Period Property of the Month - September 2010
Interior designer, Adrienne Chinn, tells us how she created this stunning London pied-à-terre and reveals the way to fashion a scheme from the pieces you already love and cherish
Inspiration from the detail
How did you become an interior designer?
After working as a journalist in my native Canada, I wanted a change. Thanks to my dual nationality, I moved to Britain and started an interior design course at KLC School of Design. After graduating, they asked me to create a roomset for the Daily Telegraph House & Garden Fair and on the strength of that, I launched my own company. After a while, I generated enough business to make it my full time career
What was your brief for this flat?
The owners are a retired British couple who use it as their pied-à-terre in London to stay close to their family. They had a lot of very nice furniture, antiques and art, but in their last place it all looked a little tired. This was also a lot smaller than their previous city property so one of my aims was to consolidate their items into a cohesive collection. I took the edited selection, pulled out the colours and used them to create the schemes for each room. I wanted to create a fresher and updated take on 'traditional', which I think I achieved.
How did you go about achieving the brief in the living room?
I had the lampshades remade in a cream silk to breathe new life into their beautiful bases. By opting for embroidered fabrics, the room looked luxurious whilst relaxed and liveable.
I chose cushions for the living room sofa in the same mix of colours as the ones in the Persian rug. The existing wing chairs were re-upholstered in a contemporary fabric and the walls were painted in a very light cream so the décor didn't become too busy.
This project was mainly about looking at the lovely furnishings the owners had with a fresh eye. I wanted to revitalise them and create an inviting, cohesive scheme.
The kitchen is wonderful, what can you tell us about it?
When my clients moved in, the kitchen furniture, from Smallbone of Devizes, was already installed. It was painted a dark green with magnolia walls and a splashback made of multicoloured tiles.
Despite the kitchen being a very large room, the choice of colours made it feel small and cramped. I went for a mix of Scandinavian, New England and English Country design by having the units professionally painted in an off-white and changing the handles.
I also added some handpainted Delft tiles and a very nice wood effect vinyl floor by Amtico. I thought that if all the cabinetry was an off-white the room might look a little dull so I had the island painted in a dark blue with the tall cupboards in a mid-blue. This helped to break up the horizontal lines and gave the impression of a freestanding kitchen. The owners had a lot of blue and white china so I think that's where I got the idea from!
The dining room looks quite narrow, how did you get around that?
It was a tight space. The collection of ceramics in the display case had been dotted around the client's last home but a collection should really be grouped together for a stronger impact.
I suggested commissioning a built-in cabinet with mirror backed shelves to make the room feel wider, and cupboards beneath to store table linens. Visiting Blenheim Palace for some inspiration, I fell in love with some Georgianstyle pediments and beading with slight Gothic details. Then I worked with Simon Whitpen of Universal Carpentry & Joinery to create a suitable piece which is in keeping with the age of the property.
As the ceramics had lovely green and aubergine tones, these naturally became the colour scheme for the room. The rug was specially commissioned to fit the room perfectly and within it, I combined the green of the curtains and the aubergine fabric that I used to re-upholster the dining chairs.
By keeping to simple drapery and fresh fabrics, the grand furniture became a lot easier to live with.
Tell us about the hallway.
I think hallways are really important spaces that tend to get short shrift. People don't seem to know quite what to do with them. I suggest adding some interest by using them as gallery spaces and ensuring the lighting is really appealing. Mirrors are great additions to hallways and I often use floor-to-ceiling ones in my commissions.
As the hallway was fairly slender, I opted for a narrow runner to give the illusion of a wider space. If you have a dado rail, disguise the tall wall spaces by using different colours above and below.
In stately homes, there is often wallpaper above the rail and plain white underneath. This look can break up the room really well and adds a feeling of warmth. The hallway is the first room you walk into and it should feel nice and welcoming. I often find Farrow & Ball's Straw paint works extremely well in hallways
How did you approach the master bedroom?
It was an awkwardly shaped room so we put the bed in the only place it would fit and did away with a bedstead. Instead we opted for a simple cream headboard to match the walls so it didn't crowd the space.
I chose a slight chinoiserie theme using the Chinese lamps as inspiration, and plumped for a Chinese motif on the quilted bedspread. I selected some turquoise tiebacks that don't immediately seem in keeping with the room, but the colour is echoed in the lamp, the chair and the bedspread. Little touches like these can really pull a room together.
I get most of my fabrics from Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and Osborne & Little and in this instance, I opted for a classic stripe on the chair to break up the florals. By keeping the scheme calm, the eye is naturally drawn to places of interest.
The guest bedroom is a little more on the traditional side though.
Yes, but I was able to have quite a lot of fun with it. I found a wallpaper called Bird in the Bush with a gorgeous blue rose pattern at Anna French and some beautiful bedcovers and pillowcases from English Home.
I bought an extra embroidered sheet which the curtain maker cut down and used as trim and tiebacks. I found some small silk cushions for the bed in blues and whites and added one in a bold check pattern to keep a contemporary air. My clients say the guest bedroom works a little too well though as their guests now don't want to leave!
Finally, how long did this project take you to complete?
It only took me about six months from start to finish because there was no structural work.