John Rocha at home: bathing under the twilight sky
‘My style is a balance – it is modern, warm, welcoming and, I hope, comfortable’
John Rocha, designer of fashion, jewellery, architecture, crystal and interiors: Photograph Simon Brown
John Rocha’s sitting room: “I like to create calm, relaxing environments so I use a tight neutral palette of materials to create space, broken white walls and ceilings, dark wooden or light stone or marble floors.” Photograph: Simon Brown
John Rocha’s free-flow crystal vessels created for Waterford Crystal. They were a limited edition collection made with the craftsmen in Waterford. Photograph: Simon Brown
John Rocha is one of Ireland’s foremost designers whose work encompasses fashion, jewellery, architecture, crystal and interiors and who has worked on both public and private spaces in Ireland and abroad. He is from Hong Kong but has been based in Ireland for more than 30 years, working closely with his wife, muse and business partner Odette. He was named British Designer of the Year in 1993 and received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth in 2002. His daughter Simone follows in the family tradition and scooped the British Womenswear Designer of the Year award in London in December.
Describe your interiors style
I think my style is a balance – it is modern, warm, welcoming and, I hope, comfortable. I like to create calm, relaxing environments so I use a tight neutral palette of materials to create space, broken white walls and ceilings, dark wooden or light stone or marble floors. Then I layer in character with considered pieces – textures in cushions and textiles, colour in paintings, books and accessories and little culture with pieces from my travels from all over the world and all sorts of places.
Which room do you most enjoy and why?
It has to be my bathroom. I designed it so that it connects directly on to our roof terrace. On those evenings when the weather is fine, I open up the full height doors and then sit in my big stone bath and watch the sky at twilight – wonderful.
What items do you love most and why?
So many things give me pleasure, but if I have to choose, then my Sean Scully painting that hangs in my sitting room has always been a source of so much happiness and inspiration. The free-flow crystal vessels I created for Waterford Crystal. These were a limited edition collection made with the craftsmen in Waterford. I still love the colours and texture of these pieces. My sofa! I designed this and the armchairs for my first RJR John Rocha living collection in Debenhams and had it covered in gorgeous elephant grey Irish linen. It is still as comfortable as ever. And a great place from which to watch the football!
Who is your favourite designer? Do you own any of their work?
Probably John Pawson. When I first saw his work, it resonated with me so much, it made complete sense. The clarity of the spaces he creates and the incredible attention to detail throughout all his work is wonderful. I don’t own any of his work, but have been lucky enough to spend timed in some of the spaces he has created.
Which artists do you most admire?
I love the work of Sean Scully – the colours he uses and the forms he creates are wonderful. The strength and certainty of his work is inspiring. I have always loved Robert Rauschenberg’s work. His exploration and connection between art and the lived-in world is a balance that fascinates me and I am really looking forward to seeing the new exhibition at the Tate Modern.
And way before we became good friends, I was a fan of Guggi’s work. Its strength and serenity is a joy to me. I love his paintings and the seeming simplicity of form in his vessels. I particularly love his sculptural pieces – he creates the subtlest textures and the perfect balance of form.
What is your biggest interior turn off?
Probably busily swirly patterned carpets. I really like calm environments and the visual “noise” that swirly whirly carpets like that create doesn’t do it for me.
Which travel destination stands out?
For awe and wonder there is nowhere to compare Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The first time Odette and I went there, we got up in the middle of the night so that we could be there at 4am for the sunrise. It was incredible – the sense of spirit was almost overwhelming and completely humbling. For my other great passion, fishing in northern Russia, on a river called the Varzuga. Out in the nethers of nowhere, beautiful wild landscapes and the best salmon fishing in the world!
If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home, what would that be?
What a nice idea! I would love to own one of Gary Hume’s Faces. I saw an exhibition at the White Cube in London ages ago and remember thinking how wonderful it would be to have one hanging in my house.