‘Good design touches the soul’

Nadja Swarovski, 40, is vice-president of international communications and creative director of the Austrian-based crystal and gemstone company that bears her family name. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment in Chelsea, London, with her husband, Rupert Adams, a hedge fund manager, and their three children, Rigby, five, Thalia, four, and Jasmine, two.

When and why did you move here?

Our previous home was very close to here but it was on the fifth floor with no lift. It kept me very fit but by the time my second child was on the way I really needed that lift, so we moved here in 2005. I like this area very much – it is close to the King’s Road and Peter Jones in particular but you can’t see the busyness of all that from where we are and there is a private garden to the front of the building, which is very important when you have little children.

Did you have much to do in the way of renovations?

We knocked through a wall between the living and dining rooms to create one big family area. We thought we would only be here for two years and had I known we would stay so long I would have done more – including relocating the kitchen. Ann Boyd helped us with the interior decoration – my look is contemporary and Rupert’s is traditional, so we needed someone who could find that compromise. I am not a frilly, floral person and I like a calm environment because so much of the time I am working at continuous overload.

What drew you to London?

Austria is a wonderful country and a great location for the manufacturing plant – craftsmanship and engineering is indigenous to the Innsbruck area. But the nature of my work is to collaborate closely with fashion designers, jewellery designers, architects and product designers, so it was really important for me to be based in a fashion metropolis. London is an easy step both to Austria and to New York and the creativity here is amazing. I find the open-mindedness very conducive to creative output.

What was your childhood home like?

The Swarovski factory is in Wattens, where I grew up. I could see the factory from my bedroom window, with the big Swarovski sign lit up at night, so I felt as if I had the branding on my forehead. My cousins and I would bicycle around the factory buildings and play in the sand piles as though they were a playground. But Wattens is also a traditional alpine town, surrounded by meadows and mountains; it has the most incredible views, which as a child I took for granted.

Do you have any other homes?

We rent a country house in Berkshire where we go with the children each weekend. My mother is American so there is also a family home in Florida and another in Majorca. I travel so much with work, though, that I really love being at home. From the moment I ring the buzzer downstairs, I can hear the children shouting with excitement and they attack me as I walk through the door – it is a lovely attack but I have to be careful I am not on the phone otherwise whoever I am talking to will get an earful.

Are you eco-aware?

We do try to recycle and I find it amazing how the children are now taught at school not to waste electricity or water. I wish it was easier in London to recycle though – you have to be very organised. I think it is a shame because people would love to contribute in a more positive way but it so hard to get it done. At Swarovski we use a lot of LEDs in our lighting now – as with the chandeliers by Tord Boontje – they have progressed so much and are very energy efficient.

Does your home reflect your own personal style?

If I had my way, it would look very different. Rupert is a traditionalist whereas I am very modern in my tastes. When you work with such incredible people as Arik Levy, Yves Behar, Ross Lovegrove, Tord Boontje and others, you are both exposed to, and inspired by, very different styles. Good design to me is not just about function – it also has such a positive impact on the soul.

Did you always plan to work for the family firm?

No, my parents always encouraged me to find my own passion and strength. I studied art history and when I joined the company my mission was to put Swarovski back at the forefront of fashion. My grandfather had told me wonderful stories when I was a child about working with people such as Coco Chanel and Christian Dior – how he gave them the product and they added the magic and the light. The first designer I teamed up with was Alexander McQueen, whom I was introduced to by Isabella Blow, and he did an amazing job of changing the perception of Swarovski.

Any plans to move?

Yes! We are running out of space. Two of my children share a room, which I never planned they would do, although admittedly they love it, and every cupboard and shelf is crammed. We don’t have a guest room and the nanny now lives with my mother-in-law. When I go to LA or New York and have a glimpse of other people’s homes, I think: “My goodness – the space!” An empty closet is an oxymoron here.

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