Grand revival

Design Trends

Demographics have a major impact on our living requirements. A hundred years ago, when the average family size was much larger than today, more space in homes was taken up by bedrooms. The owners of this Lutyens-style home asked architect Victoria Hamer to rationalise the interior for modern living. It was dark and dingy throughout; on the ground floor it had too few formal and informal living spaces and poor indoor/outdoor flow, while the upper level was like a rabbit warren with half a dozen very small bedrooms. 

The owners wanted a family home that was also suitable for entertaining on a large scale. To make the front entry of the house seem lighter and more spacious, Hamer sacrificed two rooms above the entrance foyer and cut a hole in the ceiling between the ground and first floor. By adding a large skylight into the roof above the void and using glass balustrades around it on the upper level, light now floods into this part of the house. The room overlooking the entry has become a library.

The entrance leads to formal living and dining rooms at the front of the house. To improve the indoor/outdoor flow, these rooms now have French doors opening onto terraces. Originally, the rear of the house was made up of a number of small rooms. By combining there and adding extra space, the house now has a large informal living area that opens onto a paved terrace and pool. The same principal has been applied upstairs. Several small rooms have been combined to create a master suite with walk-in wardrobe and ensuite, three good-sized children’s bedrooms, a bathroom and an upstairs lounge. So the renovated home would look lighter ad feel more open, dark-stained timber panelling on walls and dark-stained architraves and skirting’s have been painted off white. 

Fireplaces in formal living areas previously had exposed chimneys of dark-coloured brick, but are now plastered and painted in the same off-white shade as the walls. Interior designer Jean-Pierre Heurteau selected and sourced furnishing for the house. “The simplified architectural features of the house and the neutral painted background throughout make an excellent palette for the furnishings. The owner’s collection of artworks and sculpture and the beautiful antiques we chose for the house can be better appreciated against this background,” he says.

“The owners wanted to keep the interior of their house simple. They preferred to have fewer beautiful things and avoid ending up with the cluttered look,” says Heurteau. “They also wanted a mix of old and new, so we have original Louis XVI pieces alongside pieces from the 1950’s and 1960’s.” Because the casual kitchen, living and dining room at the back of the house was an addition, the architect gave this space a more modern look, while still retaining architectural elements such as the skirtings and architraves used in the older part of the house. The space is often used for large, informal parties, so it’s furnished sparsely to create an uncluttered look. 

A large, deep sofa, especially made for the space and covered in a cut-pile Italian velvet with a long fringe around the base, is teamed with a wing chair. A 19th-century provincial-style dining table with a parquetry top adds to the relaxed look. In keeping with the contemporary style of this space, the kitchen was designed to look slick and efficient. Cabinetry lacquered off-white matches the rest of the room.