New Zealand-born interior designer and furniture designer Christopher Hall’s petite London pad is decorated to perfection, and located just a few minutes’ walk from the Tate Modern on the Thames’ South Bank
Interior designer Christopher Hall’s gorgeous London pad
As a boy, Christopher Hall would walk his dog along Christchurch’s New Brighton beach and look across the ocean, dreaming of what might lie on the other side. Almost as soon as he finished high school, he left the country to find out. Now the 46-year-old furniture and interior designer divides his time between a home overlooking the Bosphorous in Istanbul, an apartment in Riyadh, where he has commissions for Saudi royalty, and the flat on these pages in southeast London, where he is currently working on a home in Chelsea for a Turkish family. This peripatetic, fast-paced lifestyle “is good for me”, he says, “because I’m a gypsy at heart. A lot of my best design work comes from being in different places. It’s quite motivating and inspiring.”
The wanderlust that propelled him abroad as a teenager has fuelled him ever since. The first country that entranced him after his departure from New Zealand was Greece, where he lived for a couple of years learning the language and “discovered an incredible sense of freedom – coming from Christchurch, it was quite exotic”. From there, he moved to Rome for five years, where he worked in an art gallery and later created window displays for a smart furniture showroom in the heart of the city, his first paid foray into the world of design. He then relocated to Sydney and spent four years working for the late, great Australian interior designer Leslie Walford, with whom he toiled on Rupert Murdoch’s Sydney house and a number of other high-profile projects.
In 1999 he decided, more or less on a whim, to move to Istanbul, “a city I’d always been in love with”. He immersed himself in the place, became fluent in Turkish and, after a year, set up his own interior design business. The limited availability of furniture led him to start designing his own pieces. “I didn’t know anyone and did a lot of walking and found entire suburbs with incredible artisanship,” he says. “I learnt Turkish quite quickly and was able to design things and communicate with these artisans and get them to make it – they had incredible skill. I opened a small shop, and it started moving from there.” His furniture is now stocked by William Yeoward in London and ABC Home in New York, and he juggles the creation of new furniture ranges with his interior projects. His Istanbul office has nine staff.
The petite London pad on these pages is just a few minutes’ walk from the Tate Modern on the Thames’ South Bank and Hall’s office at London Bridge, where he employs a team of three. The flat isn’t large, but its double-height space offered the opportunity to hang some big pieces of art, including a long portrait of Lenin by an unknown artist and photographs by New Zealander Fiona Pardington which he purchased from his cousin, Arrowtown art dealer Nadene Milne, with whom he also collaborates on some projects. Although he only manages to visit New Zealand about every four years, the artworks in the flat serve as reminders of the country of his birth.
As well as the Chelsea commission from his Turkish clients, he is designing interiors for Saudi residents of the British capital. London, he says, “has a hell of a lot going on at the moment – it’s booming”. The Chelsea terrace conversion is a collaboration with London architect Alistair Langhorne, who Hall says is “quite minimalist and quite pure, while I like objects and art, so it’ll be an interesting result”. Does he have an identifiable style that links his different projects? “It’s more about the clients than me,” he says. “I try to bring serenity and peace into my projects by keeping things quite calm, but still personalising the clients’ loves and passions as much as possible. It’s important not to have a big ego, and to really listen.”
He is also working on the home of the governor of the Saudi Arabian city of Medina, and on ongoing improvements to the residence of a Saudi prince in Riyadh. The Saudi Arabian projects, he says, are on an almost unimaginable scale, compounds with “nannies and teachers and basketball courts and that sort of thing”. Hall’s entry into these rarefied realms came through a collision of happenstance and talent: a Belgian antique dealer friend told a client from Jeddah that Hall might be able to design the bronze chandeliers she needed; when he successfully did so, she introduced him to one of her relatives in Riyadh who needed work done on his large home. Since then, one big-budget commission has followed another. It is a country Hall has come to love. “They’re so exposed to the world through their travels,” he says. “They’re a very private and shy people who love their culture and deep traditions. I enjoy being in their rhythm.”
Things at home in Istanbul have become more complex in the last year, with regular protests and unrest sweeping the capital. “It has changed,” Hall says. “The city is exhausted and overloaded. It’s a little bit off the rails at the moment. It’s developed too quickly and has to go back and fix the broken bits. People are tired and it’s very polarised.” But on the flip side, the artisans and workshops he enjoys collaborating with are still producing work of the highest quality, and “creatively there’s still a hell of a lot going on [in Istanbul], and young Turks are expressing themselves more in art and design,” he says. “The essence of Turkey is very much intact.” In fact, Hall intends Istanbul to remain his primary residence: for all this time, he has travelled on a New Zealand passport, but he is about to receive Turkish nationality. It almost looks as if this long-time wanderer might be getting ready to settle down.
Q&A with interior designer Christopher Hall
HOME You’re originally from New Zealand. How did you end up living in London and Istanbul?
Christopher Hall I grew up in Christchurch and started exploring the world when I was 19. My journey began in Greece, which had this incredible sense of freedom for a Kiwi boy who hadn’t travelled at all. I started studying Greek and that really set the tone for the rest of my life – I lived off and on there for a couple of years, then went to Rome where I lived for five years and got a good education in the beginnings of interior design. Then I moved to Australia and worked with Leslie Walford for four years on Rupert Murdoch’s Sydney residence and other big projects. In 1999 I decided I wanted to move to Istanbul, a city I’d always been in love with. Thirteen years later I find myself there and also in England part-time. I have my head office and all my production in Istanbul and I have an office here in London. I’m between the two cities.
HOME How did you get into furniture design?
Christopher Hall When I first went to Istanbul there wasn’t a lot of furniture available. I set up my own business and learnt Turkish quite quickly and was able to communicate and started designing things and getting them made. It’s not really my main business but it’s the part that I enjoy the most because it’s very private and obviously very personal and I don’t have to answer to anybody. It’s really my playground. I enjoy it thoroughly.
Words by: Jeremy Hansen. Photography by: Emily Andrews.