Porto, Parmesan and personal trainers: designer Matthew Hilton talks taste
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My personal style signifiers are my Adidas Samba classic trainers. I’m not into fashion, but I’ve always been into clothes and I have a particular way of dressing. My style is practical, for work and travel. I’ve worn out about eight pairs of those trainers and I have three at present. From £69.95; adidas.co.uk
The last thing I bought and loved was my Leica CL camera. I used to have an M9 that was lovely, but I found it frustratingly old-school. The CL has a smaller sensor, but is great quality and quite small. I have owned and sold close to 24 cameras since the early days of digital and none has been perfect. I’d love to design one. £2,250; uk.leica-camera.com
And the thing I’m eyeing next is another camera – I’d like the Nikon Z7, which is one of Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras. The light passes straight through the lens and onto the sensor, so you get a precise preview of the image on the viewfinder. From £3,999; nikon.co.uk
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Mount Toubkal in Morocco. The trip was my girlfriend’s idea. We stayed four days in the winter and the mountains were beautiful, but as we climbed with our guide past the snow line, the wind got so strong it was knocking us over, so we had to go back down. Now I want to return there and climb higher.
An indulgence I would never forgo is good coffee in the best place I can find locally, wherever I am. I try not to think about my mood before finishing the first cappuccino or flat white of the day; early morning is not a good time for me. There is a place called Four Boroughs that I go to on the way to my studio in south London. It’s popular with cyclists and I’m into cycling too. 10 Church Road, London SE19 (fourboroughs.co.uk)
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is sculptor Eduardo Chillida. His work looks like it was built, but with minimal intervention. I like the massive weight of it. The pieces look like industrial objects, but there are also faces and torsos, and they have interesting little joints and curves. I like the roughness and the power of them.
The last music I downloaded was At Fillmore East the first live album by the Allman Brothers Band. I love the blend of rolling guitar blues and jazz. I was honoured to meet Chuck Leavell, the keyboard player, a year or so ago and he was charming. The Allman Brothers and Van Morrison were part of my first outdoor-festival experience at Knebworth in 1974.
A recent “find” is tailor Charlie Allen, who I knew during my college days and has great personal style. I have had velvet jackets and two suits made by him. 1 Coopers Yard, 181 Upper Street, London N1 (020-7359 0883; charlieallen.co.uk)
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Kricket White City, the Indian small-plate restaurant at the renovated BBC building. The food is very good, but what I liked most was the large contemporary space and the fact that I was with 10 or so people from my days at Habitat, a period of my career that was really important for me. 101 Wood Lane, London W12 (020-3958 2867; kricket.co.uk)
My favourite websites are ones about watches, which I am obsessed with at the moment. I find looking at these sites is a kind of meditation for me. I often visit Hodinkee.com and Watchclub.com. My most used apps are Trainline and Bus Guru.
My style icon is Steve McQueen. I like how simple his style was. It was very American: T-shirts, jeans and chinos. Slightly scruffy, but he always looked good because he kept himself in shape. I love the simplicity of his look, but also how rugged it was.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a beautiful handmade canoe, scaled down to about a metre long, made from glued lathes of what I think might be larch. I found it in a market in Brighton. It was a gift to my girlfriend’s great friend, who is a guitarist. It was fitting because he owns canoes, but also because it has the feel of an instrument.
And the best one I’ve received recently was a ticket to see David Byrne in concert in Brighton. It was such an upbeat experience and the staging was impressive – minimal with good lighting, as if it was a set for modern dance. Everyone on stage wore a grey suit in a slightly different cut and it was all beautifully choreographed.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a piece of rusted metal I found on the beach at Shingle Street in Suffolk. I really like it – it looks like a mask or a figure in profile, or perhaps a kind of helmet. At some point I am going to mount it on fabric and frame it.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a navy-blue down-filled jacket from Uniqlo, which fulfils all my most practical travel criteria – it is lightweight, water- resistant, packs away small and is super-warm. From £59.90; uniqlo.com
An object I would never part with is a ceramic mug my son made me when he was about six or seven years old that has “Happy Birthday Dad” engraved on the side.
My favourite room in my house is the lounge, where my TV and music are. I have a grey modular Togo sofa from Ligne Roset, which I chose because I don’t have high ceilings and it sits low to the floor. It is constructed from foam, so I can move the pieces around easily. It’s a design classic. Togo small sofa, £2,057; ligne-roset.com
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the area around Clérigos in Porto. I first started going to the city over 10 years ago and there has been so much renovation since then. I miss the beauty of some of the decay, but it’s still amazing. I like the Portuguese-made goods at A Vida Portuguesa – they’re all packaged in such a decorative way, using great colours. There’s the incredible art nouveau bookshop Livraria Lello and a stationery store with a similarly handsome vintage interior, Araujo & Sobrinho. Vista Alegre is a famous ceramics company that makes crazy things with cabbages and frogs on them. It’s bonkers but it’s great. Araujo & Sobrinho, Largo São Domingos 55, 4050-545 Porto (+351-9173 85220; araujoesobrinho.pt). A Vida Portuguesa, Rua de Cândido dos Reis 36, 4050-151 Porto (+351-2220 2105; avidaportuguesa.com). Livraria Lello, Rua das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto (livrarialello.pt). Vista Alegre, Rua das Carmelitas 40, 4050-161 Porto (+351-2220 04554; vistaalegre.com/eu)
The grooming staple I’m never without is Dior Eau Sauvage, because I like how classic and unfashionable it is. I also use Nivea and a little hair wax that I get from my hairdresser, Fourth Floor. Dior Eau Sauvage, £55 for 50ml EDT; dior.com. Fourth Floor, 4 Northington Street, London WC1 (020-7405 6011; 4thfloor.co.uk)
The person I rely on for wellbeing is my personal trainer, Annamaria Credenzone, who I see once a week. She was a professional fighter and British Thai boxing champion. vitruvianpt.com
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Brighton. It’s the perfect size and it has the sea, which has a great effect on me. There are good restaurants and you can easily get away to the countryside. I like going to get my hair cut at The Barber Club, which is a contemporary, Shoreditch-style barber. Marmalade is one my favourite cafés – it has superb coffee and good food, and the interior is really nice. It has also just taken over a little shack opposite and converted it into a coffee stall. There’s the Royal Pavilion, which I have mixed feelings about but is still very interesting – it’s a fantasy building, and despite being a palace, it feels like a theatre set that might be temporary. Food for Friends is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, with an excellent vegetarian menu.The Barber Club, 4 Bartholomews, BN1 1HG (01273-271 660; thebarberclub.net). Food for Friends, 17-18 Prince Albert Street, BN1 1HF (01273-202 310; foodforfriends.com). Marmalade, 237 Eastern Road, BN2 5JJ (01273-606 138; cafemarmalade.co.uk). Royal Pavilion, 4-5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton BN1 1EE (03000-290 9900; brightonmuseums.org)
The best book I’ve read in the past year is A Matrix, which is a collection of work by the artist Takesada Matsutani. I went to his show at Hauser & Wirth in London recently and was impressed with how direct, powerful and abstract the work was. I’m ashamed to say I don’t really read fiction any more, but I buy a lot of art and design books.
In my fridge you’ll always find minced beef and Parmesan and the other ingredients to make spaghetti bolognese. My son lives with me half of the week and I feel guilty about buying ready meals. He loves pasta.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a fine artist. I do a lot of work that is not practical design and I draw all the time using my iPad, creating prints and ideas for sculptures that I intend to have a show of one day. For now I just have an iPad full of ideas, but I did give a small number of prints to friends at the start of the year.
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