A Riot of Colour Transforms this Listed London Apartment
This four bedroomed ground floor and basement flat is Grade II listed and was already midway through a reconfiguration when designer Helene Dabrowski was brought on board. The client had acquired the property as a convenient pied-a-terre in Central London. It’s close to transport and overlooks Hyde Park and because it’s not their main home, the lack of light in the basement bedrooms didn’t worry them.
Tony Miller of Trehearne Architects had already been working on reconfiguring the space for more than a year and the construction team were on the verge of gutting the property. The flat had originally belonged to a well-known interior designer (no pressure there!) and though Helene was attracted by some of the existing features, the client was keen to make a fresh start.
The ground floor had originally comprised a huge sitting room, a bedroom and a bathroom but the client felt the space was too cold and impersonal and needed breaking up. Reminiscent of its earlier incarnation as a bank, the proportions weren’t conducive to easy residential living and there was no storage.
Helene started by redefining the space, converting the bedroom into a media room and the bathroom into an office. So far, so logical.
The architect had designed a huge bookcase to break up the main room and hid a cloakroom behind it, solving both issues in one fell swoop.
This large and challenging space was then zoned to accommodate a number of different activities…
An entertaining space;
A huge, u-shaped sofa for TV watching;
And a third space with desk for admin or schoolwork.
A circular table and rug with artwork positioned behind provided a focal point to anchor the room (main picture).
In terms of the decorative scheme, the brief was to create a fun and colourful space where the client could relax and entertain friends. Smart casual is well understood on an invitation but when requested for an interior, the balance can be difficult to achieve to the client’s satisfaction. What excited Helene was the licence to use colour. “At last, someone who loved colours and was not afraid of them. I even had to rein them in a bit”. Italian designer, Missoni, had always been a favourite of Helene’s and when the client expressed a preference for orange, purple, pinks and red, she immediately suggested a trip to the showroom. It was an instant hit. Curtains, cushions, staircase pendants and rugs are all from Missoni.
Lighting the main room was tricky because the ceiling couldn’t be touched, being listed. So a limited number of spotlights (in pre-existing positions) were used with a combination of floor lamps, table lamps (from Porta Romana) and LED strips built into furniture to give a layered scheme offering both task and ambient lighting according to desired use and effect. All of these are connected with a Lutron system, which also controls the curtains, giving maximum flexibility over both artificial and natural light at the touch of a button. As you can see, lighting is key in injecting personality into this property, I love that last image of the funky side table lamp. Cushions too are a great way to introduce colour and change the feel of a room when you want to update – in this case, the sheer numbers became a bit of a running joke with the client.
Earthy tones in graphic patterns used in the more formal areas, such as the club-like study, combine well with the fresher colours of the recreational areas, to produce a smart, sophisticated but eclectic scheme.
What this project demonstrates best is the synchronicity that’s possible when an interior designer really understands her client, develops a rapport and interprets the client’s vision to such stunning effect. The client here was so impressed, she has asked Helene to help with their country home also. Watch this space to see how that turns out.
U-shaped sofa from sofa.com
Circular coffee table from Baker
Side table from William Yeoward