Christmas is a distinctly international affair in this Victorian home set in a leafy area of west London. She is French, he is half Argentinian and, not surprisingly, their beautiful, evocative home is filled with fabrics, furniture and objets brought back from far-flung corners of the world. ‘The agent sent us details of this four-bedroom house by mistake, but we thought it was really charming and, when we viewed it, were immediately smitten by the green views from every window. It felt as if the house was set in its own little bit of countryside in the middle of London.’
The building was in a reasonable state of repair, but the interior decoration needed to be refreshed and the couple also wanted to excavate the basement so they could add a kitchen extension. The work took longer than expected but, eventually, the dust settled and the task of redecorating began. The generous dimensions of the rooms are tailor-made for the host of warm, exotic colours: a bold shade of red in the Moroccan rug and in the sofas upholstery set the colour theme for the ground-floor family living room. The owner bought the small antique sofa when she realised that it was a perfect fit for the bay window.
Blinds and upholstery
A part-wall separates the family living room and dining room, and a short flight of steps leads down into the new kitchen at the back of the house. The owners have indulged in their love of joyful colour and pattern to decorate all three spaces. 'We love being surrounded by colour and feel uplifted by it.'
A generously swagged leopard-print velvet curtain lends an exotic touch to the dining room, which the owner describes as 'a cosy, luxurious space'. A set of antique painted chairs were bought at Bonhams to sit with the antique table, which came from her husband's bachelor home. 'We usually open our presents on Christmas Eve in true French style and end the day with a big family meal, with a box of macaroons from Ladurée to give everyone a little taste of home at the end of the evening.'
Colefax and Fowler
During the work to create the new kitchen, 'the space had no roof and there was rubble everywhere. It felt as if we were living in a war zone,' recalls the owner. Today, a number of Moroccan-inspired, star-shaped lanterns illuminate the newly finished extension. 'Id seen these lights used individually,' says the owner, 'but thought they would look stunning grouped together. Everyone who comes to the house says how much they love the effect they create.'
It takes just a sprinkling of traditional Christmas decorations - a sprig of ivy here, a lavish arrangement of fruit and seedheads there - to make the house feel festive. The kitchen, with its ceiling already decorated with the numerous star-shaped lanterns, is the perfect setting for the couple's annual cocktail party, with guests encouraged to move between the adjoining rooms throughout the evening.
With an eye on decorative effects at all times, the owner likes to place the Christmas tree so that it can be enjoyed from all angles. As you wander through the house, your eye catches one decorative delight after another from countries as far afield as Morocco and Burma. 'I like to combine different influences and to use them in a way that makes a room look anything but predictable.'
The owner's aunt and an interior designer friend both encouraged her to use bold areas of pattern and it has helped to transform the house, she says. Their recommendation of a large-scale wallpaper in a subtle mint shade, for instance, was the basis for the colour scheme in the first-floor living room and, naturally, it chimes with the owner's choice of white tree decorations at Christmas.
'The bespoke upholstered stool turned out to be rather larger than we intended,' says the owner, 'but it's a happy accident as it has turned into a very sociable form of seating.' At this time of year, a richly decorated swag of greenery, fir cones and lotus pods decorates the antique marble fire surround, which was installed to give the room a handsome focus.
Bespoke upholstered stool
Vintage sari cushions
The colourful floral fabric used on the walls of the main bedroom was another suggestion by the owner's aunt and interior designer friend. 'Our bedroom is perhaps the grandest room in the house,' she says of its generous dimensions and good light levels. The fabric-covered walls subsequently inspired the owner to use aqua paint shades for the woodwork and terracotta highlights for the upholstery of the Oriental bench.
Similar upholstered headboard
The Headboard Workshop