For the property-developer owners, a Victorian building in London’s South Kensington provided an irresistible opportunity to create a new home that would showcase their interest in interiors.
When asked what attracted them to the property, they say: ‘The location is fantastic and overlooks what has to be one of the best garden squares in the area. The grounds are beautifully maintained and have magnificent mature plane trees, while the building is tall and unusually wide, and all the rooms have wonderfully generous ceiling heights.’
The property was in a terrible state when it was bought. Originally a single dwelling, it had been divided into eight flats with lots of mezzanines, little rooms and narrow corridors, so the owners knew they had a fabulous chance to open up the space and reintroduce natural light and volume. As the original staircase had been replaced by a previous owner, the building is not listed, which meant they had considerable freedom to make changes.
The arrangement of the flats was quite chaotic and it was a real challenge to rationalise, but the architect the owners hired has succeeded brilliantly. There are now three flats, rather than eight, of which this one is the middle one.
We visited the property with the owners and their interior designer to find out more.
To blur the distinction between the two spaces, only low-level kitchen cabinets were used and the door fronts were painted in a complementary colour to the living area. The French textile artist Claire de Quénetain made the lampshades especially for this room. The aim was to have something with a modernist aspect, with loose brushstrokes that echo the shape of the plane tree leaves in the garden.
The dining table is made from the reclaimed floorboards of a nineteenth-century French barn. 'I love the tension between its imperfections and the crisp, modern dining chairs and luscious emerald green upholstery,' says the owners' interior designer. 'To me, creating a sense of soul in a home is about making sure you find
furnishings, accessories and artworks from as wide a range of sources
'We wanted an interior designer who could add character and personality while maximising the building's assets of volume and light,' say the owners. 'The designer we chose had ideas for the apartment that were very impressive and we liked the way she used the gardens as inspiration. As we are keen art lovers, her fine art background was also extremely important to us.'
To give this space a distinct identity, deep green Marmorino plaster was applied to the walls. The dark, almost velvety finish creates a moody atmosphere, accentuating the light-filled living areas beyond. White woodwork and a striped stair runner brighten the scheme without deflecting from the colour.
A wall of Spanish encaustic tiles and an unusual tapered basin give this room visual impact while respecting its narrow proportions. On the far side, a cleverly positioned recessed shelf with tiling that matches the right-hand wall draws the eye to the back of the room, while adding interest and providing a handy ledge for accessories.
'I found this set of framed pressed herbs, leaves and flowers in Paris,' says the interior designer. 'They were the starting point for the design of this scheme - I make art a central part of all my designs, not a decorative element to be added afterwards.' Here, hanging the frames in a grid formation over the bed helps to emphasise the room's point of focus.
The wall hanging was made in the Seventies by Danish artist Jette Nevers. 'I often like to include textiles and tapestries as alternatives to pictures,' says the interior designer. 'Using layers of scale, shape and texture gives the appearance that a home has been created over time, not all at once.'
The Carrara marble tiles are arranged in a herringbone pattern to add a textural note to the space. The same tiles have been used on the bath surround as on the wall, which creates a sleek look that almost disguises the bath tub. White paint on one side and above the tiles keeps the look light and perfectly balanced.