Francis in Westminster is 41-50 and is interior and furniture designer.
The first word Francis learned to spell was “Selfridges”. From an early age, Francis had a passion for luxury and beautiful things. Now the owner of his own luxury interior and furniture design company in Kensington, Francis designs two or three pieces of furniture on a daily basis.
The new film on 1000Londoners.com begins in Thomas Goode & Co where Francis has recently designed a new store for the bespoke personal stationery boutique, Armorial. The film then gives an insight into Francis’ design process as he reflects on the importance of ‘home’. Finally, we see Francis in the studio where he is directing the photo shoot of his new furniture collection.
Francis’ roots in design are very much linked to his transition from his hometown in Malta to London. As an interior designer, the word ‘home’ has great significance in his life. Ironically, Francis states that his own home is the most undesigned of all the homes he has worked on. The history of a home also hugely important to Francis’ design methodology. This, as well as the quaint and slightly archaic ways he works make Francis one of the most unique designers in London.
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Questions & Answers
- What's your first memory of London? The first time I ever went into Selfridges, I was awestruck as a little boy over how big that department store was. Selfridges was the first long word I ever learnt to spell. I think it did have a bit of an effect on me. It is my first tangible memory.
- What do you miss when you're away from London? What I miss about London is how it's the opposite of New York. I miss how civilised the city is. When I go to America, I do miss the English way of doing things. I'm so happy when I touch down in London after a week or ten days in America.
- What's your favourite neighbourhood? My favourite neighbourhoods are the West End, Mayfair because I live and work in those neighbourhoods. But I very much love the East end, you know Shoreditch, Hawgate, all that area. It's like it's another city. The engr.'s there. They're both very diverse neighbourhoods. It's like one extreme to the next basically. To be honest with you, Mayfair's a bit like New York and Shoreditch is a bit like 'downtown'. I prefer downtown, more exciting.
- What's your favourite building? Do I have one? I think my first favourite building was Richard Rogers building, was it Lloyds? I found it exciting at the time. And now, of course, I was say the Shard, which I think is just a very beautiful sculpture in the city. It's such an icon.
- What's your ideal day out in London? It's usually things that you don't need to book in advance or worry about. I don;t really have an ideal day out. It's just walking out and seeing the city straight away. So if I just walk into Soho, suddenly you've got cafes, life going on. If I walk to Oxford street or up to Knightsbridge, I've got everything. I'm fortunate enough to live in the centre of the city so I've got things on my doorstep. So because of that, my ideal day out is actually just going out for walks in the park, and just getting a bit of nature. Because when you live in a very concrete, clad area like I do, there's always a yearning for greenery. So for me, to find some green space in London, I try to incorporate that into my day.
- What's your ideal night out in London? My ideal night out, as I'm in the 40s now, is actually going to dinner and going to bed at a reasonable time because I wake up so early. But I think my ideal nights out are actually enjoying a really good ply or going see a really good opera or a dance performance and then going to one of my favourite restaurants for dinner afterwards.
- What's your most hated building? The only thing I hate about London now, about the buildings, is - I like diversity and I like the whole urban landscape - but what I don't like is all the apartment buildings that they keep on building with really low ceilings. I find that really irritating. Why do developers have to give us really low ceilings when we should actually be like in New York when we can have 12 foot high ceilings like normal. Even the most luxurious of developments, the ceilings are low. I keep on looking at these buildings, because I'm fascinated by homes and I think, what happened to the spirit of the older buildings with higher ceiling heights. Why has everything been made so low? That's what irritates me about London new development today.
- What's the best view in London? Well the best view for me is always - because I fly every week - is flying into Heathrow and seeing London. So actually when I'm flying in and it's a clear day I can literally see where I work, I see where I live. I love the view coming in. From the sky, it's wonderful when you come in from the O2 right down to Earls Court and the last big building there.
- What's your favourite open space? I think my favourite open space is Kew Gardens. I haven't been for years and I keep on thinking about it. But I often think about it when I'm landing. I've always loved those big green houses; they're amazing. It's such a beautiful garden. Because it's a little bit out of my way I don;t really think about it, because I go to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park a lot more, and St. James' Park. It's definitely on my radar to be revisited again.
- What's your favourite bar, pub or restaurant? I don't really go to pubs anymore but I think my favourite restaurant at the moment is 5 Hertford Street. I just like it, it's near where I live and I see a lot of people I know there and it's a private club. I enjoy going there.
- What's the most interesting shop? My all time favourite store in London has got to be Selfridges because I've always been fascinated by his story and I love the building. I think it's the most amazing elevation. I've been in awe of it ever since I was a kid. I think now, today I look at the store and I see the way it's been brought back to life, i think it's very directional and it's reinvented itself in a great way. I'm very much a person who has about 30 favourite shops because I like going to small retailers. I make sure that i go to my favourite butcher. I tend to go out of my way a little bit to go to smaller, more specialised places. I'm very lucky, I have Allens the butcher on Mount Street which is an amazing butcher. I'll make sure I go and get the meat from there. It's little places like that. There isn't one place that stands out to me but as a big store, Selfridges does.
- What's your favourite place to hang out? Really at home because I never really spend much time there. It's a pleasure when I get the chance to be able to stay home. If I can be home, not go out, stay in with nice food, watch a movie, draw, do whatever I want to do, have friends over, play monopoly, that for me is the biggest joy in my life. Because I spend too much time travelling and going out and I actually want to enjoy my home life.
- What's been your most memorable night out in London? One that had a really lasting effect was I once went many years ago to a masked Venetian ball at the Royal Academy. I was in my early 20s and I just started to go to parties and it was a very glamorous party and everybody dressed up and it was all very 18th century. It was kind of mad on a Saturday night and people spent the whole day dressing up. I haven't ever had so much fun as I had at that party, it was such a great night. I always remember that party, I've been to many a party but that one, for dressing up and the masquerade, being at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, the whole thing was very special.
- How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London? I go to my local gym in morning, pick up something in Soho in my Nordic Cafe, get home, take it easy, then maybe I'm temped to spend an hour in the shops near by if I feel like it and then watching a movie or going out in the evening. That's my ideal day off in the city. And if it's great weather I'll go out, because if it's sunny I'll want to make the most of it but if it's rainy, I'm in.
- Where would you take someone visiting from out of town? Normally if I've got people from out of town, it's going to see a new play or going to see an opera, whatever they're into really and then taking them to a restaurant. At the moment they all want to go to the same places. They all want to go to that Chiltern Firehouse and they all want to go to LouLou's on Hertford Street. I think it's because of the people I know. Mostly my out of owners are American and that's all they want to do.
- What's the worst journey you've had to make in London? The worst journey is going from the West to the East, by road. It takes far too long. I try to do a lot of work in the car going from the West end to the East end. I think that's the problem now: London's so large that if you're not on the underground and you're on the road, traffic is really getting bad in certain areas to go to certain places. I try to work out my planning to go from West to East, I know what it can turn in to. I can get to Paris quicker than I can get to Shoreditch.
- What's your personal London landmark? I love the V&A as a landmark, and what's inside it. I suppose you could call that a landmark for me.
- Who's your favourite fictional Londoner? I tell you what always used to make me laugh, I thought it was great movie. It's 'My Fair Lady' - Eliza Doolittle.
- What's your favourite London film, book or documentary? I did used to love Oliver Twist as a child, the book. Fagan and Oliver and the workhouses made me very frightened as a little boy. I found out that the workhouse where it was based on was near Covent Garden actually. I liked Oliver Twist because I was very into Dickens as a child.
- If you could travel to any time period in London, past or future, where would you go? I think I'd go back to between the first and the second world wars. The swinging 1920s. Deco was in and it was the bright young things, was the London thing. I'd like to visit that. London was definitely swimming in a different way at that time.
- For you, who is the ultimate Londoner? The Queen. She's given so many years of her life for the service of her nation. Even if you're not a royalist, you can't deny that she hasn't worked damn hard all her life for her country. She's had to hold together all these difficulties in a very public way and never let anybody down, in my view. She is currently our ultimate Londoner because even at her age she's still carries on strong.