Cigal Kaplan

Marlborough Hill – St Johns Wood London

This is the story of a home that literally grew larger in size as the family living in it grew larger in number!  It all started with the husband who, as a bachelor, was living in a two-bedroom flat with a large, high-ceilinged living room. In time, he married, started a family and—when they needed more room—rather than moving to a bigger property, they acquired an adjoining flat to keep pace with their needs.

A number of years later, when yet another flat in the building became available, they grabbed the opportunity to acquire it as well, because by now the children were older, both husband and wife needed extra space from which to work from home, and they also felt it was time for some general repurposing and refurbishment.  In came the architects, followed by the builders – and the noisy, dusty structural work began. Suddenly, an added challenge emerged: the Pandemic.  With so much to deal with – home-schooling, working from home, dealing with the builders, and trying to make a whole lot of space-planning decisions as well as all the decoration elements to be taken care of – the family realised that they needed help and outside expertise.  And so they called me in.

My first impression (as is undoubtedly the case with anyone entering the property for the first time) was of the understated grandeur of the living room, which I immediately commented on. “Yes, we love this room,” they smiled, “but we’ve always felt that we’re not making the most of it’s features.  We’re thinking that maybe we need to change the colour of the walls?”

They were on the right track; the colours were wrong somehow, and the way the space was being used meant that there were areas of almost sterile emptiness. Yet this was a room that should be warm and inviting – cosy even – despite its size.  As I usually do, I started with my colour, style and furniture questionnaire – which takes about two hours to complete but results in a precise idea of what clients really love and are drawn to in terms of the colours and textures that surround them. Colour is complicated – people’s responses are affected by tone, depth as well as ambient light, so it never works if they say  “well, my favourite colours are blue, or green or orange…”! We then moved on to how each space was to be used and how to make using it as pleasurable as possible.

By the end of the meting, I knew that the highlights of the project were going to be two of the new rooms – one would be the wife’s music room and the other would be the husband’s office/study – and of course, the living room, for which, I had a “eureka moment”. By dividing the room into two distinct—but visually inseparable—areas, one part would be the warm and cosy family area dominated by the grand fireplace, while for the other end of the room (which at the moment was a characterless empty space redeemed only by their favourite heirloom artwork on one wall), I envisaged an intimate and inviting area that the wife could use for meetings with clients.  

When I presented my mood-boards and proposals for this room, they were delighted. “Now we’re using the room to its full potential.”  

The home has lots of unique and interesting features, including a collection of art passed down through the American side of the family, and also a number of special pieces of furniture, some of which have also crossed the seas.   It was important to the family to combine their existing trove of unique pieces with an interesting mix of modern furniture.   For some of these, the requirements were so specific that we decided to design and make them especially for the home. In particular, we’re proud of the hand-made console tables that sit in the living room, as well as under the window in the music room.  These were made for us in Greece; the quality and craftsmanship was exactly what was needed.  For one of these, even the marble component was painstakingly chosen for the perfect colour and pattern.

Similarly with the music room and study, which we furnished with new pieces carefully selected from my network of suppliers as well as family heirlooms, all accessorised to highlight the rooms’ best features.   

From the bespoke pieces of furniture, to the warm autumn colours throughout the house, and the way each room has been space-planned, decorated and finished, the home is a haven of style and comfort, expressing the individuality of those who live in it.

Photography: Philip Vile

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