Wicklewood meets the author and adventurer, Alexandra Tolstoy

AAlexandra Tolstoy describes herself as a devotee of extreme travel, style, fashion and family. The Anglo-Russian is also an equine adventurer, broadcaster, author and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She has made several long-distance journeys on horses which have provided the material for television documentaries, books and talks. Today we are discovering a bit more about Alexandra’s fascinating life and her treasure trove yet child-friendly home.

When it comes to decorating, how would you define your style?

Imaginative I would like to think! I like to be sympathetic to the individual project, rather than having a blanket style. For instance, I have a 17th-century cottage in Oxfordshire which I have taken back to its roots with limestone plaster, glossy dark brown woodwork and lots of lustreware and Gaudy Welsh china. But for the James Bond style Palmer Johnson yacht we had on the Cote d’Azur I went all 1920s with lots of black, a grand piano and Art Deco antiques. But if I was to pick out my overriding characteristics, I would say they were colour, texture, pattern and embroidery – I love to create unexpected combinations and mix in an unpredictable way, just as I do with fashion.

“I love to create unexpected combinations and mix in an unpredictable way, just as I do with fashion.”


What’s your most treasured piece at home?

Difficult to say but we have a wonderful bronze owl standing on a snake in London that stands on our windowsill – my children’s surname is Pugachev which derives from the word ‘owl’. Also, a huge American rag rug and a pair of Chinese tea chests – these pieces are all so colourful but not garish and dulled in the perfect way that only the passing of time creates.

You mix patterns effortlessly but for most people can be tricky. What’s your secret?

I think I always look for something common between the patterns – either a colour, or texture, which might not be immediately visible but works to bind them when they are put together. Also, of course, we all need to experiment and take risks – I have made many mistakes but hopefully am improving with experience!

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Images: Hoda Davaine