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For an interior designer, the 9-to-5 is even more fun when the client is an old friend. Emma Shone-Sanders, founder of London-based studio Design & That, and Alex, the owner of this townhouse, go way back—all the way to high school, in fact. “Growing up, we’d get ready to go out together and talk about fashion, boys, the usual stuff,” says Shone-Sanders with a laugh. When Alex bought her very first apartment in London, their chats graduated to interiors. “When we worked together on her home, I got to know her taste better,” she adds.

Fast-forward a few years to 2019: Alex, who was expecting her first child with her husband, Chris, turned to her friend once more. The brief was to create a playful home with their growing family in mind, but with plenty of grown-up corners, like a moody bar in the basement. “They are both lawyers with intense jobs, so they wanted somewhere relaxing where they could unwind from it all,” explains Shone-Sanders. 

Wallpaper, Mark Alexander; Coffee Table, Fred Rigby; Chair, Soho Home; Art, MAH Gallery.
Sofa, Roche Bobois, covered in Fabric by Rose Uniacke; Wall Light, Apparatus; Art, MAH Gallery.

Carried out in two major phases—timed just as Leni (now 4) and Jago (11 months) came into the world—site visits replaced their café catch-ups. But of course, the beauty of decorating your friend’s place is being able to come over once it’s all done and simply hang out. In her own words, Shone-Sanders explains how she made this house a welcoming sanctuary for the family of five (Rosa the cat included).

Sofa, Fogia Retreat; Coffee Table, Mass Productions; Floor Lamp and Wall Light, &Tradition.

The first thing I bought for the project:

Apart from a beautiful bowl that I’d brought back from Morocco (which was actually my wedding gift to the couple), I helped whittle down essential buys like the beds and couch. I was drawn to the Fogia Retreat sofa because, while it’s contemporary, its simple shape suited the more traditional setting. It’s super-comfortable, too.

The new artisan I discovered: 

I found Conor at CMG Finishes; he specializes in unusual paint applications such as microcement (which we used across all the bathrooms), Clayworks (a natural plaster that adorns the kitchen walls), and Bauwerk, a limewash paint. The latter is different from normal paint: You dip the brush in [the can and] then flick most of the excess off. The aim is to make textural cloud patterns (having used it in my own home, I know how different it is [compared] to emulsion). It was brilliant to have one tradesperson as opposed to coordinating a trio of specialists. I’m working with him on other projects now.

Brassware, Samuel Heath; Floor Tile, Otto Tiles.

The detail I had to sell the homeowner on:

The shower door for the main bathroom was a sticking point because it was quite a splurge. I’d always had it in mind, but being a bespoke piece made from brass by the builder and then dipped in acid to give it a patina, it’s not the sort of item you can order and change your mind about. I looked around for off-the-shelf alternatives, but nothing felt quite right. It ended up being the very last thing in the house that was fitted, and Alex and Chris are thrilled with it. 

Cabinets, 202 Design; Cone Pendant Lamps, Rose Uniacke; Handles, Corston Architectural.
Wall Lights, Rose Uniacke; Dining Table and Chairs, Pinch; Kitchen, 202 Design.

The detail I’ll use again in a future project:

The cat run is a cool feature I’m already planning for another renovation. In the base of the banquette, there is an opening for Rosa, with perforations to let light in, as we worried it could be a bit dark. The opening connects to the bottom of the tall cabinets on either side: On the right is her litter tray, while on the left she can exit to the garden through a flap built into the external wall. In these types of extensions with glass sliders, there’s never anywhere to put a cat door discreetly, so incorporating it into the millwork was a clever fix!

The decision that felt like a risk:

The rattan inserts in the units facing the kitchen aren’t the sort of material you’d usually find in a traditional London townhouse. I had specified a lot more of it initially, but in the end we pared it back to provide a touch of texture to the room. I think it provides just the right amount of warmth.

Canopy and Bedspread, Projektityyny; Bedside Lamps, Anthropologie.
Plumbing Fixtures, Studio Ore; Tile, Otto Tiles.

The biggest save:

Alex and Chris felt strongly about incorporating lots of storage, but estimates from high-end cabinetmakers were double the amount that they’d budgeted for. Our work-around was to create all the technical drawings ourselves, then have them made by the builder’s millworker, who fitted them all. It was a huge difference in price, and from the quality and end result, you’d never know. 

Towel Rail, Sterlingham; Shower Tile, Otto Tiles.

The considered touch: 

I continued the striped zellige tile up onto the ceiling of the bath area in the attic. I hadn’t tried that before, but it’s a nice way of enveloping the space.

The nonnegotiable:

Alex and Chris loved the tiled hallway that was original to the house, but it was badly damaged when we renovated the basement. I worked with London Mosaics to create a bespoke design that worked with our color scheme. 

Wallpaper, Drop It Modern; Rattan Chair, Folk; Rug, La Redoute.
Toy Baskets, Scandiborn.

The detail that won over the whole family:

In the basement playroom, I found a graphic mural wallpaper to set the space apart from the rest of the house. With storage a priority in there, too, I decided to break up the run of cabinets with pinboards on the doors. The cork backs are simply lined with linen, so the kids can fill them up with all their creations and inject their personality, while the kitchen upstairs can remain more zen. 

The Goods