It excites me to see two seemingly disparate things sitting together that look brilliant.
Atrip to Morocco 13 years ago transformed Tamsin Flower’s life. She met her husband, Duncan, while they were both working on the set of the film Alexander (she in the costume department; he as a location manager), and their first date was at a rooftop party he threw in Essaouira. ‘It was such a gorgeous house that I almost think it’s what made me fall in love with Duncan,’ Tamsin recalls, ‘I swooned and was a bit like, “You’re so beautiful, and you’re living in this amazing house.”’
The property was actually a stylishly renovated holiday rental belonging to British expat Emma Wilson, with whom Tamsin became firm friends, and she regularly travelled back to the house for holidays. Four years ago, Tamsin struck upon the idea of setting up Beldi, a business offering the colourful vintage Moroccan that adorn Emma’s house.
‘Emma used to be an interior designer and had been stockpiling rugs that she couldn’t resist,’ explains Tamsin, ‘Even if she didn’t have a space for a rug, she’d put it in a cupboard. So when I suggested the idea of selling them in the UK, she was really up for the idea.’
The Edwardian home in north-west London that Tamsin and Duncan share with their two children, Fordy, seven, and Tippi, two, is full of thoughtfully displayed vintage finds, proving that great style doesn’t necessarily involve splashing the cash.
What was the house like when you bought it? We’ve always loved these Edwardian houses, but it wasn’t love at first sight by any means – we came to view it three times. A couple had been living here for about 30 years and there were thick layers of wallpaper, shaggy carpets and a very strange plastic lean-to at the back of the house. I always said I didn’t want a house that had already been ‘done’, but building the extension with a small child in the house was quite daunting.
How long did the renovations take? It took about a year in total, and we lived here for most of it. The extension and kitchen refit was done over the summer – we managed to find enough friends who were going on holiday to let us house-sit for two weeks at a time.
How would you describe your decorating style? I like Mid-Century style, but it’s about getting the balance right. I prefer things that are soft and friendly-looking, rather than very angular G-Plan-style furniture. Pieces from France and Italy from the same period tend to be more exuberant and a bit softer and curvier. The tripod lamp in the sitting room is my favourite.
You have lots of lovely vintage pieces…. I’m a bit of a magpie. I’ve never worried about where things are going to go, or how to put them together. That’s something that I really love doing. I like mixing things together from different periods. It excites me to see two seemingly disparate things sitting together that look brilliant. My parents have a house in France, and my husband’s parents live in Brussels. He’s half French, so we tend to go to a lot of flea markets, and most of it comes from there, really. In London, I always like to have a good rummage around the Capital Carboot in Pimlico.
Tell us about your rug business… We started Beldi about four years ago and specialise in vintage Moroccan rugs. I’ve always loved finding out about the story behind old objects, and that was why I started the business. I love the different styles of Moroccan rugs from the timeless elegant style of the beni Ouarain rug with their cream back ground and black diamonds Boucherouite rag rugs that come in such vibrant colours and patterns. Each rug is unique; lots of the patterns are passed down through the generations of one family.
How do you manage to run a business when you’re based in different countries? We email constantly and have a good catch-up via Skype a couple of times a week. Emma is usually sitting in the sunshine – she lives just outside Essaouira – and I’ll be indoors with a cup of tea. She does all the fun bits, like sourcing the vintage rugs and working with the weavers on new designs, and I do a lot of admin, like the tax returns! We have a studio here in London, and I love helping clients choose what suits them.
What are you working on at the moment? A collection of new woven rugs with a lower price point. They’re more practical and affordable rugs, and would look great in a kid’s room. We also sell new made-to-order Beni Ourain rugs because they’re becoming harder to source. Also, Moroccan houses are generally very long and thin, and people in Europe tend to want their rugs in a squarer dimension.
Which is your favourite room at home? The family room. I’ve always wanted to have a rocking chair by a real fire. I bought the Ernest Race rocker from Retrouvius on Harrow Road, and we added the woodburner recently. It looks great, but we still haven’t had it plumbed in so it’s not keeping the house cosy yet!