Belfast Telegraph

Andrew Levy: Architecture, art and all that jazz

How does a musical trailblazer fill his days when he's not on stage? The Brand New Heavies' Andrew Levy turned developer and (pretty funky) designer

Interview by Tessa Williams-Akoto

People don't readily associate musicians with property development. But I've been interested in and investing in properties for a long time.

My uncle owned a lot of property in London, and when I was 15 I used to collect the rents for him, so I could appreciate then the kind of money that could be made.

The music industry is very transient – one minute you can be driving a Lamborghini down the freeway selling hundreds of thousands of records every day, then you can sell nothing for ages. I needed to find something that I enjoyed doing that could provide a sound investment. I studied fine art and film at Middlesex University, so I have always been interested in design and art, and I've loved architecture and interior design for a long time too, so it seemed that property was my ideal number.

My first home in London was in Stoke Newington. It was a two-storey four-bedroom maisonette where I lived with my girlfriend at the time. I bought it from an avant-garde architect, Joe Hagan, who had designed it really well.

I bought my first investment flat for £25,000 in 1999. It was a one-bedroom place in Margate. It was a terrible mess, but after I spent some money redecorating it, I sold it last year and made quite a good profit. I had bought it as a retreat, but that was really my starting point in acquiring properties. Now I have a portfolio of properties, but I'm planning to sell these soon to finance a new project – a boutique hotel in Wales.

My home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms and I bought it in 2002 for £350,000. People are always surprised when they come in the door that it looks so good, as a lot of the other houses in the street are not as well looked after. When I moved in I had to completely redecorate – nothing had been done since the 1960s. I had to rewire, replumb, take the floors out and rip off the wallpaper. I have had a lot of help from an interior design and architectural company, called Manda.

I like the fact that this house has a lot of space, and high ceilings. For a long time I didn't have any furniture in it – as I don't like buying things unless I'm completely happy with them. Also, it is better environmentally just to buy one good thing that will last forever.

I designed some of my own sofas, with a company called Box 3, as I was so desperate to find what I wanted. I have always loved designer furniture, and unusual pieces. This probably stems from the fact that I have been travelling constantly for the past 15 years.

The first time I was aware of a really stylish interior, was staying at The Mondrian in Los Angeles in 1993 – it was before Ian Schrager took over there – and it looked amazing. It was full of original Sixties art. We stayed there for six weeks while we were making The Brand New Heavies' Brother/Sister album. Then we went back there a year later and Shrager and Philippe Starck had worked on it. It was even more incredible.

When I'm away from home I used to miss my girlfriend, but now we're no longer together, I tend to miss British television. American TV is all focused on advertising revenue, so they have very short bitty programmes. I like factual programmes. I think travel has influenced my home. I like to have a few hotel luxuries – like bottles of Badoit mineral water – and I've also had a cleaner ever since I left art college. I think it's the best way of avoiding arguments with your partner, so in a way it's cheap relationship counselling.

I get a lot of inspiration for my music from the radio, and I listen to all sorts of channels around the house – Classic FM, Galaxy, XFM, Radio 1... I like early Italian classical composers too. Recently I have been very inspired by Amy Winehouse, I love that she has this amazing jazz soul voice but a wonderful punk aesthetic.

All the walls in my home are white, and the floors are pale wood. I prefer a blank canvas and to gather colour and texture from artworks. I bought two original paintings by the furniture designer Verner Panton in Los Angeles in 1993. They cost around $180 at the time, but I had them valued recently and they are now worth over £1,000 each. I also have a portrait of myself by my friend, the photographer Mary McCartney, hanging above my bed.

I collect designer chairs and have about 25 different types, from the Tulip chair by the Finnish-AmericanEero Saarinen, to Matthew Hilton's Balzac chair, to the Knoll Pollack chair. I like having fresh flowers, and must have been one of the first aficionados of Diptyque candles. I remember buying one from the Conran Shop about 14 years ago.

I collect vintage clothes and have over 30 feet of clothes rails crammed with vintage Gucci, YSL and Dior, but it is too much to keep at home, so it's in storage in Oxford, along with my collections of Elle Decoration magazine, of which I must have every issue since August 1992, and old issues of The Face and Blitz.

My ideal home would be an old manor house somewhere in England – if not there, then I could be tempted by an ocean-front villa in Miami.

Andrew Levy, 41, is a founding member and bassist/keyboard player for the influential eight-album acid jazz and funk group The Brand New Heavies, and has been performing since the band's inception in Ealing in 1985. He lives in a four-bedroom house in Islington, north London

Andrew Levy's home is on sale for £625,000, www.jtm The Brand New Heavies are on tour in America with Macy Gray, Their album, 'Get Used to It', is out now

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph