ST GEORGES HILL
Having successfully completed several other projects for this client, it was only natural that he would again call on award winning design company René Dekker Design, to carry out the interior fit out for his newly acquired family country house. Located within one of the UK’s premier gated communities and nestling squarely in the middle of immaculately kept grounds, the house is like a building from an English fairy tale. As one strolls up the winding driveway, the house presents itself resembling a modest late Georgian country manor, resplendent with its limestone portico, red brick façade with white stucco details and clinging ivy.
Once through the front door, the luxury interior belies your first impressions and you find yourself in a classically inspired modern family home. Original oak flooring has now been combined with a symphony of taupes and golds, and apart from the ceilings, all traces of white have been replaced with warm natural shades. The entrance hall is a double volume space, dominated by a classical u-shaped ‘swept’ staircase which is positioned centrally at ground level and then peels away in opposite directions from the half landing. Symmetry has been carefully prescribed here without creating unnecessary formality. There is a pair of elegant sculptural consuls, made from beaten metal with limestone tops, positioned on either side of the room. Each has a table scape consisting of a pair of fine, hand blown glass lamps with silk shades, a centrally hung matching mirror and a bespoke deep buttoned ottoman positioned underneath. On the first half landing hangs a large original artwork by Godwin Hoffman supported on either side by a pair of decorative gold wall lights, and the whole scene is perfectly crowned with a contemporary gold chandelier. The warmth here is created by the luxuriant gold wall covering and the sumptuous gold-silk curtains which have been interlined to give a full and rich appearance to the window treatment.
This home is a departure for interior designer René Dekker and the team who admits that although it is large, some 5 000 square feet, the proportions were less generous than a period house. “The house is not small by any manner or means” says René “but the ceilings were fairly low and we needed to achieve a spacious yet intimate atmosphere”. This was accomplished by painting the skirtings, doors and architraves in the same shade as the wall coverings, creating an unpunctuated visual landscape and using full length curtains (as opposed to just blinds) to give the ceilings greater height.
To the right as you enter is the ‘cigar room’. “I’m not sure how it got that name as no one in the house smokes but somehow it stuck” smiles Dekker. This room is richly adorned with a fine Japanese silk wall paper which has just a hint of red in it, giving it a warm and inviting appeal. Housed here is a collection of some of the clients’ artefacts which he has gathered from around the world. A pair of ornate brass Chinese urns occupies the window cills and a Tibetan singing bowl takes pride of place between the armchairs. Reflecting the wall paper, a Chagall print with overtones of vermilion is deftly framed in a simple gilded mount and hangs to one side. Echoing this work is a large limited edition piece by French artist Jacques Bosser which captures a traditional African theme and translates it into a refreshingly contemporary expression. The space has clear direction but the scheme is magically subtle, combining all the artistic elements of foreign influence with comfortable English living. Even the subtle ancient Celtic pattern on the sofa fabric and the Chinese silk rug are underplayed here. Even though the room is inviting and cosy and contains many ethnic features, it is not traditional. The main seating is made up of a large comfortable sofa, again bespoke like so many of the elements in this home, and two replica Art Deco tub chairs, expertly upholstered in chocolate Nubuck with contrast piping. The central coffee table is a float buttoned, leather ottoman, adorned with a gorgeous leather and walnut tray housing an array of small objet. To the right is a handsome walnut drinks cabinet with leather stitched panel doors and hand beaten bronze handles, which Dekker designed for the space. “It’s the perfect place for the cocktail shaker and ice bucket when you’re having a party” he points out. The curtains again are a triumph in understated luxury, hessian in style but woven from the finest silk with just a hint of lamé, subtly glamorous.
This was not a complete refurbishment as the client was generally happy with the structure of the house and so the interior design scheme did not include the bathrooms or the kitchen. Another room that was left fairly intact was the client’s study which contained a full height, full width shelving unit created in a classical style. Originally set against a white background, Dekker and the team set about toning down the walls, and in fact, it was this room that inspired the Japanese silk wall paper used in the Cigar room. “The joinery looked out of place here but once we had hung the paper, the whole affair just blended into place”. With just a whiff of the Cigar room, the windows here are hung with the most delicious horse hair blinds, edged in suede.
Without doubt, the most important part of this house is the Family room/Kitchen which occupies at least half of the Ground floor (excluding the pool of course). A vast space which houses a rich mahogany Clive Christian kitchen and a breakfast area for the family, a small seating area for playing cards and games and a comfortable seating area. This room is brighter than the rest of the ground floor, in part due to the large bay windows and French doors that open onto the south facing garden. The heart of the room is definitely the informal seating area designed around the very large TV. “This home has no formal reception” notes Dekker, “because this is occupied by the children’s den, so this room doubles up as both a family and formal area”. To get the balance right Dekker needed to make sure that the sofa was elegant yet adaptable for children and adults to lounge on and watch TV. This was achieved by the addition of formal scatter cushions in contrasting fabrics and trims. The room was further enriched by the use of toned down gold in the form of the table lamps and occasional tables. A bespoke ottoman upholstered in bronze leather, a bronze ‘Man’ standard lamp and the mahogany table and chairs keep the scheme grounded. At the far end of the room sits a small round card table with lacquered top and gold legs which the client requested specifically to play cards. There are two low back chairs in a two-tone upholstery around it, and the smaller of the two ‘Lunar’ chandeliers hangs gracefully above it (the larger one hanging over the kitchen counter). The windows have been softened by the use of a modern ‘floral’ fabric, keeping the space elegant but firmly located in the country.
Apportioned over the first floor are five bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms. Apart from the complete redesign of the interior décor and furnishing of the upstairs areas, the client requested all new wardrobes throughout. With the help of tear-sheets from the client, Dekker set about designing bespoke joinery for all 5 bedrooms. Wardrobes had to include drop down hanging rails for the youngest son, bespoke sock and belt drawers, trouser trays and integrated lighting.
The largest of these suites is the master bedroom which is made up of a very large bedroom, two en suite bathrooms and a dressing room. The feel here is fresh and light with the off white pearlised wall covering, ivory linen curtains and white shag pile carpet governing the senses. Centred squarely in the room is a very contemporary sleigh bed, created by Dekker after a classic design. It has a beautifully crafted solid walnut frame with an internal upholstered base in greige linen. The integrated tall headboard is upholstered in the same fabric but with a charcoal and ivory ‘school’ stripe running through it, and the footboard is finished in shagreen embossed leather. Dekker remembers the complicated nature of getting this 2.4m wide by 2.2m long bed up the stairs and into the bedroom. “We obviously designed this to come apart, but each component was still quite large. Thankfully there are French doors out onto a bijoux terrace, so we could hoist some of the larger parts up over the balcony.” To complement the bed, Dekker had two large walnut bedside tables made, with ample room to house the over-scaled glass lamps. A grouping of a pair of occasional chairs and a walnut ‘Greek key’ table sits to the left of the French doors, making the perfect place for a morning cup of tea.
Down the hall lie two further suites, the first being the guest bedroom which had to make use of some existing furniture the client wanted to keep. The bed and bedside tables are both made from a combination of dark stained timber and embossed chocolate leather, and used to reside in the master bedroom. As the furniture made use of gold details, it was decided to build on this and to bring in a lot more of it. This is the darkest of the bedrooms and the use of this vibrant metallic colour certainly lifts the room. The bedside lamps, the dressing table lamp, the dressing table mirror and the wall lights are all gold... and not just subtle gold, we are talking ‘bright gold’, and yet this is not a garish scheme. To the left is a bespoke dressing table in bush hammered steel and bronze lacquer along with an elegant pouf in cut velvet; and at the foot of the bed is an extra-long ottoman upholstered in taupe chenille. At the front of the house is the bedroom for the client’s eldest son and this had to reflect a grown up quality combined with the youthfulness of his years. Although the bed is an ’adult’ bed, the bedside tables are playful and young and resemble old steamer trunks. The fabrics in the cushions and the upholstery are boyish and natural in both colour and texture, allowing him to grow into the space. He also inherited his father’s old ‘partners’ desk and chair which occupy the other end of the room, allowing him to attend to homework and to play on the computer in the privacy of his own space.
Added later to the house and on the opposite side to the Breakfast room lies the pool complex, which is made up of a large swimming pool, a sauna, a changing and shower room and bar. Although this area underwent no major changes, it still fell to the team to add some comfortable seating. As the space was a premium, the ‘Big Dune’ by Vladimir Kagan was used. This is a typically Kagan, a-symmetrical style sofa lounger, made from water resistant rattan, and it suits the fresh white feel of the pool perfectly. The whole complex opens out onto the garden by way of several large French doors making this the perfect place to spend a hazy summer day.