Itâs hard to believe thereâs even an alleyway in east London left ungentrified, but push on through Clapton and you hit Lea Bridge Road, an artisanal coffee shop free zone. Though not for long. Regeneration plans cast the area as a mini Holland with segregated cycle lanes. Thereâll be Copenhagen style crossings and vibrant public spaces.
Fashion designer Peter Jensen, who moved here in 2014, is amused by the evocation of liberal European culture. As a Dane heâs used to the British love of Scandinavian style. âEngland is a business country and British people are much better at grabbing opportunity than the Scandinavians, so that style has become a thing to buy,â he says. âBut you guys get bored easily, too. Scandi chic will die down. That obsession with hyggeâ¦ now that was strange. For Danish people, thatâs a state of mind. You canât buy it.â
Jensenâs flat shows his own outlook is pretty hygge. The warm glow of candles illuminates BjÃ¸rn Wiinblad chinaware and Iittala glasses from his childhood. Even his sofa and bedroom furniture is Danish, courtesy of Chase & Sorensen, a furniture shop which specialises in Scandinavian design in nearby Dalston.
But Jensen is just as sympathetic to the origins of his Lea Bridge flat. It was built by Thomas C Warner, one of the largest landowners in the area in the 19th century, whose east London building spree of homes for working and middle-class families created the slate roof, yellow-brick two-storey homes that still line many Walthamstow streets today. As nearby properties have been renovated, Jensen has collected discarded original doors to replace substandard fittings in his flat. Sanded down to reveal the wood grain, they add to the warm atmosphere of his stripped interiors. âThatâs one very Scandinavian thing â I hate carpets.â
Jensenâs fashion label takes on a new muse each season. His inspiration is always a forceful woman, often cult figures, such as pools winner Viv Nicholson, or Meryl Streep or ice-skater Tonya Harding. âI think it goes back to my upbringing. I was brought up by women, and Denmark in the 1970s was run by women.â
Everywhere are mementos from his collaborations. Laurie Simmonsâ artworks featuring his clothes hang over the fireplace. Julie Verhoevenâs illustrations of Barbara Hepworth, Nina Simone, Jodie Foster and Gertrude Stein, for his labelâs 15th anniversary collection decorate the hall. A Tim Walker photo of Jensen with model Karen Elson is on the kitchen wall.
Jensen is a sentimental collector. The objects he lingers over are all personal. The vinyl collection he has had forever; the glassware is from his mumâs wedding: âMy crockery is all from my fake gran. My dadâs mum had eight children and she was really tired, so my dad lived with this old lady â my fake gran She was very naughty and funny and I loved her very much.â; and heâs kept every bottle of Chanel No 22 heâs ever bought. âThe bottle is a brilliant design. Why wouldnât I keep that?â
Seeing beauty in the off-kilter has served Jensen well in his profession â and made him a wonderful home.