A European Apartment in Kensington

by theartofbespoke in Interior designed homes

When an international family wanted to bring a continental touch to this traditional corner of London, they called interior designer Justin Van Breda. 

It’s hard to believe that this 3,000-foot split-level apartment in prime Kensington was ever anything but immaculate, but ‘originally it was hideous,’ says Justin Van Breda, head of design atelier Justin Van Breda London, the firm that completed the renovations. ‘It was two flats that had been half knocked into one.’

The clients were an international family who wanted a pied à terre in London – one where each area was self-contained. That meant fitting an en-suite into every bedroom and creating areas for studying and so on.

‘Each space had been allocated a certain usage,’ he says.

‘The most important thing is to get it right on plan, and then think about your inspiration.’

‘It’s a landmark Deco building and they wanted it to feel both English and European – that’s why we have a lovely blend of fabrics,’ he adds. Van Breda commissioned all of these, as well as the furnishings. ‘The furniture was sourced all over London and Europe,’ he says. ‘We got some beautiful antique pieces in Germany, and while our company made a lot of the furniture, we also commissioned a lot from Tim Gosling, Nicholas Haslam and Soane.’ Many of the light fittings, meanwhile, came from Vaughan, while most of the antique lighting came from Christopher Butterworth on Pimlico Road.

Van Breda is pushed to name his favourite part of the flat, though he was pleased to have turned the once-drab concrete ceilings into something of a feature. But he settles on the master bathroom, home to a hand-carved stone bath inspired by Edwin Lutyens. He’s not the only one impressed by it – it was recently shortlisted for the Homes & Gardens Bathroom of the Year. ‘It sucked us dry to get it right,’ he says, ‘but each piece is hand carved and it’s the most sensational bathroom.’

Indeed, plumbing proved to be one of the biggest challenges overall. ‘It was tricky getting everything where we wanted it,’ he says. ‘As was getting the layout exactly right, so that it worked as both a pied à terre and a family home.’

As for anyone wanting to achieve a similar look in their own house, Van Breda’s advice is to nail the basics first. ‘The most important thing is to get it right on plan, and then think about your inspiration,’ he says. ‘Listen to the building – because this one was Art Deco, we chose pieces that fitted that, but if you’ve an Arts and Crafts building, work with it.’

Justin Van Breda – www.j-v-b.com

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