We took the opportunity to sit down with the renowned design enthusiast, Saskia Blyth from Blyth-Collinson Interiors on her elegant design behind Sunderland Terrace. Saskia is a global designer who grew up in Austria, studied in Vienna and Florence before returning to London to design spectacular masterpieces. She has more than twenty years of experience in designing exclusive residences for discerning and discreet clients around the world which have included chalets, villas private jets and private residences in some of the world’s most sought after postcodes.
Can you please share the creative journey you had with Sunderland Terrace?
The owners purchased the property nearly ten years ago when they were a young married couple and were travelling quite extensively. When they purchased the property it was very rundown and tired with lots of awkward little rooms on the top floors and only one bathroom. The basement originally had a very low ceiling and was very dark. They had all these different requirements and wanted to gut it and start from bare bones, which was very exciting to have that creative freedom of a blank canvas.
I remember that we went on site on the 4th of January of that year, and they wanted the property completed for December in time for Christmas. Twelve months sounded like a lot, but it really wasn’t with what had to be accomplished. We started stripping out everything, tearing down the rooms, bathrooms, replacing and renovating all the windows and floors. If you had seen the before photos, we only had the four brick walls to start with! We started from scratch with all the electricals, the plumbing, the floors, the staircase, and the kitchen.
I didn’t sleep for that year but in the end, it was worth it! We had the property ready in time for Christmas and we even put up a Christmas tree and decorated it, had all the artwork on the walls and all furnishings in place. It’s been a happy family home for a long time and my relationship with the owners has continued.
Can you tell us more about the finishing? There are such special features and we’d love to know some more.
There are so many, where do I even start? The timber flooring is a solid oak plank floorinh from a Danish company called Hanson. There are also special wall finishes throughout, which are a mixture of specialist decorators and armour coat. The master suite, family bathroom and guest bathroom are all marbled. We also created a staff area and a utility area in the basement, so they could have live-in staff with them. We had to create a lot of storage for a growing family and decided to create a large dressing room that leads off the master bedroom. The entrance hall flooring (grey and white) is reclaimed from a castle in France. We managed to find exactly enough to do the entrance room floor. The lanterns in the hallway are from Jamb, which look fabulous!
Can you tell us more about the master suite?
Originally we had planned for the master bedroom to be on the second floor, but when we were going through the plans I said to the owner, if this was my house I would want to put the master suite on the top floor so that I could have the entire floor to myself (I have kids and they’re noisy walking up and down the stairs). As you can imagine, we were already a fair chunk into the build and we then decided to change it around. Having the master suite on the top floor for a family home also gives a bit more peace for parents and has the best views!
Do you have a favourite space in the house?
I love the first-floor reception room. We found these old antique doors in France, as the owners didn’t want any doors that weren’t visually appealing in the house and luckily at the time one of my amazing team members was from France. She went over to source these for us. We have different doors into all the rooms, but these are my favourite. We also found the incredible fireplace and created specialist wall finishes on the wall with the featured coral coloured curtains. It is just a beautiful, cosy, inviting room.
There is a lot of colour in the property, what is your relationship with introducing colour into the space?
Well I personally love colour and use a lot of colour. I think people are afraid to use colour but when they see it, they like it. You are automatically drawn to creams and beiges, but colour is just so much better! One of the girls who started working with me at the start of this year was going through the drawers tidying up our fabric library and asked why there was only a tiny drawer of greys and beiges! By comparison, my red and blue drawers are overflowing! I believe life is short, so you must have colour in your house!
One of the owner’s daughters loved yellow so we introduced that in her bedroom and in the kitchen with the yellow chairs too. There is also a blue sandy coffee table, which is a piece of art. I love using colour, everyone needs to be brave and introduce colour into their homes.
Is there a feeling you want to evoke for your clients in a home?
What is important to me is when you walk into a space it feels like it has been there forever. What I personally dislike is the super matchy-matchy styled! I don’t enjoy the fake, bland look in a home! The most important achievement for me in a space, is that it must feel homely and cosy, as if you’ve had hundreds of dinner parties and have friends over regularly. I don’t want to walk into a space and it feels like a showroom, it needs to feel like a home. You want to have the odd lampshade, side table, or rug that is a different colour to the sofa. That’s how you create an environment that you’d like to be in.
You have spoken at length about using reclaimed pieces, is this a signature part of your style?
The most unique part of this project was that we were able to use a lot of reclaimed pieces like the stone floor in the entrance hall, the specialist finishes on the walls came from a Belgium company that we had over for several weeks, the doors all came from France, and the reclaimed fireplaces came from Jamb. It could have been easier to have found pieces in the UK, but then you don’t get that character or the feeling that we wanted to achieve.
I am so lucky that I have such a great network of antique dealers and furniture restorers. For example, my antique dealer will call me when he’s out doing sourcing and shopping. I’ll buy as I go, but I don’t necessarily know which project I will use them for I just know I love them. My furniture restorer in Oxfordshire is wonderful and so brutally honest with me. I am so grateful for these relationships that we have built up over the years! The trick is to keep your eyes open to things. I don’t enjoy going with trends and what’s cool now. I like eclectic, mixing colours, patterns and of course prints.
Did you learn to appreciate your home more during 2020’s unusual times?
We decided to leave London! So, a lot of lockdown was spent packing in preparation for this. My London home was glorious, we had these large bi-folding doors that opened into our garden that created this amazing indoor-outdoor space. It is so important when designing your house that you bear in mind the practically of it all; where you are going to sit, what you are going to look at and how to bring the outside inside. Architects are phenomenal at the planning, but because I am a mother as well I always think where my children are going to sit for breakfast, where will they take off their muddy shoes, do I have enough space for bed linen and towels, I need a plug for the vacuum cleaner etc.! You don’t always think about these details, which is why it’s a huge part of what we do, making living as comfortable and practical as possible. A home must be a home.
Overall, how did you feel about the completion of this project?
I think what I love about this industry is that you get to form a private sort of relationship when you are doing a home. You learn to know how your clients live, how they want to be looked after, what they have in their bathrooms, how much storage they need etc. I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate that I have been able to continue my relationship with this client after that project and help them subsequently with other properties.
Saskia's interpretation of her vision is as much about how she sees a detail or scene as it is about her instince, what she calls a sixth sense for creating an elegantly balanced interior. Her vision is sparked with boundless energy and embraces logic, practicality and application. This carries through to the completion of every project.
Discover Saskia's design come to life at Sunderland Terrace, available for rent, here.