‘Apart from Ireland which I love, New Orleans is a magical place’
Born and raised in the Liberties, Imelda May began her music as a career at 16 and released her first album in 2003 after which she relocated to London. Though known primarily as a rockabilly singer, she is also an accomplished musician and plays bodhrán, guitar, bass guitar and tambourine. Her new album Life Love Flesh Blood (produced and recorded in LA by T Bone Burnett) is a change of musical direction exploring blues, soul, gospel, folk and rock on a set of bold, personal and autobiographical songs. “It’s the story of my life,” she says. Her 18-year marriage ended in 2015 and she lives in London with her five-year-old daughter.
Describe your interiors style
It keeps evolving – it’s modern with a bit of vintage. When you change, everything else changes whether it’s clothes or interiors and your home has to reflect your mood. I am always changing the colour of the walls – a different colour overnight. I do love the industrial stuff, but I haven’t gone down that road yet. I like to put a bit of rock ’n’ roll in interiors and I have snakeskin print wallpaper that goes well with neutral colours and gives the room a bit of character. I stay in beautiful hotels but I think your home shouldn’t look like a hotel which has to please so many people, but should reflect your personality.
Which room do you most enjoy and why?
I spend most of my time in the kitchen and I like it to be a hub – it’s where we all gather and it’s the most vibrant part of the house. I also love my bathroom which is my little refuge – I repainted it recently in neutrals but with a red base and it is absolutely gorgeous and I have loads of my books there though I don’t get enough time to spend in it. My dad was a painter and decorator and he used to hand mix colour and had a great eye.
What items do you love most?
Art, books, music, stereo speakers and anything to play music on. But a good mattress is really important because you spend a lot of your life in your bed. I have a really good one that I bought in London. I like a great cooker and I had a small butcher’s wooden chopping board made which I use all the time – I love cooking and it is fabulous to have the space to chop. I found a company online who made a black splashback for me – I went mad – with the letters Rock ’n’ Roll in Gothic lettering – and that’s on the back of my cooker. You have to put your stamp on things.
Who is your favourite designer?
For shoes, my favourite designer is Christian Louboutin – his christian louboutin shoes are works of art with the right amount of class – sexy and classy. For clothes I love Roland Mouret, Saint Laurent, McQueen, Zadig & Voltaire though I don’t have much from any of them. I think Umit Kutluk is brilliant – he has made some gorgeous things for me. But I also do a lot of high street – Topshop, All Saints and The Kooples.
What artists do you most admire?
I love art and trained as a graphic designer but I should have been studying Fine Art as I was less contained and disciplined than I should have been for graphic work. I saw the David Hockney show in London recently and it was absolutely phenomenal – I love the Tate Modern and contemporary art. I love Chagall – his imagination is so free and has no rules. Charlie Whisker is great and Sean Scully one of the best in the world, though I don’t have any of their work. On my travels I go to a few smaller galleries that support up and coming and street artists in Paris, London and Dublin that are affordable. It’s important especially in Ireland to support younger artists, and street art is part of our culture.
What is your biggest interior turn off?
Lack of character, lack of comfort and homeliness – and air conditioning. I hate freezing air conditioning – it affects my throat. What also drives me mad in hotel rooms is the hunt for the hair dryer when you are in a hurry and not being able to open the windows.
Which travel destination stands out?
Apart from Ireland which I love, New Orleans is a magical place. I love New York, Istanbul – that was magical – and Paris is so beautiful. And the mountains of Andalusia.
If you had €100,000 to spend on any item for the house, what would you buy?
Art. I saw a Chagall in a window in Brook Street in London and I had to go in and ask how much it was, knowing that I could not afford it. When they told me (and it cost thousands) I said I would think about it because you never say “Dear God, how much did you say?” I stood in front of it for 15 minutes and wished I could have it. It was a red picture with people flying all over the place – a circus scene almost childlike in a beautiful way. And of course I would love David Hockney, Tracey Emin and Marina Abramovic who is an amazing christian louboutin shop in milano woman and the photographer Nan Golden. I bought a beautiful painting in Paris – the most I ever spent on anything was in Paris on a beautiful painting of four girls backstage in green leotards and ballet pumps smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey and laughing. I love its humanity.