‘We wanted something grown-up,’ said the owners of this historic London townhouse, pointing to the grand French tapestry, dating back to the 1780s, that hangs by the front door. Spotted on their first shopping trip with Maria Speake, co-founder of interior design, architecture and salvage firm Retrouvius, this piece was something of a surprise choice.
‘It’s funny. If you think of it in terms of fashion, it’s like how in the back of your mind you may have always had a fancy for a pair of Louboutin shoes – something that is slightly out of character but aspirational. I think the tapestry might be a bit like that,’ says Maria. ‘It represents a touch of richness, age, warmth and texture.’ All the things that London-based Retrouvius is renowned for bringing to its projects.
Here, the studio’s considered use of vintage and reclaimed pieces makes an impression from the moment you step inside the house. There is immaculate salvaged parquet flooring and pre-loved furniture, specially picked to add layers to this home’s character. Even the burnished gold of the Boffi kitchen screams sophistication.
‘They wanted something with a stronger identity,’ adds Maria, who recalls visiting the family in their previous property, a small 100-square-metre flat in Marylebone, where a clean-lined, white Scandinavian aesthetic ruled.
Hints of that affinity with the pared-back style is evident in the living room, situated on the second floor of this towering home. This is where the clients’ dream sofa – a ‘Chester Moon’ by Paola Navone for Baxter, upholstered in a joyfully sunny yellow – takes centre stage. Retrouvius redesigned the whole space, moving the entrance and introducing an internal window to show off this prized purchase to best effect.
Clever layout changes were also made in the main bedroom. A dressing room has been removed to create a seamless transition into the en-suite bathroom and the door has been raised to the height of the ceiling to add a sense of grandeur.
That same wow factor is in vast supply on the children’s floor above, where a double-height artist’s window ensures the three bedrooms and communal homework area stay light and bright.
Overlooking this space is the final bedroom, untouched since crime novelist and playwright Charles Langbridge Morgan (a blue English Heritage plaque hangs on the exterior) used it as his study some 70 or more years ago. Covered in wood panelling like ‘the back of a pirate ship’– as the clients’ son describes it – it’s a tangible link to the history of this home but not its final treasure.
Climb one more flight of stairs (there is a lift!) and you come to the roof terrace. An explosion of lush greenery right in the heart of the capital, this private oasis offers views of landmarks from The Shard to the London Eye.
The project, which started in the spring of 2018 and finished just before the first lockdown last year, has been a long one. ‘We almost lost track of the number of phases to it,’ laughs Maria. But that time has been a gift, allowing this home’s transformation to be gradual and considered – a seamless blend of the modern and the more ‘grown-up’. retrouvius.com