The London-based interior stylist and art director talks taking time out in Italy, exploring the streets on scooters and luxury travel must-haves
Photography courtesy of Tom O'dell
What is your dream destination?
For the past two years, I’ve been to this village called Torre di Palme in the Le Marche region of Italy. It’s an area that is very Italian and not over-visited by tourists. I was introduced to it by menswear designer Nigel Hall, who has a house there, and I fell in love with the place. Torre is a traditional hill town up two miles of road, with four churches, one café, a little school and two restaurants. The locals are proud of their village and, as an interiors stylist, I appreciate the attention they pay to the place to keep it so well – which is not done in a fussy way at all. One restaurant that overlooks the sea is always bathed in beautiful candlelight at night, with cut flowers on the linen-covered tables. When I first went there, I thought they must be hosting a wedding, it was so perfectly decorated, but it turns out that’s what happens every evening. This town is the place I feel most relaxed, and it is a complete contrast to London.
Where is the best hotel you have ever stayed in?
I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite hotel interior-wise, but I have very fond memories of the Formentor, which is a Royal Hideaway Hotel in Mallorca. I went there to work on an advert and I was just struck by the service and the setting. It has really luscious green gardens overlooking the sandy beach, and I do love gardens. It also has what you’d expect from a five-star hotel – a great pool and beach and a seafood restaurant that serves amazing dishes. But it was the tropical gardens that did it for me. Of course, I’ve stayed in lots of very good hotels over the years, but I must say that some of the best have been cheap and cheerful places where the care shown to guests is outstanding. These are not luxurious in the traditional sense, but are definitely so in terms of attention to detail.
Where would you most like to travel to that you have not yet visited and why?
I would love to go to Japan. My life is all about aesthetics – creating interiors, working as an art director for menswear companies and with TV and film and photography. So, from the stories I have heard and the books I have read and programmes I have watched, I know I would find Japan to be a really inspiring place.
What is your preferred mode of travel?
In London, I ride a 1968 Vespa scooter every day. So if I could choose any way to get around it would be a vintage Vespa for a tour in Italy. I’ve also had experience of travelling in the Far East on scooters. It’s a great way to travel. You’re not waiting for trains, or stuck in a hot car. And there’s a romantic edge to it – those old Italian films where people scoot around looking chic!
What do you always pack in your Globe-Trotter case?
A notebook and pen. A notebook can double up as a sketchbook for drawings, a place to jot down inspirational ideas, or just as a diary to record things you’ve done day to day or places visited and shops and restaurants that you might recommend to friends. I also pack quite a few watches. I rotate my watches most days – different watches for different outfits. When I’m on holiday this gives me the sense that I am not just throwing something on thoughtlessly. All my watches are vintage and my favourite is a 1966 Omega Seamaster, which I bought for myself when my grandfather passed away as a way to remember him.
What are the luxuries you never travel without?
I always take aftershave – eau de cologne. It’s like the watches – it makes you feel properly dressed. And I love that feeling when you’ve been on a beach or by a pool and you shower, reflect on the day, and then dress for the evening. That’s when scents comes into their own. I use two mostly – Penhaligan’s As Sawira, which has a strong, classic, manly smell and Acqua di Parma Colonia, which is lemony and very summery. I also pack a moisturiser from Heath London, to keep to my daily grooming routine that I follow at home.
What is your go-to travel outfit?
High-waisted linen trousers by my friend Scott Fraser Simpson – who I share a studio with (Scott Fraser Collection), because they are lightweight and comfortable but also look smart – a white vest worn under a casual long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of relaxed penny loafers. And a nice watch, of course. It’s a look that works happily on a plane, a scooter, on a beach – where you can take off the shirt and/or vest – and for an evening aperitif or meal. It speaks of smartness but also a casual attitude. That’s just my style. Lots of people change their style when they travel, particularly when they are on holiday. I don’t.
As a keen photographer, what camera do you use when travelling and what images are you looking to capture?
A lot of the time I just use my iPhone – the quality is so good these days and you always have it on you. I also have an old Canon film camera that I always carry in my Globe-Trotter and just put into my pocket when I am going out abroad. I’m on the lookout for scenes of everyday life that will inspire me when I come back home – I love the vibrancy of markets, for example. In Sicily last year, I found this amazing food market with massive avocados and huge aubergines, and little dogs running around. I might snap a scene there, or people filleting anchovies in Palermo, or a good-looking older couple out for a walk. I remember once sitting waiting for my girlfriend, having a coffee and seeing this older Italian guy in slacks with a sweater slung over his shoulders. He looked great and probably dressed like that all his life. So I asked if I could shoot him. Also, I’m always recording images of interiors for inspiration for my work. And I love vintage cars. Anything that suits my personal aesthetic attracts my attention. I also have to say that I’m a sucker for taking pictures of perfect sunrises and sunsets and cats and dogs. What a cliché!
Do you have a favourite image that you have taken that captures the romance of travel for you?
I took a really nice photo of water buffalo in Vietnam. For me this is not really about the animals, but about what had just happened before the picture. We’d been travelling for about five hours and we came through a lovely untouched village surrounded by rice fields.I saw these lads playing football and, as I am a football fan, I thought if I don’t go and have a kick around I’ll regret it. The local kids were delighted and loved it, as did I. As I was about to leave, these water buffalo invaded the pitch and I took the shot. Now it just reminds me of playing football with some kids.
You have a Globe-Trotter 18-inch trolley case in orange. What do you like about it?
I use my Globe-Trotter all the time and I love it. It’s called an Orient model as it is inspired by the luxury of travelling on the Orient Express – something that’s still on my to-do list. The case is hand-finished with Japanese “Urushi” lacquer, created from the urushi tree’s sap, and it has a high-gloss, smooth look and feel. There is a tiny print all over it too. The leather trimmings are in a contrasting burgundy – so it has a very unusual colour combination. It’s a carry-on and I always travel with it. I’m very protective of it as it’s so beautiful, and it’s just big enough for a short trip of a few days. The colour is what attracted me to it. I love the orange, and it sits within a palette that I really like of greens and creams. I also know that it’s going to get better with age. It’s great when you see old Globe-Trotters that have really been used a lot. I always wonder where they’ve been and what their owners have seen. There’s something very intriguing and romantic about that.
And if you could choose another Globe-Trotter, what would it be?
I like the 26-inch Safari trolley case with natural straps, corners and handle. It’s a little larger than my orange one. The look is classic, but the cream highlights give it an edge. I wouldn’t get bored with it. And I can really imagine travelling with it in the winter and using my orange one for the summer. Alternatively, I must say that the No Time to Die 007 carry-on four-wheel trolley case in ocean green with black trim is very nice too, as is the limited-edition carbon fibre 007 trolley case. These 007 limited-editions are handsome and collectable.