The Exact Sofa Depth and Coffee-Table Style That Take a Room From Livable to Luxe
And more takeaways from these chic London apartments.
Published Mar 21, 2022 1:15 AM
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Like a good novel, a good space starts with the characters. “This is where we pictured Ernest Hemingway writing his books in Cuba,” says Camilla Clarke, one of the interior designers at London-based firm Albion Nord, of a narrow, moss green office the team recently designed for 80 Holland Park, a series of newly built luxury residences in the city. While you’d expect all the apartments in a large-scale development like this to look the same, Albion Nord took a fresh approach: Each of the 18 out of 25 homes they’ve completed so far are meant to feel totally different from one another. So it helps to have a specific vision (or person) in mind when picking out wall treatments and furniture, say a famous author who could be found writing at a pippy oak wood desk and sitting in a vintage bamboo folding chair.
Once an apartment is finished and listed on the market, the new homeowners can theoretically just show up with a suitcase and start living there. “They can get absolutely everything,” says Clarke. They can even keep the Bamford conditioner in the shower and the candlesticks on the coffee table.
Four years after starting the project, Albion Nord has completed 50-plus bedrooms and around 20 living areas, so it’s not an overstatement to say Clark and her team have become experts in these spaces. We asked her to take us behind the scenes and share a few insights for creating luxe, welcoming spaces.
Artwork With Impact
For the handful of homes that feature mega-corridors with open views leading all the way down to the living room, Albion Nord made sure to hang standout abstract artwork at the end of the entry hallway. “And then for every room to the side [of the corridor], we’d go with a contrasting color,” notes Clarke. “That juxtaposition makes each space really exciting.”
Softness is a box the designers are constantly trying to tick, but what does that really mean? For Clark, it’s making sure your sofa is no less than 3-feet deep. Feather-down cushions are a plus. “You want to be able to lie on it,” she shares.
An oversize sectional also helps fill out a room so you don’t end up with awkward, empty corners. When faced with a strange nook in one of the home’s main bedrooms, the Albion Nord team gave the spot purpose by swathing the walls in dark green fabric panels and adding a striped L-shaped sofa (the fabric is from Penny Morrison). “That was my favorite room to design,” recalls Clarke. Mimicking nature and referencing the lushness of nearby Hyde Park was a big inspiration point for many of the spaces, so they kept the theme going with houseplants. “When you go in, you just relax and breathe,” she says.
Natural and nubby textures give a space dimension. For rugs, the designers leaned into sisal, jute, and abaca, while wool and bouclé were ideal for armchairs, benches, and throw blankets. When it comes to window treatments, Clarke suggests keeping things on the simple side with off-white linen panels. “You want to look at the view; you don’t want to be distracted by too much going on,” she says. “Instead of worrying about a really expensive fabric pattern for your curtains, you can save money with good, cheaper linen.”
XL Coffee Tables
Another feature you’ll find in almost all of the living rooms: a monolithic stone coffee table. “The guys carrying those pieces were like, ‘You’ve got to stop buying such big furniture,’” says Clarke with a laugh. The muscle work was worth it: The spacious surfaces offer tons of room for chucking good-looking books and displaying beloved trinkets that might otherwise sit in storage. “There’s nothing worse than when you’ve got a really small coffee that you can’t fit a thing on and you’re knocking over your cup of tea,” she points out.
Lighting From All Directions
“Having a really strong spotlight is definitely not ideal,” says Clarke. In lieu of a ton of overhead recessed bulbs that might make you feel like you’re at an airport or in a sad office cubicle, the designers filled the rooms with a variety of floor and table lamps, as well as pendant fixtures with multiple arms. “It’s a nice way to create atmosphere,” she adds.
In addition to measuring the depth of the sofas, Albion Nord paid close attention to the height of the beds. Clarke’s rule is that the frame should sit off the ground at least 2 feet. Then they like to layer on the pillows, ensuring that there are four rectangular sleeping pillows, two square Euro ones, and at least one decorative option for any queen- or king-size mattress. A goose-down duvet gives the rest of the arrangement that coveted cloudlike look. “It reminds me of that scene in Along Came Polly where Ben Stiller’s character is like: ‘You’ve got too many cushions on your bed,’” she says with a laugh. “But it makes a difference.”
When it came to choosing palettes for the bedrooms, soft blues, creams, and light greens were the go-tos, but the designers tested out unconventional hues like orange and loved the results. “It’s a really nice color,” notes Clarke. (Peep it in a bedroom with twin beds that was designed with an imaginary young family in mind.) “In the evening, it takes on a different personality than it does in the morning light. I think you can be brave with bold colors and pair them against fresh white sheets. It’s always going to look quite sharp.”