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Meet interior designer and antiques expert James Thurstan Waterworth

The Soho House alumnus shares his little black book of contacts for sourcing vintage designs, custom furniture and more…

a naturally fallen brazilian wood coffee table is the focus in this comfortable living area at melides art resort in portugal
Francisco Nogueira

Who is he? It was never part of James Thurstan Waterworth’s grand plan to become an interior designer. ‘It wasn’t top of the career adviser’s list at a boys’ boarding school in the countryside,’ he says wryly. But his experience with dyslexia led him to crave a creative, hands-on career. This expressed itself as a teenage passion for design books and magazines. ‘I was lucky to be surrounded by antiques, too, as my stepmother is a dealer,’ he adds. He did an interior design course at London’s KLC School of Design and then took on a junior position with designer Martin Brudnizki, which eventually led to a role as European design director at Soho House. Here, he was responsible for the robust comfort and quiet elegance of its properties around the world. In 2018, he set up his Notting Hill studio, Thurstan.

interior designer
Interior designer James Thurstan Waterworth
Photographer: Simon Brown

What is his style? Waterworth embraces a wide variety of projects, taking on everything from Georgian country houses to new builds on Greek islands. He sticks to certain fundamental rules, though.

‘I have an eclectic approach and like mixing objects from different periods’

‘A space needs to feel comfortable both in terms of touch and light; lighting is key to all our designs,’ he explains. ‘I have an eclectic approach and like mixing objects from different periods, alongside calm colours and soft patterns.’ Another signature is the blending of antiques with custom pieces; Waterworth sells a curated selection of the former, and designs bespoke pieces in-house, often handmade sustainably using wood from fallen trees.

interior design
New Mayfair restaurant Le Comptoir Robuchon with its rich rust-hued velvet chairs and banquette designed by Waterworth himself, with mosaic tiling anda bespoke Italian pendant
Simon Brown

What are his recent projects? The studio has lately completed a Georgian townhouse in London with ‘beautifully proportioned rooms and the most incredible light and details’, as well as the interiors of Le Comptoir Robuchon, a new Mayfair restaurant by the team of the late, legendary French chef Joël Robuchon. ‘It’s a new building with very little in terms of a story, so we had to create our own – Robuchon himself was our starting point,’ says Waterworth. The focus is an 18-metre-long kitchen bar in grey Calacatta Antico marble, warmed with rust-hued velvet seating and mosaic-tiled floors.

interior designer
A late-20th-century stone sculpture sits on an ebonisedplinth beside a 1970s Brutalist ‘Mosaic’ dresser, in a London family home
Simon Brown

What is he currently working on? Melides Art, a contemporary coastal residential and hotel development in Portugal, and The Bradley Hare, a pub in Maiden Bradley in Wiltshire, which has been converted from an old manor farm house. Due to open in 2021, it will have 16 guest rooms, each one unique and decorated with antiques and bespoke furniture. He says: ‘The human touch should never be underestimated in an interior; the sense of smell is important, too. I enjoy using natural materials like wood because, for me, they bring longevity to a design.’ thurstandesign.com; melidesart.com


Every project has its own unique list of suppliers and craftspeople. Part of making it special is finding the right mix and match. Here, we delve into the James Thurstan Waterworth’s essential contacts…


I’ve been buying from Nick Jones Antiques for a long time now. Not only is he the loveliest of dealers, but he always has at least one piece that I want to leave his shop with – it could be something as simple as a beautiful 19th-century French glass vase. @nick_jones_antiques


When we need a properly made bespoke piece, Rupert Bevan in London is the place we go. He’s a trained restorer and gilder, with a rich understanding of materials, and the attention to detail in his team’s work is second to none. There’s nothing he can’t figure out. rupertbevan.com


Francesca’s Paints is a small but lovely shop that sells eco-friendly and traditional limewash paints. The range of colours is really interesting– being able to play around with unique shades and finishes is very important to me, so we have worked with them on many of our projects. francescaspaint.com


The team at London House Rugs has a vast range of knowledge. As well as many bespoke styles, such as kilims, Aubusson carpets and contemporary patterns, there are also antique pieces. For us, the company is a delight to work with as its turn around is fast and the customer care is incredible. londonhouserugs.co.uk

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration July 2020

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