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He has only one house — in the swanky Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, where his neighbors include Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and actor Nicolas Cage.

He lives there with his British wife, Heather Pegg, a writer and historian, and their twin sons. He and his design team have only been seen in public once: in London two years ago when they all turned up to accept a prestigious D&AD design award.

He inherited his craftsman’s skills from his father, Michael.

He was a silversmith who later became a lecturer in craft, design and technology at Middlesex Polytechnic.

With just a tiny white box with a scroll wheel, he put 1,000 songs in our pocket.

The i Phone was so touchy-feely, it trashed the fiddly Blackberry in a heartbeat. His love of simplicity and directness extends beyond tech.

But there was one Tangerine client Ive admired: Apple, for which he had started working as a consultant. Ive works in a design studio in a building on one corner of Apple’s campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, the firm’s address.

He came up with the early designs for a portable computer that became the Powerbook in 1991. It looks like all the other dull, un-Apple-like glass and beige — yes, beige — concrete blocks. The glass is opaque and no-one other than Ive, his core team and top Apple executives is allowed in.He speaks slowly and softly in an Essex accent totally unaffected by living in America for more than two decades.“I can’t even bring myself to say math, instead of maths, so I say mathematics. Ive is in a good mood today — and not just because he’s celebrating his 47th birthday.He talks constantly about his team or Jobs, using “we.” This is not “aw-shucks” false modesty or corporate-speak. Designing, engineering and making these products requires large teams,” he says.Ive really does keep a low profile — or at least as low a profile as you’d expect one of the world’s most highly paid designers to keep.But last month, he invited me to Cupertino in Silicon Valley where Apple is based, for his first in-depth interview since he became head of design almost 20 years ago. But just after 10AM, an Apple tech-head appeared in an all-white meeting room on the first floor of building 4 of the firm’s antiseptic headquarters with strict instructions to find an Earl Grey tea bag. Thanks for coming,” grins Ive, as he rolls in, picking up his brew.

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