This Paint Color Was a Homeowner’s “Nightmare”—Until She Saw Her Designer’s Vision
It's just one detail that helps the frequent flier recharge.
Published May 31, 2023 1:10 AM
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After meeting through mutual friends, interior designer Églantine Sicat crossed paths with the owner of this West London apartment several times over the years, and every time she’d say to Sicat: ‘Once I settle down, I’ll call you!’ She was true to her word. In early 2022, upon getting the keys to her 1,000-square-foot apartment, she asked Sicat, founder of Maison August, to work her magic on the tired space. Because the client regularly travels abroad for work, she craved a calming, nestlike oasis. “This is her place to recharge,” says Sicat.
On the owner’s list of must-haves was a nook in which to curl up and read and to be able to showcase her impressive collection of African art. She was raised in Nigeria and has been supporting little-known, emerging artists for years, storing finds at her parents’ home. “The pieces she has are quite exceptional; they’re not something you’d find in a small gallery,” notes Sicat, who relished the challenge of designing around them.
So far so straightforward, but what was meant to be a light makeover turned into a total gut renovation. Sicat worked with a friend and frequent collaborator, fellow French native Pauline Dellemotte of Atelier Ochre, on the project. “When we started stripping [it] out, we realized that all the walls had to be redone, and all the electric,” says Sicat. “Pauline is very bold in color, whereas I’m subtler. And our skills really complement each other.”
Here, Sicat and Dellemotte explain how they turned this top-floor gem into a welcoming sanctuary that combines coziness with contemporary art.
The small detail with powerful impact:
Pauline Dellemotte: The Calacatta Viola marble sink in the bathroom is like a piece of art. It’s directly in front of the door, so you see it straightaway. Originally, it was meant to be used for cupboard doors, but our millworker said the weight of the [stone] would cause issues with the hinges down the line, so it became a set of drawers instead.
The first thing we bought for this project:
Églantine Sicat: A pair of vintage liquor carafes. I found them at auction and they’re tiny, but I had such a crush on them. I immediately WhatsApp’d the owner a picture, and she was like, “I love them. I don’t know where they’re going to go, but I want them.” They now live on the bookshelves in the living room. Bringing in objects you can’t find everywhere lends charm to a space.
The biggest challenge we faced:
Dellemotte: The owner really wanted to add a second bathroom for guests, as well as have an en suite, and that was a massive challenge because, previously, there had only been a tiny washroom and lavatory. We had to reconfigure the whole apartment, and we were restricted by the position of the window, but it worked out.
The detail we had to sell the owner on:
Sicat: The guest bedroom features raspberry pink walls and an equally statement headboard; however, we didn’t know until we wrapped the project that pink is actually the owner’s nightmare color! She used to hate it. We were trying to push for a pop of something bold because everything was skewing so beige and wood-y. It shows how much she trusted our judgment. And of course now she loves that room.
The detail the owner had to sell us on:
Sicat: Some of the artwork was difficult to imagine within the space, but we were always open to trying to make it work. A lot of it is quite bold, especially compared to her brief, which stated she wanted a very neutral interior, so we understood that we needed to strike a balance between the two. The piece above the bed in the primary bedroom is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When she took it out of the roll, my thought was: Yeah, it’s nice. But when it came back from the framers and we hung it, the room suddenly lit up. It’s as if it was meant to be there from the beginning.
The risky decision that worked out:
Dellemotte: Églantine has been going to Morocco for 30 years and developed a network of artisans who make the most beautiful things, so we tapped them for custom pieces like bespoke tile, ceramics, and rugs. It can be challenging, however, because you’re never quite sure how something will turn out. For example, because of the natural way bejmat tile is produced, a lot had imperfections and stains that were just too noticeable, but luckily our builder laid the imperfect ones under the bathtub and vanity to conceal them.
The decor we’ll take with us into our next project:
Sicat: We found some really cool fabric suppliers that we definitely want to work with again. Bisson Bruneel is a French company we used for the drapery throughout—the quality is excellent. And we love the depth of colors that the Yarn Collective produces.