A Lava Stone Island, a Purple Study—This Retired London Couple Wasn’t Afraid to Go Playful
Plus how their designers seized every bit of space.
Published Jan 6, 2022 1:15 AM
Leaving the respite of the countryside for busy city life is a fair trade when it means getting to see your children and grandchildren more often. At least that’s how K&H Design cofounder Katie Glaister’s latest clients, a retired couple in their 70s who are avid art collectors, felt when they decided to buy a semidetached home in London’s Fulham neighborhood. “They wanted to use the house in a completely different way,” says Glaister. Instead of turning the top loft space into children’s bedrooms, the pair saved the third floor—quirky sloped ceilings and all—for their main bedroom suite. “By playing around with ceiling heights and pushing upward, we managed to create drama,” the designer notes.
Carving out separate rooms for the couple to work-slash-play was key to the new plans. The wife now has a dedicated art studio on the top level, just off the bathroom, that’s flooded with natural light, while the husband secured a private study downstairs, which is painted in Edward Bulmer’s Tyrian color. They even have separate dressing areas (his closet is located within their minimalist, Corian-clad bathroom; her walk-in wardrobe is in the bedroom). “They’re never going to be on top of each other,” explains Glaister. “They have their own identities.”
The homeowners’ extensive art collection made Glaister, K&H cofounder Henry Miller-Robinson, and their team’s job easier in the end. “They’re not beige and taupe people,” says Glaister. “They’ve got the confidence to be playful.” The clients’ dreamy assortment of watercolors sets the scene in the foyer, where the designers also incorporated functional additions like a coat closet and a Victorian-era cast-iron radiator tucked underneath a floating granite and wood console.
The large portrait of the family by artist Eileen Cooper that hangs over the fireplace in the study inspired the purple and orange palette of the room. “Because the space is south facing, it gets a lot of light, so we knew it could take the depth of color,” shares Glaister. While Tyrian purple has been around for centuries (it was first produced by the Phoenicians as early as 1200 BCE), here it has a modern twist. The designers continued the deep mauvy grape hue inside of the hearth in the form of zellige tiles. “That’s what classic contemporary is,” says Glaister of revamping the original fireplace. “It’s taking something that is a very deeply Victorian characteristic and reinterpreting it.”
The same can be said of the wing-back chair (a piece the owners already owned before K&H came on board). The designers partially reimagined it by adding a punchy print by Rebecca Cole down the center.
In the kitchen, color comes from the island. The structure is topped with glazed lava stone sourced from an extinct volcano in France (the blue hue was one of many colors the clients could have chosen from). “Most people now don’t really want their kitchens to look like kitchens,” Glaister says of going with the unexpected material and the jewelry-like pendant light by Margit Wittig that hangs above it.
The nearby sitting room was intended to feel like the inside of a greenhouse, with a glass roof, but when the glare on the TV becomes too strong, the couple can adjust the blinds that are secured to the window panels. “It just adds a softness, all those layers,” shares Glaister. The tiny powder room offers another immersive experience. The little Pinxton & Co. elephant hook on the door, the Jane Clayton wallpaper, and the carved Moroccan sink are all nods to the wife’s upbringing in India.
“It feels like we’ve seized every bit of space,” says Glaister. In the main lofted bedroom, even the bookcases soar up into the highest eaves. You would never know it now, but the cornices used to be much more intricate. Paring back the bones of the room helped the whole space shine a bit more. “We like to think it’s quite a luxurious room, but really the windows are painted the same color as the walls and the skirting,” she notes. “We worked with the architecture.” It’s a fresh start for all.