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AT HOME WITH: Alexandra Tolstoy

Alexandra Tolstoy: How my Russian heritage shaped my style 

Can you tell us a bit about the history behind your house?

The house was originally two artists’ studios, which we joined together. They sadly haven’t been artists’ studios for some time but I like to feel as if we’ve got some of the spirit of old Chelsea in our home. 

Tell us about the interior styling of your home. Where do you find style inspiration?

I would say my style focuses on colour, texture and pattern, mixing them in a not-always-predictable way. I grew up in a home full of antiques, and in my 20s and 30s I travelled a lot in Russia and Central Asia, where I was very drawn to all the folk art, including embroidery, floral motifs, etc. I suppose I am quite a bold and adventurous person and my home is a reflection of this – I could never live in a beige or neutral house!  

Tell us about your personal style – what do you like to wear and what inspires your look?

As with the styling of my home, I love colour and mixing clashing patterns and textures. I also adore anything to do with folk tradition – I’m addicted to embroidery! I also like to experiment; sometimes I’m sporty, sometimes formal and sometimes bohemian – I like to dress for where I am, whether that’s the countryside or in town. It’s the same with houses – my cottage is very different to our London home and I don’t believe in having a blanket style. I love a sartorial challenge! 

What are your passions in life?

My passions are my children, Russia, adventurous travel – especially riding in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan – and reading. My father is a historian and we were brought up with his refined literary tastes, which I hope I am passing on to my children. 

What drives you in both your work and your personal life?

I am a single mother with no financial support from the children’s father, which is a great burden but also a blessing – it drives me to be active and, hopefully, successful. I am determined to give my children the richest and fullest childhood possible. Not materially, but in the experiences we have together, whether it is riding in Kyrgyzstan, visiting [distant relative] Leo Tolstoy’s estate, cycling through the fields near my cottage, visiting museums in London, playing games or reading books. 

What would you say are your core values?

I hugely value my family. My children have lived through turbulent times in their short lives but by surrounding them with grandparents and cousins they have been protected. I also value education and culture. My children never play computer games and have been read the classics in three languages since they were born; this is important to me as I think it creates a sophisticated, imaginative and original mind, as well as offering another world to turn to in difficult moments. Nature is high on my list, too – camping in the middle of nowhere is the ultimate relaxation for me. And simple pleasures – we live a very different life from the one we had some years ago but it has made no difference to our happiness, thankfully, because we have stuck together and enjoy the little daily pleasures of life. 

Can you tell us about the projects that you are currently working on?

I am working on a big media project that I can’t talk about yet but will tell you as soon as I can! I’m also collaborating with various luxury brands as a style influencer. From next year I am very excited to again be running riding holidays to Kyrgyzstan. I did this for ten years before having children and am thrilled to be able to return – this time running some family holidays with my children as well as some for adults only. 


PHOTOGRAPHY: Lauren Luxenberg
HAIR & MAKE-UP: Cat Parnell