Even Maximillion Cooper’s name suggests high-octane glamour. And, says Cooper, the co-founder of the annual Gumball 3000 rally — an eight-day affair involving exotic cars, border-hopping, celebrity drivers and all-night partying — he has never believed in doing things by halves.
So, when it came to creating his dream home, Cooper, 38, who is also an entrepreneur, film-maker and streetwear designer, set his heart on doing something out of the ordinary. “The result had to be interesting,” he says. “Even though I had no experience of doing anything like this before, I approached it as I would anything else, like designing a trainer. You just need to know what your boundaries are.”
For Cooper, a graduate in law and fashion design who runs several companies under the Gumball 3000 name, that meant setting himself as few limits as possible.
In 2006, he spotted the run-down 1850s terraced townhouse on Westbourne Grove, in west London, which he bought from an elderly couple for about £1.6m. The four-storey, four-bedroom home “was pretty much falling down and hadn’t been redecorated since 1970. It had tinfoil wallpaper and bright green carpets throughout. It was actually pretty cool”.
The next year, having enlisted the help of the Australian architect Russell Jones (from Anouska Hempel’s stable), Cooper set about knocking the whole place down, leaving only the facade standing.
It hadn’t been redecorated since 1970. It had bright green carpets. It was pretty cool “I wanted to create a contemporary home within the confines of a traditional structure,” he says. “Although costs did escalate, and the time frame for completing it got longer and longer — I only finished it a few months ago — it has definitely been worth it.”
Cooper likes to think he has brought the same flair and adventurousness to the project as to his rally, which sees more than 120 Gumballers, who have included David Hasselhoff, Adrien Brody and Jodie Kidd, cover 3,000 miles and numerous mystery checkpoints in a spectacular driving display. (Now in its 13th year, the rally was shrouded in controversy in 2007, when two bystanders were killed by a participating car.)
What was once a rather ordinary townhouse is now a masterclass in sleek, Bauhaus-inspired design, with six floors, 2,396 sq ft of living space, five bedrooms, a huge basement kitchen, a raised ground-floor reception area and a 20ft-long patio garden and dining area.
It’s the experimental architectural tricks, all to his own designs, that Cooper is most proud of. A 135 sq ft sliding door covers half the width of the rear of the house, rising over two floors from the kitchen through a two-storey void. The huge glass pane — which Cooper claims is the largest of its kind to be used in any house in London — draws back at the touch of a button to be concealed within a wall, allowing the kitchen and living areas to open directly onto the courtyard.
The lighting scheme, too, is original. “There are no visible bulbs,” Cooper says, pointing out the illuminated coving in every room, which creates strips of light framing doorways, floor and mirrors, reminiscent of the 1960s light sculptures by the New York artist Dan Flavin. “It was complicated and costly to install, as my builders had never done anything like this before, but it’s turned out to be economical — I’ve only had to change one bulb since I had them installed.” Natural materials, including grey laval stone flooring and dark oak shelving, are used throughout the house to warm the whitewashed walls.
Even as Cooper lounges in a Florence Knoll chair, proudly surveying his living room, he admits it wasn’t all smooth running. “What could go wrong did go wrong,” he says. “If I had been more of a control freak — like I am about my businesses — and project-managed the whole thing, that would have helped.”
For starters, he lost £400,000 to his first set of builders, “who went under in the middle of the job and left the house as a building site”. Two more sets of builders followed before much progress was made. “The project also took two years to complete, when I had hoped it would take just one — I realise now that was unrealistic.”
The next hitch was the remote-controlled gate. Cooper optimistically built a pocket in the ground for one, but hasn’t been able to find a company that can actually construct it. To cap it all, a thief posing as a plumber inveigled his way into the house, making off with an £80,000 watch from his accessories collection.
Although Cooper says he is pleased with the result, he admits that the house’s hard-edged, bachelor pad feel was not something he had banked on. Back in 2006, he had been planning a family home for himself, his then wife, the Gumball 3000 co-founder Julie Brangstrup, and their children — Lotus, now 9, Jagger, 8, Cash, 5, and Mini, 3 —but the couple got divorced last year. “We’re still really good friends,” he insists. “And the kids are here all the time. They love it.” Despite the treacherously steep stone stairs, things get cosier on the top two floors, with three children’s bedrooms stuffed with cuddly toys, games, books and pullout beds for sleepovers.
Cooper himself seems only to inhabit the ground floor, with its 33ft by 16ft reception room. From a vintage Gucci chrome and glass table rises a delicate white orchid; on the thick oak slabs of shelving, among pictures of his children, are books on David LaChapelle, Ferrari and Steve McQueen. “You’d never know I own 3,000 paintings and artworks. I just haven’t got round to putting them up,” he says. Banksy, Damien Hirst and street artists are favourites. Whether he will ever hang the pictures is debatable — he often finds himself on several continents within the space of a fortnight, driving forward his various business ventures.
First, he has to finalise the details of this year’s rally. The event, which starts at the end of May, has a £25,000 entry fee. It kicks off in London and finishes in Istanbul, with parties in London, Paris, Barcelona, Monaco, Venice and Belgrade. Rally fans can expect members of the hip-hop group Cypress Hill and the professional skateboarder Tony Hawk to take part, driving everything from the electric Tesla sports car to a 1960s VW camper van.
Then there are the other Gumball companies, which have a combined annual turnover of about £16m. Gumball 3000 Apparel, the sports and streetwear line, is presently sold in 650 stores worldwide, and Cooper is set to open outlets in several capital cities.
He also spends as much time as possible with his girlfriend, Eve, 32, the Philadelphia-born hip-hop star with whom he shares homes in LA and New York. All this, and the fact that Eve isn’t a fan of his creation — “She hates the lighting in the master bedroom ensuite” — mean Cooper has decided to put the house on the market, although for £5.3m, rather than the £6.2m he was hoping to get last summer. He hopes someone will fall in love with its minimalist style: “It’s either to your taste or not.”
Despite the Hollywood ending — Cooper claims to have two feature films in the pipeline, “with huge star names attached” — he plans to keep a base in London so he can be near his kids. This time, he wants something much simpler: a large lateral space, say, maybe above a shop. “It’s been a real learning experience,” he says. “And I’d have to say just finishing this place feels like an achievement.”
219 Westbourne Grove is for sale for £5.3m with Domus Nova; 020 7727 1717, domusnova.com
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