The interior designer replaced the new with the old at this converted artist’s studio in Notting Hill.
Vision – or a lack thereof – can make or break any renovation project. When designer Saskia Blyth of Blyth-Collinson Interiors first stepped inside the two-storey penthouse, it took some serious foresight to see past the mirrored ceilings and stark white walls. Stripping back the layers of modern interventions in her mind, the space’s uplifting proportions and period bones prevailed.
“We were so drawn to the double-height windows in the reception room. It was like the rest didn’t exist,” she recalls. On the same wavelength as the apartment’s art collector owner – who has an aversion to “anything shiny or new” – Saskia set about injecting character back into the impressive footprint.
First, the practicalities. Floors were ripped out, together with most of the partition walls. A downstairs powder room was created as well as a snug. Next, a showstopping fireplace was installed while both bedrooms were made en suite. With the canvas prepared, it was time to cue the finishes – and endless rounds of sourcing.
“I never want a home to feel like a showroom. I want it to feel lived in,” muses Saskia. “It needs a bit of randomness. If everything gets too matchy-matchy, it starts to feel really sterile.”
And sterile Blenheim Crescent is certainly not. Soaring vaulted ceilings and windows are counterbalanced with low-slung beams, while mottled lime-plaster is tempered by inky black walls. Wrapped around like a horseshoe, the living spaces flow seamlessly into one another – cathedral-like proportions segueing into a cosy snug. Then there are the finishes: Parquet de Versailles wooden flooring sourced from Belgium and custom upholstery by R.Kightley & Son. Reclaimed materials are balanced with tailor-made furniture and an eclectic art collection throughout so there’s no one aesthetic at play.
I never want a home to feel like a showroom. I want it to feel lived in. It needs a bit of randomness.
- Saskia Blyth, interior designer
Instead, a sense of drama comes to the fore. The kitchen – a bespoke Boffi creation – feels more like a theatrical chef’s table than your standard culinary domain. Rather than put appliances centre stage, the stove is subtly contained within a monolithic island that could double as a sculpture. “We had to ensure everything was cleverly integrated rather than exposed – but it had to be practical too, so that a chef can come in and throw a dinner party and the guests can see the food being prepared.”
This artisanal touch is felt everywhere. A coffee table in the snug was crafted by a stone mason to resemble a pebble worn smooth and plucked from the water. “We chose the slab together – I didn’t want the edges to feel too cut, but to be rounded.”
It’s this attention to detail and the consideration of not only how the space and the objects within it look but feel that makes Blenheim Crescent “a true labour of love” for Saskia. Not least, because she was handed the keys during the first lockdown.
“As much as the lockdown was annoying, it gave me and my team time to source the right items,” she reflects. “As a studio, we don’t have a look. We get a feel of what a client likes and doesn’t like. They might not necessarily be able to articulate that but we’re good at reading a brief and their aspirations then transferring that into an interior.”
There were no issues conveying the vision for Blenheim Crescent however, where the owner had a clear creative direction. Guided by this, Saskia was able to layer the interiors, interjecting heirlooms and existing art and furniture with carefully sourced pieces.
“The reason it’s so beautiful is because everything has been thought through. Every single detail, every single slab of stone. The tadelakt finish in the bathroom, the floor levels throughout. You look at it and think ‘oh yes, that’s how it’s supposed to be’, but actually to get to that point takes so much consideration, time and effort – and a really good team on site,” she explains. Ultimately, the process, however painstaking, was worth it. “When it’s early evening and the fire and the table lamps are on, the apartment is absolutely breath-taking.”