Five years ago, Tovey was living in London’s Soho when he chanced upon an apartment for sale over in Shoreditch. “I loved the area; it’s vibrant but chilled, and when I walked in I could just see myself living here.” This loftlike space is, by London standards, vast—one huge main room with a kitchen; two bedrooms and bathrooms; dressing room and laundry all leading off it. The warehouse block was originally built in the 1880s and once stored the textiles collections of the British Museum. Tovey was instantly drawn to the sense of space, the light, and, as an avid art collector, the enormous walls.
Yet once he and his art were installed, friends said it was too cold and clinical—just a gallery space with a couch. “I said, ‘But that’s great, right?’ and they told me ‘Not really, Russell, no!’” he recalls. But Tovey has a highly developed visual sense, and knew he could go it alone, without the help of an interior designer. From childhood, he has closed his eyes and wandered around his dream home, planning every detail. Even now, when he’s away, he’ll project himself back here and contemplate tweaks and updates. This gift, combined with the advice of style-savvy friends and the all-important ingredients of time and patience, meant that he was happy to let the place simply evolve. Which is exactly what has happened over the five years since he came here.
Today the main room has been perfectly zoned to flow between living and dining areas with an elegant reading space in between. Midcentury furniture in warm wood sits alongside pieces by his favorite designer, Matthew Hilton (“whenever a piece catches my eye, it turns out to be by him”). In this sizable space, Tovey’s art collection has flourished, and now overflows into a storage facility. Over time Tovey has come to focus largely on emerging artists and works on paper, as well as work by female artists. In his role as a patron and benefactor, he’s hosted Frieze Art Fair patrons’ tours here, and interviewed many art world players for the no-bull Talk Art podcast he cohosts with his gallerist friend Robert Diament.
Tovey’s home has been completed with tactile textiles and curios. “I’d desperately love to be a minimalist, but I’m just not,” he says with mock resignation. The apartment features many quirky pieces picked up from artisans, flea markets, and thrift stores alike. “People think of fine art as being the pinnacle, but a piece of handmade pottery can give me as much pleasure. I think it works here because the furniture, art, and objects sit in unison, like little family groups, having conversations with one another.” This mix has given heart to what could have been a sterile home. Now, whether Russell’s spending time here with friends or just hanging out with Rocky and delving into his art books, “everyone always feels comfortable and anchored here,” he says, “never lost in space.”
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