Chelsea’s queen of denim, Donna Ida, talks us through her pragmatic attitude to home decorating
Words Pendle Harte
Donna Ida: Queen of denim
When you’re the kind of person who launches a successful business out of nothing, and then moves seamlessly from retail into design and becomes highly respected in your self-taught field, you’re probably good at making decisions. And your decisions are probably always the right ones. When Donna Ida started out, she was selling jeans with the aim of improving the experience of choosing and buying them, and soon she was designing her own denim collection. Now, 11 years after her first foray into the fashion industry, her own-brand denim has overtaken the other established brands she stocks, and she also designs, produces and wholesales an entire womenswear collection too. So when it came to doing up her home, her businesslike approach stood her in good stead. “I just did it all on the internet,” she says.
Ida lives in a Victorian pub in Pangbourne, Berkshire, which she and her husband converted into a spacious open plan home 18 months ago by ripping everything out and reconfiguring the entire space. It was a huge project and they had never done anything like it before. But their personalities helped. “I’m very decisive and my husband, Bobby Dazzler, is great. He’s really good and says yes to everything,” she tells me proudly. “I knew I wanted to paint it all white so I did. The builder would phone me up and say we needed taps so I’d just go online and choose them.”
This is an unusual approach. Most people are so overwhelmed by the number of paint colours on offer and the excess of available taps, tiles and fittings that choosing anything leads to a total paralysis in decision-making and rowing with their partner. Not for Donna and Bobby. “He loves everything,” she says – while she knows exactly what she likes. “I stopped at a traffic light right outside the Little Greene paint shop in Marylebone and chose my paint colour right then and there. When I got home I rang them and ordered it; then when I needed a similar but a bit more biscuity colour for one of the bathrooms I rang him again and described what I wanted – and he sent it. Easy.”
For someone with a pink sofa and a pair of chihuahuas called Romeo and Julio, Ida is very sensible and un-princessy. She’s not one to splurge and definitely keen on a bargain. “Expensive stuff isn’t worth the worry,” she announces. “We have a beautiful rug from The Rug Company, but it’s so stressful. The dog weed on it. The only other expensive thing we have is a handmade Italian coffee table in white leather. Again, the dog weed on it. It’s just not worth it.” Far better to find dining chairs on eBay or paint an old sideboard. She’s resourceful like that.
Is the house finished? Most people never declare their houses finished. Apart from Donna. “I filled it. There’s no space for another chair,” she says. Though she might squeeze in another print somewhere in her photography collection, among the Terry O’Neills, Mick Rocks and Vee Speers. What about regrets? Again, no fuss. She’s happy with the lot of it.