At home with Lara Stone
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Dutch model Lara Stone is chopping vegetables in the kitchen of her Hampstead home. The French doors to her lavender-fringed garden are open, flooding the room with sunlight as the sounds of jazz fill the air. Fresh-faced, she’s dressed casually in stone-washed jeans and a shirt, her hair pulled into a ponytail – it’s a rare glimpse behind the supermodel persona formed on the catwalk she first walked for Givenchy couture in 2006, or the major magazine covers she has been gracing since 2007. She flashes her famed gap-toothed smile as her 41-year-old property developer husband David Grievson serves coffee at the kitchen table.
The couple bought their Victorian home in the leafy London enclave in 2020. They spent time stripping it to its bones and revising the layout, before moving in with Stone’s nine-year-old son Alfred (from a previous marriage to David Walliams) and their two cats in 2021 – they married the same year, having met in 2018.
Their neighbourhood circles the Heath, a green lung interlaced with woodlands, hills and natural bathing ponds that distil a quiet air of repose among the surrounding streets. The family have already thrown themselves into local life. Stone and her son now share a new pastime: wild swimming. “It’s such an addiction,” she says of the sense of exhilaration she derives from her bathing ritual in the famous ponds.
Home is their happy place, and a billboard for Grievson’s property design company, Coburn. He’s been designing upscale spaces for 20 years, honing his skills at developer Londonewcastle, and now offers a service from design to construction and, if their client so wishes, from furnishings to art. “Lara and Alf were my clients here,” says the designer, as he spreads a set of floor plans across the kitchen table and recounts the many hours spent poring over the drawings. The four floors of the house had been split into self-contained flats by the former owners, so the development had to be unfolded into a series of airy spaces layered with vintage finds, collectables and bursts of colour.
“Lara has had a lot of input,” says Grievson, pointing to the orange kettle on the stove – one of the 38-year-old model’s “homages” to her Dutch roots. “We also have a big orange sofa – and an orange car.”
We are seated at a large wooden table salvaged by Grievson from an accountant’s office – it is beautifully patinated by age, suggesting a piece rescued from a slowly decaying farmhouse rather than a slick urban hub. Brigitte Bardot watches proceedings from one side of the table, her image immortalised in a black-and-white photograph (“most people think it’s Lara,” Grievson remarks of the actress whose extraordinary likeness has been compared to Stone’s since the start of her career) and on the other side is a George III mahogany apothecary cabinet, sourced from Cloverleaf Home Interiors, which is filled with the couple’s copper and glassware. “I’ve always loved brown furniture – I think it’s making a comeback,” Grievson smiles.
Old and new are juxtaposed effortlessly. Grievson’s second-hand hauls complement a modern kitchen with its quartz-topped island and wall of storage. “It shouldn’t work, but it does. I guess that comes from years of dressing show homes,” says Grievson, who laughs out loud at the mention of two metal robots sitting atop a cabinet. His numerous vintage pilgrimages indulge a sense of humour – and childhood memories. “There’s a silver and cream one from Sunbury Antiques Market – they’re remote control, from the ’70s. I want to find more!” Stone is not convinced. “Yes, they look cute up there but they were in our bedroom in our old house, which was creepy,” she jokes, her Dutch accent still discernible despite her having been based in London since 2009.
“I must show you this piece – it’s by a very interesting up-and-coming artist,” Grievson continues, pointing out a framed vinyl record splattered with colour in the mode of Damien Hirst’s spin paintings. “It’s by Alfred Stone, an early work.” Stone’s son is an artist in the making. “We have lots of framed pieces by Alf,” she says proudly.
A larger artwork hangs above the orange sofa in the living room; it’s by Grievson’s old friend the contemporary landscape artist Lucy Kent. “It’s an early one – her work has evolved so much since, but we love it,” he says. The colours pop against the muted backdrop – a calming palette that was orchestrated by Stone. “I like relaxing,” she says of her neutral scheme. “I asked a Farrow & Ball paint consultant to come to the house. We went through all the rooms together and she brought large samples, which we stuck on the wall to help us decide. It took all the fear away and, by the end, I became really good at colour selection – apparently I’m drawn to green, which is why we’ve used a very pale shade in the room.”
Grievson’s contribution ramps up the eclecticism: a row of vintage cinema chairs, which he bought for £240 more than 10 years ago, lines one wall. “I was determined to find a place for them in here, as well as the old wireless in the corner, another Sudbury find,” he says. Glass decanters gathered on one wall shelf are evidence of another collecting rabbit hole Grievson has got lost in over the years.
“And I do love a globe,” he says, as we scale the stairs to the TV room, where another orange sofa is sited below a Michael Angel artwork, and a globe-shaped drinks trolley peeks out between the foliage of pot plants. The scatterings of Jonathan Adler objets turn out to be another minor obsession. “I once went to the greatest sample sale of all time, at a place off Portobello. I succumbed.”
The floral rug, thrown across the oak floor, injects flourishes of brighter hues. Stone discovered it in a small antiques shop in Wales. “I managed to get it into the car on my own and then had to roll it up two flights of stairs. I kept telling myself, I can do this, I don’t need no man. Two weeks later I saw my rug in Ikea. I thought, oh shit, I’ve been conned,” she laughs. “Thankfully, it wasn’t the same as my antique.”
Throughout the house are lots of personal specifications. Also on the first floor is a utility room (“Much needed with a nine-year-old”) and “grown-up airing cupboard”, as well as an en-suite bedroom “created to lure our parents to come and stay”. Grievson’s ethos “to use every inch of the house” meant stripping back to the brickwork and starting much of the design from scratch. “My site manager once refused Lara access because she was wearing Birkenstocks.” Stone erupts with laughter. “I love my Birkenstocks. I have so many, even the fluffy ones.”
Stone now has a dedicated area for her beloved sandals in her walk-in wardrobe – a sartorial sanctuary in the couple’s second-floor bedroom suite that would stop Carrie Bradshaw in her tracks. Her wedding veil hangs in full view on the mirror – her dress, made by Grievson’s sister, the designer Chessie Grievson of Tephi (Pippa Middleton is a fan), is tucked away safely within the racks. A number of the shelves display designer bags, others heels, including several pairs of eye-catching orange stilettos.
Alfred has his own place of escape – a secret space within his bedroom – there is also a not-so-secret secret cupboard beside the stairwell with steps behind a trapdoor leading to the cellar plant room. Meanwhile, Grievson’s retreat is his home office, which has two notable aspects: one, the view of the garden, the other Stone’s iconic magazine covers framed above his desk. He is ousted to the garden house, however, when he wants to gaze upon another shrine: his collection of Tottenham Hotspur memorabilia.
Other pieces around the house speak of shared memories. The bedspread in the couple’s bedroom was bought on their first ever holiday to Sri Lanka. “Despite the heat, I snuggled under it every day in the car while David had the air con on,” Stone recalls. The painting above their bed is from Bay Gallery Home, a specialist in Australian Aboriginal art based in the Cotswolds, picked up at Hampstead’s Affordable Art Fair. “It’s a ‘water dreaming’ painting made up of individual dots of paint by the artist Louise Nangala Egan,” Stone says.
One of the first pieces of art they bought together hangs in the first-floor hallway: Junwon Lee’s acrylic and paint abstract entitled Inner Dance, 2022, also found at the Affordable Art Fair. “It was great to buy art so close to home, but it’s not so affordable,” Stone whispers in jest. “David and I have such similar tastes.” Grievson raises an eyebrow. “In everything apart from wallpaper,” he says. To which Stone rebuts. “David has terrible taste in wallpaper.” I ask who wins. “Me!” Stone laughs.
Grievson’s favourite piece, another by Lucy Kent, is a vision of a cornfield. “It’s a commission. I saw this picture of a cornfield with a bright-blue sky and asked her to use it as inspiration. She came back with this wonderful artwork,” he says of the Wiltshire-based artist. “I commissioned six of her paintings in my first house, and we have three of them in this house. My mum and dad have the others.”
One of the most useful spots in the house is the boot room – they are well prepared for days out on the Heath. For Stone, it’s a far cry from her other life as a model stomping down the runway – but one she embraces. “I don’t believe there is a day that goes by when we don’t say, ‘I can’t believe we live here,’” she says.