How the UK's top interior designers have decorated their own homes

How have some of the UK’s best-known names done up their own homes? A new book reveals all

Rita Konig kitchen
Rita Konig's kitchen Credit: Simon Griffiths

Rita Konig's farmhouse in County Durham

To Rita Konig, home is ‘where you collapse at the end of the day; where your friends gather.  I always think of a room as a place where I will sit, rather than how it will look from the doorway.’

She describes her decorating style as ‘classical, practical and comfortable’, with ‘a modern unstuffiness’. Her farmhouse in County Durham, where she, her husband Philip and their daughter Margot spend weekends and holidays, had been in Philip’s family for generations, but had been rented out for years. ‘When I first saw it about four years ago, I realised its potential,’ says Rita. ‘It wasn’t falling down, but was just shabby.’ 

Rita Konig Credit: Simon Griffiths

As well as dealing with damp issues and replacing the roof, they altered the layout and had the garages converted into a kitchen/dining room and scullery, with two bedrooms and bathrooms overhead, bringing the total to seven bedrooms and five bathrooms.

‘I love having somewhere for people to come and stay,’ says Rita. ‘The bedrooms work well because of the positions of the bathrooms – everyone feels as if they have their own, even though they aren’t “en suite”. It just doesn’t feel like the kind of house that should have en-suite bathrooms.’

Classical-style Schumacher wallpaper and antique table are lightened up by a blush-pink headboard in a bedroom Credit: Simon Griffiths

When it came to the decoration, she didn’t immediately plan exactly how it should look. ‘I wanted to make sure the house looked as if it had evolved over time, and not too decorated,’ she says.  One thing she loves about the house is the opportunity to put together things that she’s bought ‘at fairs or on Instagram late at night’, or that have been given to her by her mother, the interior designer Nina Campbell. 

There’s a sense that the house will never quite be finished, and she likes it that way. ‘It’s good to leave gaps in a room, so that you can add things or change things later.’

Beata Heuman's London house

Credit: Simon Griffiths

‘We completely fell in love with it straight away,’ says Beata Heuman (above) of the Victorian house she has lived in for the past four years with her husband, John, and their two young daughters, Gurli and Alma. ‘So many houses like this get picked apart and become open plan, but this was quite well designed to begin with – and unspoilt.’ 

Swedish-born Heuman started her design career working with the legendary decorator Nicky Haslam, and evidence of that training can be seen here, in the humour of her interiors, and her love of design  history. ‘It’s so important to be informed by the past,’ she says. 

She has created an interior that is joyful and unexpected, with echoes of her Swedish childhood. An example of her wit can be found on the walls of the dining room (below left), covered in a custom wallpaper by Tibor. ‘I love the fact that it looks as though someone has just drawn on to the wall,’ she says.

Credit: Simon Griffiths

Rather than going for the obvious, she often adds a creative touch: the headboard in the main bedroom (above centre) is made from a throw, edged with blue velvet.  Outside, she has worked her magic on the garden room (above right), which was built by the previous owners, by decorating the walls with stencils and furnishing it with an oversized armchair upholstered in one of her favourite Pierre Frey fabrics.

‘It’s lovely to sit here at night after the children are in bed,’ she says. ‘Just to have a drink and relax. Having a bit of distance from the house, yet still being here.’

Robert Kime's London flat

Credit: Simon Griffiths

With his background in antiques, it is unsurprising that Robert Kime’s flat is full of interesting things. He started collecting coins at the age of five, and by the time he was reading history at Oxford, was buying and selling antiques. His path to interior design came through his work as a dealer: clients admired his home, and asked him to design theirs. He has since worked extensively with the Prince of Wales, among others.

Kime lived in a number of houses with his wife, Helen Nicoll (author of the Meg and Mog children’s books), and their two children. Helen died in 2012, and this flat near his shop in Pimlico has been home for the past three years. He reconfigured the layout, knocking out walls, creating arches and installing fireplaces.

Kime’s artworks are hung on chains from a brass rail, to make them easier to move from place to place – a sign of the impermanence of any one decorating scheme Credit: Simon Griffiths

Throughout, the pale-blue walls form a cooling backdrop for his collection of artworks, textiles and objects.  It only took a matter of weeks to put the decor together. ‘I work quickly,’ he says. As for whether it feels like home? ‘Yes, it’s fine – I think I like it here,’ he says. There’s just one thing he’d change: ‘I’d like all the lights to work!’

British Designers at Home is published on Thursday (Hardie Grant, £30)