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London apartment blends the best of old and new

A beautiful London Victorian apartment blends bold colours with classic architectural detailing

  • London apartment
    Strong design statements in the living room include a pair of 1960s yellow leather and brass chairs from Core Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • London apartment
    The deep skirting boards, ornamental cornice, ceiling rose and period fireplace put the character back into thImage Credit: Supplied picture
  • London apartment
    A dark parquet floor is a dramatic contrast to the sleek white high-gloss kitchen units - a perfect example ofImage Credit: Supplied picture
  • London apartment
    The four-poster bed from Habitat is adorned with custom-made cushions and a faux fur throw. Image Credit: Supplied picture

An amble along the wide avenues of West London is the perfect way to spend a weekend afternoon, taking in the beautiful red-brick mansion blocks and grand town houses that have changed little since Victorian times. Behind the façade of an imposing 1870s Grade II listed building that lies in the rather enviable spot midway between Kensington High Street and Notting Hill is a colourful apartment that balances a respect for tradition with contemporary appeal.

The owners call this three-bedroom apartment home during the week, as the husband’s high-profile job in the entertainment industry keeps the couple in London before they escape to their country house for weekends. When they first took ownership of the property, it was the forlorn victim of some rather over-zealous modernising. They enlisted the help of Orla Collins, of award-winning interior architecture and design company Purple Design, to help them transform the flat. Orla explains that the initial brief was to create a space that was, “Elegant, with character and some quirky touches and to do this without spending a fortune.”

The first step was to reconfigure the internal space. “The flow between the rooms was confused,” Orla says. “We embarked on quite major – but absolutely necessary – structural changes so we could create the open-plan entertainment-living spaces, separate from the ‘private’ sleeping spaces.” Orla then turned her attention to trying to reverse the ‘modernisation’ that had enthusiastically taken place over the past half century. As with so many buildings in London, the apartment would once have had beautiful cornices, fireplaces, panelled doors, architraves and skirting, and so the team set about recreating its history. “If it lacks detail, as it did here, we insert it!” Orla laughs. “Within a classical envelope we dropped in our playful contemporary interior style, mixing modern colours and designs with antique or more traditional elements.”

Orla and her team ensure traditional doesn’t mean dull. “We pride ourselves on always having a clear vision of the end result, so while some of our decorating suggestions along the way may be considered bold, it’s always a well-informed statement that we want to make. Luckily, our client was always open to a bit of quirkiness and fun in the design, and happily she trusted us to make the right decisions.” Original 1960s yellow leather and brass chairs from Core One Antiques were the inspiration for the theme for the main living space, with red lamps and artwork, purple cushions and accessories following naturally. The antique mirror over the fireplace came from Christopher Hodsoll, while the bronze coffee table is from Purple Design’s own Diva collection. The living room’s low armchairs from Andrew Martin have a Victorian shape and are upholstered in a striped fabric from Alberto Pinto.

In the blue bedroom a bed designed by Purple Design is covered in a silk woven to order from the Silk Gallery. Flanking the bed are polished stainless steel and macassar ebony bespoke side tables and antique lamp bases topped with made-to-order silk shades. The other bedroom features a four-poster bed from Habitat, wardrobes from Poliform and antique lamps.

After nine months of intense remodelling, the couple finally moved in earlier this year, and Orla is delighted that they love their new and improved city pad. “They are super happy with the result and love the new separation of the spaces, the feeling of height throughout and the quirkiness of the colourful reception room.”