THIS STYLISH ABODE TASTEFULLY PAIRS A MONOCHROMATIC PALETTE WITH THE OWNERS’ ECLECTIC COLLECTION OF ART AND ANTIQUES
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