British design duo Doshi Levien’s home in London’s Barbican

Honouring the iconic estate’s architecture, it’s the perfect canvas for their contemporary designs

Doshi Levien’s house in London’s Barbican estate
Jonas Lindstrom

It’s interesting how people can live in the Barbican and yet do up these beautiful Brutalist apartments like they are in a little country house,’ muses Nipa Doshi, one half of the multiple ELLE Decoration British Design Award-winning studio Doshi Levien, which she founded in 2000 with her husband Jonathan Levien. It’s a thought that has been bothering the couple since they and their 11-year-old son Rahul moved into a new home in the London landmark just a year and a half ago.

Doshi Levien
Jonas Lindstrom

Upgrading from their old first-floor apartment on the same estate to a three-storey penthouse with views of the City should have been simple, but the pair’s dream home needed a lot of work, having previously been owned by an elderly gentleman with a penchant for beige carpets and drab magnolia walls. Both were removed immediately, but for the rest of the project, the designers took a more considered approach, living in the flat
for a few months before deciding on the pared-back aesthetic that Nipa now describes as ‘the perfect canvas’.

‘For me, a home is the place where you accumulate the things you love’’

‘For me, a home is the place where you accumulate the things you love,’ she adds. For this couple, that includes many of their own creations. Jonathan masterminded the kitchen and many of the cabinets that dot the apartment, as well as the bespoke bed. With a cotton mattress reminiscent of the ones Nipa slept on growing up in India, and an elevated profile that allows air to circulate underneath it, it’s true to the Doshi Levien aesthetic.

Doshi Levien house the Barbican estate London
Jonas Lindstrom

‘Generally, our pieces are not very big,’ points out Nipa, who explains that they are intended to be placed in spots where they can be viewed from all angles, like functional sculptures. That is true of the ‘Capo’ chair, designed for Cappellini, that sits in the living room, and the lights from their new self-produced ‘Earth to Sky’ collection, but it could also refer to any of the thoughtfully curated objects in this home. ‘There isn’t a hierarchy to the pieces we own,’ says Nipa, who sees just as much value in her collection of brass and copper vessels rescued from a recycling exchange in India as she does in classic designs, such as her teapot by Memphis Group founder Ettore Sottsass.

Doshi Levien house the Barbican estate London
Jonas Lindstrom

Whether relaxing on the roof terrace while gazing at the imposing Cromwell Tower or sitting in the lotus position on the rug in the living room playing music – Nipa is studying Indian classical singing and Jonathan plays the tabla (Indian drums) – culture and architecture are of equal influence here. These joint inspirations are best displayed in the miniature painting that she made in collaboration with artist Shammi Bannu that hangs in the living room (opposite). Set in the Le Corbusier-designed Villa Sarabhai in Ahmedabad and featuring depictions of some of Doshi Levien’s designs, it presents the mythical love story of Radha, the gopi (milkmaid) who became the consort of the god Krishna. ‘It’s a world of indoors, outdoors, modernity and tradition,’ says Nipa, who could just as easily be describing the dichotomies at play in her own home.

For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration October 2019

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