At home: Designer Theo Williams' London abode

MOST of us have something from Habitat in our homes, and if Theo Williams has anything to do with it we'll have a whole lot more. In his own home, the design director for the interiors giant has a houseful of Habitat gems that share the space along with some of his own ideas and he's made a comfortable abode for himself and his son Matisse without having to sacrifice style.

A one-bedroom flat in a Georgian terrace in London's Belsize Park, the apartment might be the home of the man who dictates what the style-conscious buy for their homes every weekend, but it's also very child-friendly. In fact, the presence of Matisse's toys and possessions adds to the cosy atmosphere by injecting splashes of colour, fun and practicality, from his wooden plane, car and motorbike to the red teepee and 140-year-old French high chair that sits at the large dining table.

As well as being a family home, the flat reflects Theo's vision for Habitat: that it should have traditional, modern and world items with a range of prices – the main criteria being that they are well designed.

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When Theo returned to the UK to take up the Habitat job after 17 years abroad he embarked on an overhaul of style and price. His aim was to make Habitat the place where people go for necessities, and while they're there, be tempted by the higher priced items. "I want people to need, love and dream. You go in for something you need, see another item you love and start to dream of having something else," says the Oxford-born Theo, who studied industrial design in Bristol and Manchester before leaving for Milan.

"I felt that the traditional take was missing and there weren't enough lower priced items. There would be a beautiful cushion but if you couldn't afford that there was nothing. The idea now is that you buy one beautiful, expensive one and a cheaper matching one and they sit beautifully together. We wanted to get back to great value basics. We also introduced a 12-month rolling colour palette, with seasonal highlights such as tomato red and very bright green, so that things will always match."

Another of Theo's innovations is to introduce other brands into the store, such as the Le Creuset range of pans or Moka coffee pots. Cooking books have been brought in and student starter and activity packs such as baking, party and gardening are in the pipeline.

The cooking packs are very close to home as Theo likes nothing better than spending time in his galley kitchen off the open-plan living space with its glossy white cupboard, whipping up a meal for himself and Matisse. He is also very proud of the honey pot he designed for Alessi, which has become a classic.

"I really do like cooking and have loads of books. My signature recipe is lentils and sausages, which Matisse loves. I buy special olive oil, Olio Carli, from the Fratelli Brothers a box at a time and my English friends think I'm mad, but it's a legacy from my time in Italy."

Theo's time in Milan may have been a big influence but his love of open-plan living can also be traced back to his childhood home in Bristol and the day his surveyor father (whose black and white photograph is hanging on the wall behind the dining table) took a sledgehammer to the kitchen wall.

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"It was a traditional three-storey townhouse with a separate dining-room but one day my dad knocked down the wall between that and the kitchen and put in a huge breakfast bar. The re-arranging of spaces inspired me and since then I've always gone for this open-plan look," says Theo. "It's quite a small apartment, but it's cosy and light with a mezzanine and we like it."

Apart from the large open space that encompasses the sitting-room/dining area and kitchen, Williams was also attracted by the location of the flat.

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"I liked the fact that you have to go down a cobbled courtyard mews and that the street leading on to it has a traditional butcher, flower shop and local businesses. It's across from Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath behind so it's in a nice area," he says.

Bearing in mind the flat isn't huge, Williams painted it all pure white, replacing the eggshell finish that was there before. A grey corner sofa and coffee table with Concetta Gallo bowl from Habitat sitting on it face a wall lined with white shelving filled with books, family photos and some of Matisse's toys, along with a chrome Miffy rabbit and a gold pig that is reminiscent of Jeff Koons.

Matisse's presence can also be seen in the car art above the sofa, a birthday present made by his dad. The 54 cars have Velcro on the back that keeps them sticking to the canvas grid. His other toys are tidied away in transparent cubes and cardboard drums, while the Sito table bench Williams designed for Mobileffe now makes a perfect computer table for Matisse.

Theo's love of the contemporary can be seen in the coffee tables, sideboards and furniture, but his love of the traditional is there too. He has a William Morris chair his dad gave him when he was a child, something he has come to appreciate more with maturity. "I wasn't so excited by it when I was eight, but I am now. It's an original, a classic, like the Terence Conran wicker chair in my bedroom."

If tradition holds as important a place in Theo's heart as the contemporary, it's because it evokes memories. These resurface in objects in the Habitat collection. "I love charity shops in Bristol, Paris and Amsterdam and often bring something back into Habitat that has been influenced by something I've seen – a colour of glass, or oversized coffee cups. It's references to things people feel comfortable with rather than nostalgia for its own sake," says the 42-year-old. "Design classics, and that's what Habitat is all about." k

My favourite things

What is your favourite holiday destination? Southern Sardinia, (pictured) because it's beautiful and has a feel of lots of other places – West Africa, Route One in the US, Cornwall, Scotland. There are dunes, mountains, fantastic food and people and it also has the very best of Italy too.

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What is your favourite interiors shop? Besides Habitat, recycling charity shops in Amsterdam, Bristol and 10 Corso Como in Milan for fashion, accessories and furniture.

What are you listening to in your car? The Manic Street Preachers and The Style Council, plus The Snowman for Matisse.

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Where else would you like to live? Sardinia, where I've been looking for somewhere for years.

What is your best quick rustle-up meal?

Spaghetti with an arrabiata (tomatoes and garlic) sauce.

What is the last film you saw? Moon by Duncan Jones, David Bowie's son. It was really good, very simple with only a couple of characters and about looking back at yourself and your life. The idea is that maybe the only person you end up with is yourself. It really made me think.

What are you reading at the moment? The English by Jeremy Paxman. It's brilliant and talks about why the English are like they are, for example their reserved nature, how they hold back on things, compared with Italy where people are passionate.