they have to be cared for and organised in an inspiring way. It’s an exacting science that involves vision, taste, resilience and a sense of humour. It would be a great challenge.
The last meal that truly impressed me was in the summerhouse of a friend in Tyrol, Austria. We ate a fish fondue of lobster, tuna and sole, served with salads and foraged mushrooms, followed by a dessert of black-chocolate swans with an almond ganache. It was exquisite.
The tech I couldn’t do without is the Procreate app. It’s a drawing tool that’s transformed my work as a costume designer. It means I can remove the last stroke of a drawing without ruining the whole image, and when I have to create 12 costumes with the same silhouette for a production – such as a dandelion tutu for The Seven Deadly Sins at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen next May – I can work with a new level of convenience.
The podcast I’m listening to is Hannah Peel’s Night Tracks on BBC Radio 3. It’s so beautifully engineered – a trippy cosmic mix full of adventurous, subtle and totally unexpected musical truffles. Peel is my personal heroine.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Via di Monserrato in Rome. I go with my business partner Antonio Monfreda, who has the most extraordinary eye. We start our Roman shopping tour at Porta Portese, to explore the labyrinthine market that’s the equivalent of Portobello Road for antiques, stopping at Strategic Business Unit, which sells very carefully designed men’s clothes. From there we head to Soledad Twombly’s L’Archivio di Monserrato, a remarkable mix of historic textiles, clothes and paintings by her husband. We finish up at Ciampini Roma for the best ham sandwich in the world. L’Archivio di Monserrato, Via di Monserrato 150, 00186 Rome. Ciampini Roma, Piazza di S Lorenzo in Lucina 29, 00186 Rome
My favourite app is BBC Sounds, which has been a life-changer for me. It always seems to offer the right thing at the right time, and is imaginatively and intuitively put together – so simple and effective. I also love @cabanamagazine and @collagerie on Instagram, for shopping inspiration, and eBay for treasure-troving.