I've lived in four; I grew up in Ottawa, then Montreal, Paris and London. Both my parents were professors and we'd travel a lot; summers in Italy, Poland and Romania. Home was always Ottawa until I moved to Paris to study interior design at the studio of Andrèe Putman.
The house that stays in my mind the most is the one where I grew up. It was a beautiful, big house in a huge lot in Canada, and had the best of both worlds - huge greenery, but only 15 minutes from downtown. It's the house I grew up in until I was 13. It was initially quite small but then we renovated it and it became this huge, bright house. Every time I go back it feels like it is bathed in light even if it is freezing outside. It feels like a sun house.
I've actually not done that much. It's a rental house: that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! I'm fortunate to live in Jumeirah and what made me choose the house was that it was very bright. I guess a common trait in my houses is the natural light. We came with a lot of stuff from London and once we'd spread it through the house it kind of filled one room. So then we had to be creative. The current style is eclectic and charming. We've travelled a lot and as much as we're not hoarders we've kept mementos. These reflect who we are as a family. I've got classic antiques next to beautiful Ikea and recycled furniture that's been adapted and rejuvenated and reupholstered, stuff that's been with me for 20 years. It's definitely a home.
Dubai is very much transient, and that doesn't mean we can't invest, but often the sheer size of homes here precludes filling it. But I very much feel that it is OK to be in a state of flux. Everything is changing and nothing is frozen in time. There may be two rooms in the house that are 'finished' but we use those the most anyway. And the space allows for reinvention and temporary makeovers. I enjoy that a lot, and work permeates all aspects of life, and while I don't want to forget about work, I want it to work with me. I'll ring my husband at work and say let's have dinner in a particular room and we'll put something totally new together. For his birthday the first year we were here I redecorated the poolside and we had dinner there. It's like being away but you're at home.
The renovation in Ottawa was quite a trigger. It was fascinating to watch the architect reallocating spaces, to see things open up and spaces combine and redefine into something else. It is something that helped interest me in the process. I studied theoretical things, philosophy, but then decided I needed something more hands-on. That definitely directed me towards that, I love people and delving into their lives and various places.
I do like it. It's funny, my husband claims I like stability because I'm a Capricorn but that my rising Scorpio means I provoke change. I like stability but I do like to make changes in routine and move, in the end it is good exercise to go against the grain and do something challenging.
I studied under Andree Putman in Paris, she's my hero. She practically invented the loft in the 1980s; that very pared down, minimalist style. It was quite stark and geometric at times, not really my personal style, but an amazing school in terms of how you define a space. At the opposite end, there was Daniel Brisset in Montreal; he did the prime minister's house and it was totally the other end of the scale, completely over the top, full-on gold. It took me through the two extremes and then I found my home in Blanchard. Blanchard allowed me to define my own style and the eclecticism in my home, that's a pared down version of what you might see at Blanchard. We do classic contemporary that is timeless. As much as my home feels timeless, it's a home that moves with who we are, it's a home, not a monument.
Definitely internal spaces. The main thing for me is natural light and light in general. The way you arrange lighting in any space will make or break it. I'm terrible, I physically cannot stay in a space where the lighting is wrong. I will rearrange lights at a party. Recently we had a bit of a tiff with an architect, he was adamant that the shell was more important than the interior. We said it was beautiful but it didn't correspond to how the client lives. The priority is you have to retain a human scale, a warmth and harmony with where people are, who they live with and how they are feeling. I think that is why I would say people come into my home and think it's homely but doesn't look like a designer's home.
It's a place to escape the world, a place to regroup. It's nice to be in that cocoon of home, its also an open, laid-back space where friends know they're always welcome. The key is to have people you love around you. * Jo Croft