Up­town Chic


Singapore Tatler Homes - - JUN/JUL ISSUE -

An eclec­tic col­lec­tion of art and an­tiques make this stylish res­i­dence like no other

The mar­ried own­ers of this house in north­west Lon­don’s Bel­size Park brought very lit­tle from their pre­vi­ous home—there’s just the cop­per bath­tub in the blackand-white-checked bath­room on the first floor and a slightly folksy ta­pes­try of King Ed­ward VIII (who be­came the Duke of Wind­sor af­ter his ab­di­ca­tion), which they bought sev­eral years ago at an an­tiques fair in Bat­tersea Park. “It’s what you could call out­sider art,” quips the wife, a jew­ellery de­signer. “Ev­ery­one al­ways asks, ‘Where the hell did you get that strange, badly sewn piece?’ I don’t know who it’s by, I don’t know why it was done, but we just both thought it was hi­lar­i­ous and had to have it.” The cou­ple were, how­ever, slightly ner­vous about show­ing it to their in­te­rior de­sign­ers, Ariel Ashe and Reinaldo Le­an­dro. “I said to my hus­band, ‘They might think it’s the most dis­gust­ing thing they’ve ever seen and want to burn it,’” she con­tin­ues. Luck­ily, their con­cern was mis­placed. “We saw it and loved it,” re­calls the Venezue­lan-born Le­an­dro. “We thought it was so much fun.”


The New York-based firm Ashe + Le­an­dro are one of the city’s hottest up-and-com­ing de­sign duos. Among their clients are celebri­ties in­clud­ing ac­tress Naomi Watts and co­me­dian Seth Mey­ers, who is Ashe’s brother-in-law. This house was for an­other celebrity—the hus­band is a fa­mous rock mu­si­cian. Ashe and Le­an­dro had pre­vi­ously de­signed a loft in Man­hat­tan for the cou­ple, who de­cided to work with them once more here. “We ob­vi­ously had that mo­ment: ‘Are we crazy? We’re based in Lon­don and we’re go­ing to hire some­one who lives on the other side of the world to do this project!’” re­calls the wife. “But we were just so com­fort­able col­lab­o­rat­ing with them the first time. We had such a strong re­la­tion­ship that we didn’t want to try to find some­one else to em­u­late that.” Con­cur­ring, Ashe says, “They’re the eas­i­est clients ever. The wife in par­tic­u­lar has re­ally good taste and is re­ally open to our ideas.”

“I’m not par­tic­u­larly into flo­rals and pretty things. I tend to veer to­wards the very sim­ple”


The cou­ple was largely drawn to the Vic­to­rian-era house for its pro­por­tions. “Lon­don town­houses tend to be very tall and nar­row, and dom­i­nated by a cen­tral stair­case go­ing all the way up to the fourth floor,” notes the wife. “So, you spend your life run­ning from bot­tom to top.” This one, how­ever, had been ex­tended at one stage and of­fered lots of lat­eral space. It also had French win­dows at the back, which af­forded a great deal of nat­u­ral light. The in­te­ri­ors, how­ever, weren’t par­tic­u­larly aus­pi­cious. “The chal­lenge was to look beyond what was ex­ist­ing,” says Le­an­dro. “It was like a maze.” Among the pre­vi­ous de­sign’s draw­backs, there were fake cor­nices and fire­places, colour­ful fab­rics, ugly glass-tiled bath­rooms and a mul­ti­tude of tiny rooms.


The main goal for Ashe and Le­an­dro was to open up the house and make it a lot more airy. To this end, they re­duced the num­ber of bed­rooms and made each room larger than be­fore. They also de­mol­ished a par­ti­tion on the up­per ground floor to cre­ate a vo­lu­mi­nous sit­ting room and opened up part of the floor at the back to cre­ate a dou­ble-height space that con­nects to the fam­ily room be­low. The lat­ter idea ac­tu­ally came from the own­ers, who rarely stepped into the more for­mal re­cep­tion ar­eas in their pre­vi­ous house. “We had all these beau­ti­ful rooms that we never went into,” re­calls the wife. “Here, we knew we wanted to con­nect the spa­ces and make it more open-plan.” In the end, very few of the house’s orig­i­nal de­tails were main­tained. The only el­e­ments still in place are the front door, a small fire­place in the en­try hall and the ac­tual stairs; even the stair rail­ing was re­placed.

“We had all these beau­ti­ful rooms that we never went into... We knew we wanted to con­nect the spa­ces and make the home more open-plan”


To an­chor the in­te­ri­ors, Ashe + Le­an­dro chose to in­stall stylish plain pan­elling, thick walls and thresh­olds. “They make the house feel older,” says Le­an­dro. The pale Scan­di­na­vian wood floor­ing, mean­while, helps make the rooms feel fresh and bright. One of the main rea­sons the dec­o­rat­ing process was so smooth is the fact that Ashe + Le­an­dro and the clients have a very sim­i­lar de­sign sen­si­bil­ity. They have a com­mon love of black (“it brings a lot of depth to a scheme,” ex­plains Le­an­dro) and a broadly

“mas­cu­line” aes­thetic. “I’m not par­tic­u­larly into flo­rals and pretty things,” says the wife. “I tend to veer to­wards the very sim­ple.” She also has a love of straight lines—it took some time for her to ac­cept the round penny tiles for the mas­ter bath­room floor—and is rather averse to colour. “I gen­er­ally have to be dragged kick­ing and scream­ing to in­ject too much of it,” she says. Nev­er­the­less, Ashe + Le­an­dro man­aged to in­te­grate sev­eral peachy-pink touches, as well as a set of wooden din­ing chairs of var­i­ous hues. “Ev­ery so of­ten, Ariel and Rei catch me in a weak mo­ment,” says the wife, laugh­ing. “It helps hav­ing them oc­ca­sion­ally sug­gest­ing some­thing a lit­tle out-of-the-box. Oth­er­wise, you get caught up in your own fears.”


The monochro­matic palette doesn’t, how­ever, mean that the house is de­void of a sense of fun. This is most ev­i­dent in the play­room on the lower ground floor, which boasts mon­key bars, a drum set and cus­tom wall­pa­per with a quirky ba­nana mo­tif. The chil­dren’s bed­rooms were also ex­tended into the at­tic to cre­ate mez­za­nines that are akin to in­door tree houses. The own­ers re­quested a large fam­ily room where their son and daugh­ter could turn cart­wheels, too. “I wanted to cre­ate a house where they could be very phys­i­cal,” says the wife. At times, how­ever, the kids are even more ac­tive than she would ac­tu­ally like. “I’ve tried telling them not to use the sofa as a tram­po­line—but I’ve now got to the point where I’ve given up.”

THIS PAGE Most of the home’s orig­i­nal de­tails have been re­placed ex­cept for the front door, the fire­place in the en­try hall and the stair steps OP­PO­SITE PAGE A Sputnik chan­de­lier is the state­ment piece in the dou­blevol­ume sit­ting area; the fam­ily room, fea­tures the Bend sofa and ot­toman from B&B Italia, a felt rug from Tapis d’avi­gnon, as well as vin­tage Model 925 chairs from Cassina

THIS PAGE The mud room is paired with black ce­ment floor­ing, match­ing N° 304 wall lights from Lampe Gras and a cus­tom-made ban­quette; an oil paint­ing by Deanna Thomp­son and colour­ful Nerd din­ing chairs from Muuto en­liven the space with pas­tels OP­PO­SITE PAGE Ashe + Le­an­dro ex­tended the chil­dren’s rooms into the at­tic to cre­ate mez­za­nines rem­i­nis­cent of in­door tree houses

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