In light of one of Domus Nova's most impressive properties to date, we interview the architect behind the masterpiece that is St Petersburgh Place. Meet Michela Bertolini of MB Design Studio...
Michela, tell us about MB Design Studio. What do you think defines your practice?
Michela Bertolini Design Studio is an architecture and design studio with a strong creative vision. We combine a timeless simplicity with precise attention to detail and are drawn to textures and materials, to natural light and the emotional link that forms between people and places. We believe that good design brings quality to life. Our inspiration begins with how our clients live and we work to create elegant and practical spaces for them, maximising the value of their investment through the project that we deliver.
You recently created a wonderful property in Bayswater that is currently for sale with Domus Nova. What was the brief here and how did you meet it?
Originally the main house had a rear garage with a small central patio area that formed the plot. The primary objectives were to create a family house that was airy and light with flexible living space, joining the garage to the main house to grow its footprint. We gained extra space by excavating under the total length of the house and the garage, adding an extra lower ground floor. The derelict garage was demolished and a three floor mews was added. At basement and ground floor level at the rear of the house we in-filled the space between the closet wing and the party wall with a glass extension. We created an internal atrium at the lower basement level and a patio and garden between the house and mews at ground floor.
It was important for the client that the design was modern, efficient, comfortable, and eco-friendly. Where possible we created open spaces in order to give visual continuity - the use of full-height pocket doors enables this to be achieved. Clean lines and the use of white materials/surfaces were used to create a blank canvas for interesting art. Glass has been introduced throughout the house from a glass box extension for the dining room to sliding glass doors in the mews and lower ground floor atrium to the skylights in both the main house and the mews, allowing us to bring in as much light as possible. We also used split-levels and double height ceilings allowing the light to punctuate the space.
What elements of the architecture of this property are you most proud of?
I am very happy that we managed to achieve an extra basement level without compromising the light and air distribution that is achieved through the main glazed court yard at basement level, and the creation of the cinema room and play area that are one big space but at the same time can be separated. When you enter the house, you don’t expect to find such an extension to the property. Your vision is drawn horizontally through the full length of the property but at the same time you are aware of the double-height basement. You can also see through the open treads of the stair case and how light floods down from a well in the ceiling and the glazed openings at roof level and living area. The external fabric of the property is still Victorian while the internal space has been transformed in a comfortable futuristic family house.
As a practice, which project to date has meant the most to you and why?
Probably this one. St Petersburgh Place has been a great achievement for us and the culmination of two years worth of work from the design stage through construction and interior design. We worked very closely with the client to understand their needs and fulfill what they wanted and they were great people to work for. We all had a shared vision and although there were a few decisions which were made as we where progressing with the works on site, these changes definitely paid off. The second basement for example, was added after we started works so there were some delays but the end result was really worth the wait.
What lies in the future for MB Design Studio?
More work in London as well as abroad with projects ranging from a small pied-à-terre in Paris to seaside apartments in Italy and a villa in Barbados. Apart from project work, we would also like to develop a furniture range based on some of the bespoke pieces that we have created for our previous clients.
Who are your design heroes?
Frank Lloyd Wright, Carlo Scarpa, John Pawson, Vincent Van Duysen, Joseph Dirand.
If you hadn’t been an architect, what career would have tempted you?
I don’t think there is a career out there that could have tempted me away from architecture. I knew at a young age what I wanted to be and here I am now.
View MB Design Studio on the Domus Nova Architect Guide
MB Design Studio; mb-ds.com