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CHELSEA PIED A TERRE

This stunning bijoux apartment is located on the third floor of a beautiful mansion house in the heart of Chelsea, one of London’s most desirable postal codes. Apportioned mainly over one floor but including a small second floor ‘turret’, the luxury apartment required a full refurbishment to upgrade the services as well as updating its tired interior.

When the owners bought this apartment they fell in love with the bright open spaces and the views across London all the way to the Millennium Eye but it did have a short lease and was in desperate need of upgrading. The entrance hall was small and dark, the layout needed rationalisation as there was quite a lot of wasted space, the floors all sloped in different directions, doors didn’t close and the windows were not fit got purpose. On top of this, some very poor upgrades carried out by previous owners meant that the electrics and plumbing had to be completely renewed and the landlord also required them to install a new rising water and gas supply. Factor in a complicated lease and landlord together with the apartment being on the third floor meant that the project was going to be quite a complicated affair.

Not initially daunted by these obstacles, interior designer René Dekker dove straight in to tackle the task at hand. The first order of the day was to come up with some alternative layouts to make better use of the wasted passage ways; with the luxury apartment being as small as it was, the owners were keen to get the most out of every square foot. The original location of the kitchen placed it in a part of the flat where two walls formed part of the mansard roof making it impossible to utilise the space to its full advantage. The kitchen and the master bedroom were literally swapped around so that the bedroom included the mansard roof and the kitchen had more wall space for cabinets and appliances. The passage that ran next to the kitchen which accessed the master bedroom was incorporated into the new master bedroom as a small en suite shower room which added convenience as well as value to the flat. Storage was maximised by adding full height full width wardrobes to the new master bedroom, a laundry cupboard with washing machine and tumble drier was created in the hall and storage was added under the small staircase. Finally, access to the new kitchen was made through the end wall in the living room and the entrance to the living room was moved directly in front of the front door, meaning a lot more light in the entrance hall.

One of the overriding factors that made this home so appealing to its new owners was the large double volume living room where the ceiling had been removed and the height in the middle of the room was as high as the roof apex, approximately 3.2m. The down side was the large, distressed timber beam that had been installed to keep the roof up, which ran the length of the room and had a ‘barn’ type look about it. Engineer’s drawings were commissioned to replace this with steel beams that could be hidden between the original roof and the new ceiling, giving the room a much more contemporary interior and feel. Lighting also played a major role in this interior design and can be seen in every detail from the feature wall unit in the living room to the plinth lighting in the master bedroom. Finally a sophisticated AV system was installed throughout which allows music to be played in all the rooms. The system, which was installed by the team at Tillman Domotics, is controlled by the simple use of an app which has been downloaded onto the client’s smartphones!

Once the plans and specifications had been approved by the freeholder, the strip-out works began. Initially a survey showed that most of the walls were in good enough condition to retain but it became quite clear early on that this was not the case at all. When the builders started removing the skirting, the plaster board showed signs of warping. In many areas, water damage to the timber studwork, from years of neglect to the roof meant dry rot had set in requiring replacement studs. Once the defective plasterboard had been removed, many of the ceilings revealed defective installation so these too were also removed. All in all a lot more work was carried out on this refurbishment than originally expected, which meant an increased budget, but the upside was that the apartment walls were able to be fully insulated.

The finished product is quite simply stunning! You enter via the hall which is hung in a moody dark teal striped wall covering and which has Grigio Carnico floor tiles. It feels sumptuous and rich and makes a great backdrop for the client’s art collection which is well highlighted with strategically placed spot lights and which includes a gold skull on the plinth! Off this space one gets a glimpse of the master bedroom to the right and the den to the left but the main focus is definitely the fabulous living room.

The room’s footprint stayed pretty much the way it had in the original luxury apartment design but here Dekker added full height full width joinery, part storage and part decorative. At low level the units include drawers for crockery and cutlery, a champagne fridge as well as general storage. At high level the unit is made up of a series of different sized display niches which are cleverly set away from the back wall giving the feeling that the unit is free floating. The whole unit is finished in a dark grey glossy paint which is a stark contrast to the gold leafed wall covering on the wall behind it. Centred on the living space is a full height sliding door finished in black pearlised lacquer, which slides away to reveal the TV and wine storage. The scene is completed by way of integrated lighting which lends a sophisticated touch to this already exciting feature. There is a new lowered perimeter ceiling which encompasses the gold vaulted upper ceiling, inspired by the mosaic plafón at the Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly, a favourite haunt of René Dekker. The floor is a symphony of gun metal and light grey with gold parquet in the herringbone format and this wonderful installation was created by Artwood Floors on the Kings Road (this also won them an international award for best new product). The walls have been plastered in a pitted Venetian stucco to match the light grey timber in the parquet and the piece de resistance, which was designed by Dekker in conjunction with the client, is the bas relief in silver and gold of the bonsai Japanese Maple all created by the very talented London team at DKT Artworks. “I wanted this to really stand out” says Dekker “so we added floor uplighters to cast a shadow across the leaves in the evening”. When it came to the furniture, the clients already had quite a few pieces that they wanted to incorporate in the new scheme so these were revitalised using luxurious new fabrics and specialist finishes.

The kitchen is a complete contrast with its light coloured marble tiles, white cabinets and light grey walls and ceiling. The gold theme was also carried through into this room by installing some very elegant gold tiles which act as the splashback. On the opposite side the wall has been hung with an unusual wall covering made of gilded cork which adds softness to the hard finishes. Dekker also used the same oriental style handles in the kitchen as have been used in the living room allowing the two spaces to be linked in a less obvious manner.

The apartment feels like a luxury interior penthouse suite at a 6 star hotel as the designer continued the gold and grey theme throughout. In the master bedroom the walls are hung in a gold silk wall covering which is offset by the grey joinery. The wardrobe doors have been machined with a herringbone pattern which a subtle nod to the living room floor and even more subtle are the handles that are wrapped in a gold leather with herringbone pattern. It is a cosy yet luxe room with its grey silk carpet and luxurious scatter cushions and the restrained introduction of ice blue just adds another dimension to the palette. Just beyond the wardrobe is the small but perfectly formed en suite shower room. Decked entirely in opalescent grey mosaic there is room for a large shower, small washbasin and heated towel rail. At the other end of the hall is the den where the clients spend the better part of their time when they are at home. Again, this is a very comfortable room with silk carpet, black and gold wall covering and a large comfortable sofa which turns into a bed for guests. This room is accessorised with many of the clients more personal items including some very special artwork.

The bathroom, just off the hall, was also entirely gutted and then re-instated using the same marble as the hall floor. It is simple yet elegant with a bespoke vanity unit and marble basin and large walk in shower. To the right of the vanity is a full height display unit which houses the client’s collection of perfumes and Venetian glassware and craftily hidden behind a small secret door in the wall the designer created a large under stair storage area for luggage. “Space is always a premium in central London and where to put the suitcases” Dekker laughs! Here again we see the clever use of lighting both in the joinery plinth as well as the overhead medicine cabinet. A little ‘bon bouche’ is the PIR which turns on the lights and the extract when you enter the room (“this is great when you have guests as there are no buttons to press”) and of course no bathroom would be complete without the heated shaving mirror. Finally there is a study in the turret, basically the fourth floor of this Grande dame. It is accessed by a narrow stair case which leads to a bright and cosy room with windows on two walls. This space is quite different to the rest of the luxury apartment and has much more of a Indiana Jones feel to it with its dark beaten metal style wall covering and African masks. There are lots of books and personal photos mixed in with a rich collection of collectables from all corners of the globe. “This was a very special project” says Dekker “as we needed to create a home that would wow yet still reflect the taste of the owners. I think we managed to do this with great aplomb! This is without doubt the ultimate glam pad for an aspiring couple and a sophisticated luxury apartment design scheme.”

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