With a fresh lick of paint on the walls of his empty flat, Toby Lorford tells how he began the process of furnishing it for an extended period of home living and working. It needed to feel like home for both him and Kate as soon as possible…

At the end of the first week, we had our blank canvas. The main living room had an unusual yet beautiful floor, and the walls and ceiling were coated in Edward Bulmer’s Fair White, the cleanest of the whites and a great ‘fresh’ backdrop as Kate needed a section of the room for a studio - and there would be plenty of colour to come! The bedroom hadn’t yielded such lovely floorboards, and so we plumped for a very pale grey that was left-over from one of the many Battersea Decorative Fair floors… there was just enough lurking to offset the Jonquil we chose for the walls. A calm, warm pink from Bulmer that has enough boyishness in it to be a great bedroom choice… if you like pink that is!

The bedroom was particularly small for two clothing addicts – so whilst we delighted in getting the mattress off the floor and a temporary headboard hung, the solution to getting it furnished was never going to be ‘off the shelf’ – so we turned our attention to the living room and clothes remained in bags and storage for another week…

I happen to be the son of an antiquarian book dealer. They are a rare breed, eccentric for sure and completely obsessive. I inherited a little of that, and books and bookcases are at the centre of a home for me. So, whilst Kate was wondering what we might be able to sit on, my preoccupations were entirely on which bookcase would be right and which wall it would take pride of place on! Whilst the paint on the walls was still drying, eight sections of a long-coveted Regency bookcase from our antiques hangars made their way up the impossible staircase. With a selection of our art and interiors collection back on display, I could finally sit (on the floor!) and relax.

This was the first of three anchors around which the room would be built. The second was the dining table. A couple of years back we acquired a special re-edition Saarinen tulip table – and this is the love of Kate’s life. Its presence was non-negotiable, and it had no option but to sit square in front of the sash window. I love the contrast of traditional and contemporary, the sleek and simple lines of the table framed by pine shutters and painted panelling wouldn’t fail to look great.

The final key piece was which large-scale piece of art we would choose. I wanted discreet areas of the room to have quite different ‘feels’ to them – and I love large scale in smaller spaces… hence the bookcase! Well placed, scale pieces can make a room feel much larger yet draw a space together to maintain a sense of intimacy. The bookcase and an old preparatory study of Kate’s worked perfectly together. Not only does it bring a sense of drama and movement to the room, it gave us a superb colour palette for the fabrics and dressing the rest of the room.

In previous homes, I have championed the visual thrill of juxtaposition and clash… With just one room to live in, we wanted variety – though it was obvious as time progressed that we both wanted a form of retreat also – a safe and welcoming space rather than a stark gallery of treasures.

Peonies in sunlight… you just can’t help but be uplifted!

I marvel at the beauty of a bookcase turned display piece… but for me, there is nothing more beautiful than a bookcase being used for its original purpose. Books are our memories, our knowledge and our promise of future discoveries. What better to be the focal point of the room in these times?

The hand of the painter and the process of time.