Amid the tumult of change, it can be tempting to cling to the familiar. This was not the case, however, for the owners and their two teenage sons, who moved to Britain early in 2013, shortly before they bought a classic Georgian townhouse in London. To this quintessentially English building they could have imported their cosmopolitan style – a reflection of their dual nationalities and extensive travel – but instead, they looked more locally for inspiration.
‘We knew we wanted to be close to central London, but we weren’t sure where,’ they say. After a three-month search, they settled upon this elegant, five-storey building in the south west of the city. ‘It’s nicely proportioned and light with high ceilings, and we liked the garden, which is unusually large for this area.’
While respecting the living arrangements that they had inherited when they bought the property, the family could not ignore the fact they needed to do some alterations to make the house work effectively for them. With the help of an architect, an infill extension was created on the ground floor, giving the owners a dramatic, double-height sitting room with a conservatory roof, while French doors offer excellent views of the garden, which was such an important part of the property’s appeal.
These significant structural changes were complemented by a series of smaller adjustments that opened up and simplified the ground and lower-ground floors, making them more practical for family life. 'There were a number of odd corridors and small rooms. The new configuration is a much better use of the space,' says the architect.
The design process was an exciting learning opportunity for the owners. Not only has their move to Britain brought them a beautiful new home, it has also provided the chance to explore their version of English decoration, which has given them a fresh outlook on creating the perfect home.
Studio E at Fromental
The subtle texture and soft gold hue of the handmade wall covering is key to the glamorous yet cosy atmosphere, while an elliptic coffee table makes an unusual focal point. 'When we moved, we wanted to start from scratch, so we didn't keep anything from our previous apartment,' say the owners. 'We wanted the decoration to have an English spirit.'
Bespoke fire surround
'Where we lived before, all the apartments were on one level and it took a while for us to get used to living on multiple floors,' say the owners. 'Having the kitchen in the basement also seemed strange. One of our sons told us, "You'll spend all your life underground" and, as we love cooking, it's true that we do.' Given the opulence of the semi-subterranean lower-ground floor, the hours spent here are not so bad, the owners laughingly admit.
A generous table, able to seat eight diners, ensures that meals are taken in comfort. 'As we researched English style, we realised that it is many things, and that it can be very traditional and very modern,' say the owners. In the end, they settled on a lighter, more modern look, as they felt it was better suited to their way of living.
Rugs have been used throughout the lower-ground and ground floors to denote areas with designated functions. This rug is used to help define the area where the family watches television. A mustard-yellow sofa in a sumptuous velvet fabric adds a hit of colour to this neutral scheme.
A built-in desk and matching shelves create a sleek look, which is given warmth by the wall colour and mellow hues of the timber. The large circular mirror is framed by the same wood as the desk and shelves, and is positioned so that it reflects light from the window on the opposite wall.
Farrow & Ball
A bespoke seven-tier glass and polished nickel chandelier emphasies the grand proportions of this double-height room. 'We were impressed by the level of craftsmanship in Britain, and the
focus on detail,' say the owners. 'It could be very subtle, such as the
trimming on a cushion, but we've learned that that level of attention
can make an object very special.'
The American brand Baker is one of the owners' favourites. Its Constellation mirror, designed by Thomas Pheasant, brings an energising note to the entrance hall. Extra-large marble floor tiles help to create a sense of space and flow, pulling the eye through to the next room.
These Italian strung curtains have an appealing shape that draws attention to the sumptuous silk fabric and the handsome Georgian windows. To help them bring the home to life, the owners employed the expertise of interior designers: 'Their design schemes balance the old and the new in a way we like,' they say. 'The look is classic but with new angles.'