x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'The heart of my home is the kitchen'

Home in the life of Mark Bickerstaffe, a director of new product development at Kohler, a world leader in kitchen and bathroom design.

Mark Bickerstaffe's house in England offers sweeping views across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
Mark Bickerstaffe's house in England offers sweeping views across the Bristol Channel to Wales.

Mark Bickerstaffe is the director of new product development for Europe and Asia Pacific at Kohler, a world leader in kitchen and bathroom design. He lives with his family in England.

My childhood home was very traditional. I grew up just outside London but although it was an unremarkable upbringing, my father, who was an engineer, had a big influence on me. I was always drawing and getting ideas down on paper. I did an engineering degree but then followed it with a Masters in design as that suited me more.

I travelled extensively from my teenage years onwards and since then, every job I've done has a huge international component so, inevitably, I am influenced by travel. Culturally, I love Italy; the countryside, the spirit of the people, the craziness of the whole place. Italians are at the forefront of cutting edge design - they don't necessarily have the quality, but certainly the thinking. I also love the United States, it's got such open space and freedom, I love the way you can see and do a lot very easily. Luckily I get to spent time in both.

Home is a small town called Clevedon, just outside Bristol so it has the ideal balance of an urban and rural environment. We lived in a Georgian rectory there for six years but for the last 12 months have been renovating an old Victorian property right on the coast. It was originally four flats so it required massive structural work and a lot of struggle, effort and anxiety to get it exactly as we want it. We moved in at the end of last year so we are just beginning to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

I really enjoy working within traditional structures and I have the utmost respect for what has gone before, but within that I like to create a very contemporary interior. You won't find a cast iron bath on legs in my house but what you will find is a very modern bathroom with the beautiful traditional architrave and traditional details all intact.

A few, but essentially, our furniture is a mix of ultra modern with chairs by Philippe Starck and Verna Panton combined with traditional pieces.

I am very minimal but I love depth of material. Our new home is mainly a simple white palette but on the floors, fireplaces and staircase, we've added layers of depth in natural material to add warmth. Added to that there are elements of surprise sneaking around in the smaller rooms, so you are in this very cool open space, but open the door and a bright pink bathroom jumps out at you - I find details like that exciting.

I collect things that I value highly so I suppose I am a hoarder. My wife is the opposite as she is a real declutterer so between the two we've found a good balance. In terms of the house everything on show is minimal as we'd rather have the objects speaking to the house rather than the clutter.

I'd save our art as we have pieces by Andy Warhol and an American artist call Carrie Fell whose work I really admire. I'd probably try and take down a light I designed that's hanging in our sitting room before it melted and if I had help, I'd also try and carry out the Corbusier chaise longue.

Given a free palette, I would create a space where I could easily bring the outside in as, after all, it is a natural world despite all we've done to urbanise it. However, too often a garden can become something else entirely - a source of stress, when ultimately, it should be for relaxing in without making too big a statement.

Undoubtedly the kitchen - it's a cliché but it really is the heart of the home. We spend all our time walking, talking, living in our kitchen space and we've taken a lot of effort to make sure that it is very flexible and open. It runs the depth of the house and is surrounded by windows. Although the design is minimal, it is light, airy and warm.

To me home is an expression of my life and I have a passion for the details of life. I care about people but I also care about my environment and I guess my home is an opportunity for me to allow people to feel relaxed, open and happy in it.

My house is almost, but not quite, my ultimate home. Ideally, I would love to design - but not build - a house with a purely modernist focus; a place where our needs, wants and desires are given a totally free rein.