Ebba Thott is a retailer, designer and tastemaker whose experienced eye and masterful approach was responsible for the sublime interiors at The Old Courthouse. Known as a purveyor of understated luxury, her Kings Road shop, Sigmar, is a haven of individual pieces that we know we need in our life. Thott is humble when it comes to taking credit for The Old Courthouse and cites the beautiful architecture of the building and the existing collection of pieces that her clients came with, as the foundation for the interior scheme. And it’s not easy to see the hand of a professional in the design of the interior, which is very much the way Thott likes things to be.
Ebba, this is a beautiful property. What was the starting point for its design?
The central part of this property is big and open, as was the need for its former use as a courthouse. The amount of air space demanded attention and even if there wasn’t an actual echo, there was a visual echo that needed to be filled. There was also the listed former juror’s box to be respected - a hugely dominant cabinet central to one end of the room.
The owners of this house love art, craft and fine materials, and have collected some beautiful pieces over the years. Well-travelled, their collection of furniture and decorative pieces has grown organically and been sourced from around the world. Portraying this air of natural progression was definitely important and it was my role to tie together what was already available to me with new additions, while creating the right relationship between the space and its content.
It’s so easy with former industrial properties to focus on the past rather than the present. Although this space isn’t naturally ‘cosy’ we did want to show off what the clients love and what they have bought to make it a home.
What’s the rule of thumb when dealing with sizeable rooms?
Think about a room as a piece of white paper. If you draw something in just one corner then your eye is naturally drawn there and you have to balance it out. How do you do that? The classic response would be to put something similar in an opposite corner but this isn’t necessarily the best way to anchor the space. It doesn’t all have to be symmetrical and matching, it’s more about the flow and giving more prominence to the pieces that you love. My way is to introduce a framework to create definition.
When it came to colour, The Old Courthouse had so much natural light that traditional white wouldn’t have worked — it would be too bright and you would lose the small nuances and shape of the room. We used ‘London Cloud’ from the Damo Collection, our own colour collection. It’s a palatable grey which has enough depth to make anything you put against it pop out at you.
We changed the hue of grey as you descend to the lower ground floor, the TV room and the bedrooms. Although there is a lovely patio garden with access from both bedrooms, there is less natural light through the hallway, and it was important to still have the lower ground feel fresh. We wanted the bedrooms to evoke warmth and solitude and used beautiful fabric wallpaper in subtle colour to add an element of luxury.
Tell us how the space came together….
The kitchen was already defined and the huge juror’s cabinet was refurbished as a butler’s pantry to be a part of this. A long span of workspace that separates the kitchen from the rest of the room reduced the prominence of the juror’s cabinet while also giving some definition to the living space. To deal with the functionality of the kitchen, we aimed to overpower it with beauty elsewhere.
The clients already had an impressive collection of pieces from designers Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand, Finn Juhl and Jacque Adnet. We sourced the elegant pair of antique green Klimt sofas which are collector’s pieces. The colour is strong but very soft and perfectly offsets the coffee table by Carl Auböck, carved from a single piece of wood, alongside the yellow N53 Chair by Finn Juhl and the grey suede Borsani chair. We also sourced a beautiful vintage display unit, making it into a custom console table out of gunmetal and brass, which sits behind one of the sofas.
This is a vestige from the past and a time when travelling was an elite pastime. People would use cabinets to display where they had been and what they had done with their life. We have reintroduced that as a way of displaying some of the smaller decorative pieces that the client had in a protected vignette.
We felt that a larger custom-sized rug was needed to properly frame the seating area and not make it feel cramped in the middle. We wanted something that would also pick up the green from the sofas, echoing the colour and tying it together as one family. We chose the ‘Sliced Emerald Rug’ from Front Rugs and while we were waiting for this to arrive we put in the simple but beautiful Berber rug that you see in the pictures.
Rugs were hugely important in creating anchor points all around this apartment. As a general rule of thumb I would always say create bespoke rugs if you can’t find the right size, as you can control rooms and the flow of space using them properly. Lighting is also another big consideration as it can make or break a scheme. In a space like this, where you have dramatic ceiling heights and big spans of wall, you can afford to be hugely creative with your choices.
Now that the space is complete, what’s your favourite thing about it?
The vastness of the space and the high level industrial windows that mean you don’t get distracted by what’s outside. There is a wonderful steel mechanism to open and close the air vents that you simply wouldn’t find on modern windows. It plays homage to the industrial heritage of the building, and the gunmetal black motivated the client to commission the custom six-armed blackened metal central chandelier by Workstead that picks up on this.
It was also fun to play with colour in such a beautiful and unusual space.
What would you say to those interested in buying the property?
The palette of colour we have created here is absolutely right for the space and I think will support most design ideas. The space is a real luxury and speaks for itself. It needs no embellishment other than the beautiful things that you would fill it with. I would urge the new owner to invest wisely on pieces that will work here but that can also transfer to the next home. This is what the current owners have done and their pieces will be used again, possibly in a different way, in future properties.