What a modern home! A penthouse apartment in the City of London with views of St Paul’s and the London Eye in the distance with three en suite bedrooms, an open plan living room and kitchen, and a large garden terrace and two smaller terraces.
As a top exec, Helen Dickinson is used to making big decisions in snappy style. She employed the same tactics when purchasing her beautiful sixth floor penthouse apartment up amongst the clouds in the heart of the city of London.
‘I bought it off-plan in 2018, a scary decision based on a glossy brochure and seeing just the structure of the building,’ she says. Helen had been looking off and on, for about five years for her dream home and this apartment with its great location, well designed spaces and quality finishes - plus, the icing on the top, a huge terrace as big as many city gardens, finally won her heart. ‘I hadn’t intended to purchase a new build but its bones were so good I knew I could add character and personality,’ says Helen.
She moved in just before lockdown in February 2020. ‘The floors, kitchen and bathrooms were already fitted and it had plain white walls so was effectively a blank canvas,’ she says. ‘I wanted to create something special but I had no idea what exactly and how to achieve it.’ Helen had seen the work of Julia Thompson of Frank Interiors and loved her aesthetic of mixing vintage, particularly mid-century, with contemporary.
‘I got Julia on board from the start, says Helen. ‘She came up with concepts, sourced lots of the items both new and vintage and most importantly knew how to put them all together to create an individual look.’
The kernel of the project came from the purchase of a set of mid century dining chairs which heralded the beginning of the dining area. ‘Everything evolved from there with Julia focusing on the big pieces first, adding objets, textiles and accessories around them,’ adds Helen. ‘Julia and I both felt that a combination of mid-century designer classics and iconic contemporary pieces would be the right fit for the apartment. To break up the wall of kitchen units, she chose one as a display area which draws the eye and makes for a softer look.’
‘I was desperate to avoid the apartment looking like a show home, so styling vintage pieces were important to counteract that - and the way Julia put them together, by creating little vignettes all around the apartment is genius.’
Helen views her home as a place to live, work and play. ‘I just love being here, she says. ‘It kept me sane living alone during the various lockdowns, and now things have opened up it’s only five minutes away to the buzz of the City or Shoreditch and Hackney or the peacefulness of Clerkenwell, all areas steeped in the history of London and full of character.’
Asked to name an essential must-have, she says: plants, plants, plants. ‘They create softness and calm in which was initially a clinical space, surrounded by concrete buildings outside.’ The best house plants can help enliven your home and boost your health.
‘I felt that the hallway idea needed a wow factor and Julia designed these stunning bronze shelving units that complement the color of the exterior doors beautifully and draw your eye down the entire length,' says Helen. 'A focal point here means you take a pause as you walk around the apartment - and inevitably look at the view.’
‘I have a very full-on job so more than anything I wanted my bedroom to be a serene space with a real sense of calm that I can escape to at the end of the day.’
So what takeaways has Helen gleaned from the revamp? ‘So, so much,’ she says. ‘The preciseness of the sizing of furniture in a room. The importance of styling and of texture. How different tones of a color palette can work together. How to look after my plants – that one is still work in progress!’ She agrees that practicality and comfort are important, ‘but I’ve found it's also vital to have objects you love around you. They bring you joy every time you see them.'
‘The other guest bedroom is still work in progress but I want it to be somewhere were we can make best use of the lovely views and enable guests to feel at ease straight away,' she adds.
How's this for a modern bathroom trend? ‘The idea was to be surrounded by plants so that I can sit in the bath, admire the view and feel like I am outside!’ Helen says. 'Julia taught me not to compromise - and she pushed me out of my comfort zone - which I thank her for daily!’
‘The finish of the space was lovely but a bit ‘new-build.' Adding natural wooden items and plenty of greenery has softened it.’
Julia introduced Helen to garden designer Barbara Samitier who created the spectacular year-round garden on the main terrace off the living room which gives a zen-like aura to the home. ‘Barbara also created green spaces on the two smaller terraces so nature beckons from every angle,’ she says.
'The view here is spectacular. While I am in the centre of London I hear more birdsong than traffic noise - it’s a true oasis.' Urban gardening ideas can be truly wonderful and make you feel a million miles away from buzzy city life. ‘While I am surrounded by other buildings, its not really overlooked and the concept about bringing the outside in or the inside out, depending on how you look at it, was created by using plants that Barbara chose carefully to be able to withstand terrace life’.'
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A legendary houses editor, Mary Weaver held the job of Homes Editor on Livingetc for over a decade. She set the aesthetic for which the brand has become known. She is now a freelance stylist, art director and writer, regularly contributing to Livingetc and overseeing the brand's successful House Tours franchises of live and webinar events.
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