A SOPHISTICATED CONTINENTAL decorating style makes for a luxuriously MODERN VIBE in this London flat …
It was not the original intention of the Irish owners of this lovely apartment in a listed terrace in London to acquire such a piece of prime real estate. While the couple had an open mind to the possibilities of a smaller city residence (they had recently refurbished their country bolthole with its cottagey atmosphere and rambling gardens and realised they were spending more time there) they hadn’t considered the possibility of an apartment, and certainly not one that came with the responsibilities – and perhaps limitations – of being part of a listed building. But, once the decision was made to downsize from their four-storey house (with its constant flow of houseguests and visiting family) the possibilities seemed endless. When the agent showed them the high-ceilinged space within their own neighbourhood, its large French windows overlooking a private park, they knew it would be the perfect city flat, a lovely contrast to their out-of-town home in terms of style and a brilliantly central place from which to enjoy theatre and gallery going and to entertain guests.
The flat needed a radical renovation, a prospect relished by the designer wife of the couple. While the layout presented some issues, the potential was obvious and with her interior design background, she could envisage a plan that would restore the original graceful structure and add a luxuriously comfortable feel to the space. With her own ideas well mapped out, she wanted to engage an interior architect who could translate them and a construction company who could execute them within a reasonably short timeframe. Fortuitously, in another apartment in the terraced property, a builder was nearing the end of a project and, following a serendipitous meeting on the staircase, and a meeting of minds over the drawings, the project was planned. Quite unexpectedly, a conversation about Ireland led to the revelation that the owner of Vabel (the construction company) was in fact related to the owner through her father and his mother. As she recollects, it became a “family” project of sorts, and a very fruitful collaboration that engaged designer and builder for a year.
The first step involved stripping the flat back to its original state, and removing the “crummy” additions, introduced after the property was bombed in the war when materials were scarce and not of the best quality. As little remained of the property’s 18th-century interior features other than its proportions and windows, re-establishing a sense of grandeur was important. The layout was tweaked, the decision to restore the second bedroom – destined now to be the study – meaning the hallway would benefit from light from the floor to ceiling window. Door heights were raised and classical panelling with a modernist twist introduced. The owner decided to look not to the English decorating tradition (more in keeping with her plan for the country residence) but rather to a more European sensibility – a quieter palette for flooring and curtains, the introduction of marble and panelling, and a mix of old and new elements. The flat is filled with antique and vintage pieces the couple has collected over time, as well as contemporary art chosen specifically for the flat.
Introducing extravagant materials elevated the sense of polish. The hallway gives the first hint: the walls and door are painted in a deep chocolate brown and the floor is graphic black and white marble. For the dining room, the owner sourced the mahogany 1960s sideboard from Milan and wanted a painting of the same period to hang over it. She chose the large 1960s abstract by Othello Radou and the combination of the two pieces is impactful. The oval Saarinen marble-topped dining table is surrounded by upholstered chairs by Knoll. With the kitchen opening to the dining room, it was important that it be beautifully and luxuriously simple. The owner chose Smallbone to make her design – a seamless kitchen frame with painted cupboard doors with classic brass hinges and pale marble – Taj Mahal quartzite – for countertops and peninsula. A bespoke walnut cupboard houses fridge and pantry. The drawing room, painted Strong White by Farrow & Ball, features mid-century modern pieces like the vintage Italian grey sofa and occasional chairs from Beton Brut alongside a contemporary Blue Grappe carpet by Ronan and Erwan Bourellec from Galerie Kreo. In the master bedroom, as elsewhere in the flat, the curtains and blinds were designed and made by David Faulkner, Dublin. The 1940s chair is by C Den Boer from Beton Brut and the light is from Skandium.
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