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HIGHGATE HOUSE

This 10 000 sq ft, four-storey detached property had been empty for quite a long time when its current owner purchased it in early 2005 and decided to transform its rather ordinary existing interior and bring it to a new level – one which would finally match the ambition of the building’s standout architecture (created in 1994 by architect Elana Keats and said at the time by the Royal Institute of British Architects to be the most wonderful new house in England.) The architects were commissioned by project author Zeljko Popovic to provide their ideas for a modern interior design for the house and to follow his vision of the overall project.

The four-storey home is built into a hillside, with all services inlaid into its concrete substructure, which made structural change almost impossible. Internally, the interior design included stripping back the walls and floors to bare concrete throughout in order to change every single wall and floor surface. Also, to further improve the internal layout a number of floor levels were changed, taking out stepped areas, creating more even and continuous spaces.

‘This is a very masculine house’ commented London Interior Designer René Dekker. ‘Regarding the interior decor we concentrated very much on adding texture rather than colour to animate the individual spaces, putting smooth textures next to ribbed surfaces and mixing materials wherever possible – the use of various different fabrics on the modular sofa in the main reception room, allowed for each piece to be alternately upholstered in mohair, linen and vinyl with scatter cushions done in velvets and chenille’s.’

The house is arranged over four floors, with the main living areas on the second and third storeys. The top floor, at roof level, consists of a small-enclosed conservatory space surrounded by roof gardens across the remaining area. The second level down (at traditional ground floor) comprises the entrance hall and principle reception rooms with the bedrooms and entertainment rooms occupying the third floor. The lowest level or fourth floor is primarily taken up by a large heated swimming pool and gym.

The entrance hall floor is laid with pietro laro, an olive toned limestone, cut from slab in a random width and length tile format. Contemporary net curtains cover the floor to ceiling windows and hang over the inset glass floor overlooking the children’s entertainment gallery. Large floor-standing sculptures create an immediate sense of drama. Furniture includes a leather and glass table and the DRDP chaise longue by Ceccotti upholstered in a hound’s-tooth check fabric.

To the left of the entrance hall is the reception room. Previously smaller, due to a mezzanine gallery being located on the far side which was filled in, this living room interior design features a zebra maple strip wood floor, whose highly individual markings are made by worms which bore into the wood and then die there, leaving an extraordinary pattern. The flooring sets the tone for the project and is graded so that the pattern becomes stronger at the far end of the room. The limestone from the entrance gallery palette is also picked up here in the door linings, which in turn compliments the greige faux suede wall covering. The window treatment uses a panel glide system, made up of 14 panels in a vertically pleated net. Furniture includes extra-deep sofas, along with two Tresserra ‘Casablanca’ chocolate leather and wood recliners and in the corner is a collection of freestanding Broom Lamps in varying heights. The decor also includes a two-part storage and display unit, comprising of one wall hung and one freestanding component. The sand-coloured carcass, finished in a satin lacquer, is offset by the chocolate coloured high gloss doors.

Off the reception room lobby, is the main staircase, leading down to the third level. Situated in a round ‘turret’, this spiral stair has been redesigned, increasing the lengths of the treads as one descends, reminiscent of an ammonite seashell and at the base of the stair stands a giant red Anglepoise lamp. To the right of the entrance hall lies the dining room lobby and guest WC, dining room with an adjoining kitchen/breakfast diner area and library space.

The dining room features a heavily textured ribbed wall covering, semi-transparent horsehair and linen panel glides covering the full-height windows, along with the same wooden floor finish as in the reception room and dress net curtains are made up in a ‘crochet’ style taupe faux leather fabric. Further luxury interior design elements here include a dark-stained walnut table with a glass top and chairs upholstered in sand-coloured suede, all by Tresserra. At the room’s centre hangs a bespoke chandelier by Tom Kirk

A mezzanine level gallery has been created around the library area, which is double-height and becomes a study on the bedroom level below, with a desk and chair in cognac-coloured Spanish oak. A bespoke new bookcase in stained walnut reaches up the full double-height of the walls and includes inset leather panel detail. The top half is used as a display case for the client’s collection of original glass artworks with the bottom half housing his books. The other walls here are a smooth polished plaster (stucco lustro) and there is a staircase with open walnut treads, metal grips and a plexiglass balustrade links the two levels.

On the third level there are four bedrooms, an entertainment gallery area incorporating a bar and temperature controlled wine ‘cave’, a study, a cinema room and a utility/laundry room. ‘We needed to deal with this level in a two fold manner’ noted René Dekker, ‘to strike a balance between keeping the common areas fairly grown up yet also keeping the children in mind. We achieved this in the children’s entertainment room, the central core of this floor, where we used under stated colour in a playful and witty manner by upholstering the modular sofa in many different fabrics and then adding the burst of turquoise”.

A long corridor between the third and opposing second and fourth bedrooms has become a dedicated art gallery, hung in a silver grey silk wall covering, with a mid-way recessed ‘contemplation area’, clad in dark-stained walnut for maximum contrast. A double-volume bay window at the end of the space ensures maximum natural light at all times.

The master suite consists of a bedroom, dressing room, en-suite bathroom and further separate shower room. The bedroom interior design includes walls that are covered in a special linen look vinyl with the floors moving from a leather tile in the bedroom to a chocolate candy stripe wool carpet in the dressing room. All furniture in this area is from Tresserra. The perfectly crafted sliding doors, fireplace and wardrobes here complete the scheme.

Luxury interior design is at its zenith in the master bathroom which has marble flooring and walls (arabescato vagli) with the apse in polished black stucco lustro. At the room’s centre is a spectacular 2m-diameter ‘UFO’ bath (by Agape), in polished stainless steel, with a stainless steel mosaic shower and WC enclosure. The spectacular dress curtains in this room are in a fabric made up from 92% stainless steel and 8% silk, called ‘liquid metal’ from Andrew Martin. Other furniture includes a movable stool upholstered in flannel, complimented by matching bathrobe and towels (all by Missoni Home) and a small ‘hotbox’ for hand towels. The freestanding basin especially hand-made in India, weighs almost a ton and measures 87cm (height) by 60cm for its oval exterior shape (with a circular opening) and is 40cm deep. Behind the basin is a bespoke classical-style 3m-high mirror with empire detail. The separate shower room is clad in taupe-coloured limestone, whilst an additional guest cloakroom features inset detail panels in mango wood and a raked, polished plaster niche.

‘This really was one of the most special rooms in the house,’ commented René ‘because we wanted to create the most spectacular bathroom possible. The limitations here were that no services could be moved due to the concrete foundations so we were only able to play with finishes. The scale of the room and the personality of the owner were the deciding factors in creating a masculine ‘wet’ room with serious impact.’

The bathrooms, which accompany the second and third bedrooms, also have highly individual treatments. The former is all in white Thassos marble, (with feature black wall lamps and matching basin), whilst the latter features a raised bath area and a floor in an amber glass mosaic, set again within a recessed apse applied with aubergine polished plaster and using an inset repeat line of the amber mosaic. A full-height aubergine voile dress curtain and a freestanding baroque candelabrum together with the large-scale baroque mirror add a touch of femininity and complete the interior scheme.

The second bedroom, a child’s room, has walls in pleated leatherette and a feature wall in crystal-beaded wallpaper. This room also has a hand-made chandelier comprising of feather drops and a more feminine treatment overall, including white and lilac floral voile curtains, striped velvet scatter cushions, hardened plexiglass stands with ‘crochet tables’ by Moooi and faux fur bean bag. The carpet is a lilac, white and mint trellis design and the daybed in the room is by Fratelli Boffi.

The third bedroom has been designed for a teenage occupant and has a very 1970’s feel with a cognac shag pile carpet and a circular leather bed (the Round Trip by Ipe Cavalli), whose shape is dictated by the room. The bed cover is in a circular crewel-embroidered voile with a selection of cushions in silk-velvets, silk and faux astrakhan. Three existing niches behind the bed use feature lighting to highlight the accessories. One stand-out wall features 30 different-sized circular ‘star’ mirrors, continuing the circles theme. Additional furniture includes a wave ‘gaufraged’ silk-velvet beanbag in the shape of a chaise longue, dark stained desk and Bourgie Plexiglas lamps by Kartell.

The fourth and final bedroom, also a children’s room, has a more masculine appeal with a blue and green theme. This room has a taupe and indigo wool carpet, a ‘Rasta’ ottoman in green wool, green pinstriped blinds and a special bespoke bed cover in a taupe weave with a green, tufted, circular motif. A feature bookcase, with irregularly shaped cut-outs completes the scheme.

The cinema room design has a spectacular long curtain wall (made from red/orange and aubergine striped voile), lined by a series of ten pendant lamps. An Edra Boa sofa is in dark purple velvet, whilst the floor is scattered with huge-scale scatter cushions/bean bags in taupe’s and chestnut reds. The interior decor in the kid’s entertainment room includes an Edra modular sofa with irregular shapes, each piece again upholstered in different fabrics for maximum impact. Cushions are turquoise silk velvet with chenille trimmings and the floor lamps are Opalia by Oasis compliment the scheme. This space also has a bar/wine store area with SCHOTT fibre optics daylight simulation system (ensuring slick illumination of the wine rack without harmful UV radiation), floor-to-ceiling radiators and a massive oval backlit ceiling raft.

On the pool level, a graded mosaic tile wall treatment is used with the lightest colours at the top gradually getting darker further down. This is used not only in the main pool enclosure but also in the adjoining shower room and WC. Further rooms include the gym with adjoining kitchen and sauna.

The conservatory on the first (top) floor, the only enclosed part of the roof terrace, is original but has a new interior treatment, including a limestone floor with walnut floor detail, walnut-clad and halo-edge-lit panels in the four corners (two of which conceal speakers). The room is dominated, however, by linen ‘tent’ drapes edged in faux chocolate leather inspired by Roman military tents. Furniture in the conservatory includes chairs and table from Tresserra and chocolate brown leather poufs from Alma.

Architects Spence Harris Hogan

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