Set on one of Kensington’s smartest garden squares, this listed mansion flat received a complete refurbishment, breathing new life into its tired interior. Upon entering one is immediately struck by the textures and finishes which tease the senses. Exquisitely lacquered doors, as smooth as glass, textured polished plaster expertly applied to expansive walls and delicate wall coverings abound throughout the interior, a common trait that runs through schemes commissioned to René Dekker.
Originally one very large home, the building was transformed and subdivided into apartments many years ago when space was not the premium it is now. The apartment has been sympathetically laid out across 3,000 square feet; it has a spacious entrance hall leading in one direction to the principle rooms and in the other to the bedrooms. At the front of the residence and facing the square is the reception room with an adjoining eat in kitchen and a further study. To the rear are three bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms, a guest cloak room and a lobby. Built around 1850 and despite the subdivision, the flat retains many of its period features. These include well-proportioned skirtings, deep elaborate cornices and the mahogany entrance door; but the key feature that gives this space such presence is undoubtedly the proportions. When René Dekker was engaged as the luxury interior designer, the building works were well underway while planning permissions and listed consents had all been approved. The challenge was now for Dekker to add the magic. No major changes were made to the layout and Dekker worked closely with the architect and project manager to ensure that the finished product exceeded the client’s expectation yet kept English Heritage agreeable.
The entrance hall is warm and inviting, and although classical in its detailing, it is refreshingly contemporary in its use of finishes. It flows off in two directions, fluidly linking the bedroom wing with the reception room through the use of a seamless pitted plaster finish on the walls and the random width and length oak planks that make up the floor throughout the apartment. Whist there is no natural light in this part of the interior flat design; it is nevertheless bright and welcoming with its beautiful gilded and marble consul table and large Rococo mirror. Over scaled skirtings and detailed cornicing painted in crisp off white gloss are highlighted in blissful contrast to the cognac polished plaster.
The reception room is resplendent with its luxuriously finished walls, skilfully painted to look like aged silk. Dekker worked closely with renowned specialist decorators DKT to create this sumptuous blend of taupe, gold and pearl. The original sample was a small piece of water damaged silk that Dekker was determined to recreate on a large scale. “It’s never a problem getting exactly the right finish” says Dekker, “as long as you work with professional people who understand the value of the finished product”. The room is dominated by the dark panelled joinery, designed with classical proportions within a contemporary idiom. Positioned above the fireplace (a reclaimed Victorian surround from Chesneys) is a dazzling art work by Iranian born artist, Hessam Abrishami. Centred in the room are two very modern Italian sofas, four identical round occasional tables and two stylish zebrano chairs. To ground the scheme and keep it in context, Dekker used heavily gilded lamps from Porta Romana which all sit squarely on a contemporary silk and wool rug. Despite the amount of future, there is still plenty of space around this seating area. For instance, there is a vitrine behind one of the sofas which displays the most extraordinary collection of Russian snuff and pill boxes, while behind the two chairs is a leather and walnut drinks unit. The style here is neutral, but the use of aubergine in the cushions and the rug lifts the scheme. Whilst the décor in this room is u ndoubtedly glamorous, chic and grown up, it has been cleverly interwoven with original artworks and objéts owned by the client to make it feel whole and uncontrived.
Adjoining the reception room is the family eat-in-kitchen, separated when required, by full height oak and glass panelled doors. A far more modern affair, this room is the heart of the home, again with ample space, housing an eight seater table and chairs which do not encroach in any way on the flow of the room.
The study is a modest but well-proportioned room just off the hall. Panelled in dark oak, this bespoke arrangement was designed with the client’s every need in mind. An L-shaped desk with storage and file drawers runs along two sides of the room while full height narrow bookshelves occupy the third elevation. Unsightly components such as wiring, speakers and computer accoutrements are nowhere to be seen as they have been deftly hidden away within the design. A plethora of paperbacks intermingle with chrome toy cars on the shelving make this, the ultimate ‘big boys’ sanctuary. One of the subtleties that one picks up while getting the grand tour is the attention to detail, especially in the ironmongery. Attached like furniture jewellery to every door and cupboard, are the most exquisite handles with polished chrome as the central theme. Each one is unique and beautifully crafted in a different design, some with leather while others have mother of pearl, adding that extra layer of design to complete the work.
The guest WC is tucked away just off the entrance hall and created a bit of a design issue admits Dekker. ‘The original room had uneven walls with nooks and crannies and a full height window with an angled skylight that looked onto a dark ‘light well’…no pun intended’. The architect had planned the room, which again has more than enough space, to accommodate a WC and a generous vanity. Whilst building was underway, Dekker and the project manager agreed to completely mirror one elevation, formatting the design to suit the architectural ambiguity of the wall. The outcome is a cleverly designed storage unit, hidden away and creating the impression of extra space. The remaining walls are clad in honed Noir St Laurent, a refreshing departure from the classical polished finish. It was here as well that the luxury interior designer and the project manager rationalised the design to help eradicate the view of the light well by hiding the original window behind stone and frosting the angled skylight.
At the end of the corridor just off the hall is the master suite made up of a generous bright bedroom, two walk in wardrobes and an en suite bathroom. The bed is centrally located opposite the fireplace and sits elegantly within an architectural folly that had to be kept due to the listing. In order to fit a padded headboard into the niche, a series of individual panels were created and upholstered in taupe nubuck, as was the client’s original bed base. A pair of custom designed bijoux bedside tables was created to fit into the remaining space. Finished in Macassar Ebony, the design considered the integration of the cables for the mobile phones and power points leaves space for books and magazines and incorporates hidden drawers for further storage. The colour palette here is subtle but sophisticated in a symphony of taupes and accented with midnight blue. A beautiful linen wall covering has been hung here which softens the whole room and establishes a wonderfully calm repose. Even though this allusion to tranquillity has been executed with luxury in mind, it is nevertheless an uncluttered space, save for the French consul and chair from Moissonier, which makes a great vignette opposite the bed.
Both walk in wardrobes make use of the same dark oak finish that has been used throughout, to create spacious and well-designed clothing cupboards. There is storage for every conceivable accessory. There are belt and tie drawers, sock and smalls drawers, pull out shelving for jumpers and T shirts, long and short hanging, trinket trays for change and cufflinks as well as shoe shelves. Integrated lighting, seemingly emanating from nowhere, completes this room to the highest specification. At the other end of the bedroom is the en suite bathroom which is bright and refreshing with its large window and marble cladding to the floor and walls. This is the ultimate escape with its large spa bath, walk in steam shower and double vanity. Arrebescato adorns the floor and walls and is particularly impressive above the bath where it has been book matched. The scene is completed with the contemporary, glistening chrome taps.
When it comes to the children’s bedroom interiors, Dekker is somewhat of a seasoned veteran and these do not disappoint. Creating a bedroom for a young 16 year old girl, who is keen to study fashion design, was a challenge to avoid predictability. ‘I like children’s rooms to combine the vitality of youth and an element of fun with adult sophistication. It allows them to grow into the space without having to redecorate after two or three years because they suddenly grow up’. The bedroom is vibrant and fresh with its use of tangerine and off white. Refined elements such as the deep buttoned ottoman and the contemporary take on a classical French bed, are juxtaposed with the almost cartoon like Fratelli Boffi desk chair,and make a great alternative scheme for a young Vivian Westwood in training. The boy’s room is also a dream blend of masculine ‘Ralph Lauren’ tones translated into a boyish scheme. Shades of charcoal, smoke and gun metal scatter cushions, not usually associated with a boy’s room, combine well with the faux fur throw and dark linen headboard. The walls are hung in a sublime vinyl wall covering which resembles grass cloth, and to one side there is a simple yet cool wall unit designed to house the TV and games consul. The bed is a clever take on the bunk bed where the bottom bunk is the size of a European double bed, and then acts as the sofa when the boys are playing on their X-Box.
In an age of instant gratification, this home is Homage to subtlety. Delicate textures, restrained tones and luxurious finishes eagerly wait to be discovered, and woven into the very fabric of the design are the private treasures that make up the clients life. Understated elegance would not be a clichéd term when describing this home and the luxury interior design.