New Elegance #5

History has been rewritten in this formal London townhouse, using artistic licence to add a twist to the tale with colour, pattern and a mischievous sense of humour

Get the look: This Mickalene Thomas artwork is from Lehmann Maupin. The Rheinsberg wallpaper is by Designers Guild. The Louis XV fireplace was bought in France. The sculpture to the left of the fireplace, called Christmas Tree, is by Lionel Scoccimaro.


A four-storey townhouse in west London. The ground floor has a lobby, dining room and open-plan kitchen/living area. Upstairs there’s a study and living room, with the master suite, dressing room and gym on the top floor. The lower-ground floor has two guest suites, a WC and a utility room.

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A mischievous sense of humour has been given free rein in this expansive west London property. Step over the threshold of this formal redbrick and you enter a world of playful contrasts. A world where art becomes animated and model installations whirr and tinkle.

All internal doors in this property have been removed, offering tantalising glimpses of the next space and creating an unfettered sightline through the ground floor – a view peppered with thought-provoking objets and art.

Get the look: The charcoal artwork by Richard Serra was bought at a charity auction at Phillips. This is Maarten Baas’s Clay console table. The vase is by Gaetano Pesce. The owl umbrella stand is from Graham and Green.

One unifying element throughout is the salvaged Versailles parquet flooring, shipped over from Paris to be reassembled, a bit like a big jigsaw, complete with original wooden peg nails.

Contrasting styles intersect in the hall and a playful artwork greets visitors. At first glance, the artwork in the lobby looks like an old painting that’s been given a serious hammering. Is someone taking ‘vintage find’ to a new extreme? Perched on the side of the deliberately deconstructed painting is a tiny sculpted woodpecker, the “culprit” behind the artistic destruction. This home is full of little jokes like that.

Get the look: The artwork, called First Harvest in the Wilderness with Woodpecker, is by Valerie Hegarty and was bought from a gallery in California. This is La Musardiere toile wallpaper in Noir by Manuel Canovas.


Seventies disco diva meets Louis XV in a storm of pattern above the fireplace (pictured in the first image). The artist behind the painting likes to use patterned backgrounds in her collages, so the wallpaper was chosen to display the piece in the same spirit.

Surfaces have also been arranged so that they contrast, intersect and spark off each other, creating a dynamism that spills into each space. Even some of the furniture, as created by Maarten Baas, is moulded in wobbly, unpredictable shapes – like the oversized floor lamp, pictured below. Baas’s designs appeal to this property’s sensual side – and sense of humour. Their texture is like chewing gum – like something you find stuck under a school desk.

Get the look: The installation by Tracey Snelling is from Aeroplastics. This is the Clay floor lamp by Maarten Baas. The flooring and wall is in reclaimed Versailles parquet; try Lawsons for similar.

A video installation (pictured above) evokes LA in the Eighties. Videos play, music tinkles and fog can billow from underneath – it’s like a jukebox. It just carries on playing in its own little world while you chat.

Meawhile, the typically French flooring sets a motif for the house, and even zips up the alcove walls in the living room.

The living area overlooks the garden at the back of the building and is filled with sunlight and pops of colour.

An animated video artwork (pictured below), The Night of Perpetual Day, hangs over the sofa. It’s a rework of ancient Chinese landscapes – you can peer at it and see a different tiny event unfolding each time.

Get the look: The animated artwork is by Yang Yongliang from Galerie Paris-Beijing. These are Nepal chairs by Paola Navone for Baxter. Andere Monjo’s Rain coffee table and the standard lamp are from Mint.

A portrait of Philip Glass takes over the wall next to it.

Get the look: The Philip Glass portrait is by Chuck Close at Barbara Krakow Gallery.


In the kitchen, the scheme is a professional run of stainless steel, but its no-nonsense approach gets a twist with some oversized toy figures and a playful light.

The pendant is both delicate and decorative combined with harder contemporary lines.

Get the look: The kitchen is by Varenna/Poliform, with custom-made elements and appliances by Sub-Zero, Wolf and Miele. This is the Crystal chandelier by Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba. The cowboy and chief are by Bang Bang Kid, available at The Conran Shop.


The Versailles parquet floors pattern is subtly echoed in a wall of mirrors sliced into diamonds and reflected in shiny tin ceiling tiles in the dining room.

Get the look: This is the Waste table by Piet Hein Eek. The Paper chandelier is by Studio Job for Moooi. The banquette is upholstered in Pierre Frey velvet and the curtains are in Dedar fabric. The vases are from Mint. The ceiling is clad in tin tiles shipped from the US – Rockett St George sells similar.

The space is a nod to the opulence of Paris, but in an English setting.

Diamonds are forever, with the sliding door and ceiling – both also taking their cue from the Versailles parquet. The antique wall panel was found in the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris, but this context makes it feel more modern and interesting.

Get the look: Find a similar antique panel at The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair. The bench is upholstered in Dedar fabric. The bespoke door and cabinetry are by Olivier Gay. The forged side table is by Het Tafelbureau at Mint.


The bespoke library shelving is tongue-in-cheek. The detailing starts plain on the left, then picks up decoration as it wraps around, like a story that gathers momentum.

Get the look: The sofa and chair are from Designers Guild. This is the Borghese coffee table by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance for La Chance. The Split Bright rug is by Paul Smith for The Rug Company. The mirror is French vintage. The prints reflected in the mirror are by David Hockney from Richard Gray Gallery. For a cactus vase like this one, check out The Conran Shop.


On the top floor, there’s one bare brick wall and roof rafters exposed, as a reminder of this chapter in its (property) transformation. The roughness of the exposed brick is highlighted by the decorative wallpaper.

Get the look: This is Earlham wallpaper by de Gournay. The bed is from Poliform. The floral cushion is from Mint.

Design / Olivier Gay

Photography ⁄ Frenchie Cristogatin

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