Space odyssey

Philippa Thorp’s trans­for­ma­tion of her Grade Ii-listed house in Hamp­shire has in­volved sig­nif­i­cant changes to meet her ex­act­ing de­mands, says Ara­bella Youens

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Ara­bella Youens re­veals how Philippa Thorp trans­formed her Grade Ii-listed house in Hamp­shire

THERE’S a dis­cernible un­der­cur­rent of no-non­sense about Philippa Thorp that has clearly been responsible for pro­pel­ling her busi­ness from a start-up in a friend’s spare bed­room to be­ing the go-to ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior-de­sign com­pany for some of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the world. Among her faith­ful clien­tele, she counts for­mer pres­i­dents and oli­garchs, who have her work­ing on their global prop­erty port­fo­lios, span­ning con­ti­nents from Phuket to The Hamp­tons. Re­cently, she’s been en­dur­ing Cana­dian win­ter tem­per­a­tures de­sign­ing the in­te­ri­ors of a client’s new Bom­bardier Global Ex­press pri­vate jet. None of it ap­pears to faze her.

The daugh­ter of a naval of­fi­cer who painted in his free time, she had a com­fort­able, if pre­dictably peri­patetic up­bring­ing, but she cred­its part of her fear­less­ness to a ‘spec­tac­u­larly chal­leng­ing tu­tor who took ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to knock me down’ while do­ing an art foun­da­tion course af­ter leav­ing school. ‘I’m a fighter and I thought, if he wants to an­ni­hi­late me, I won’t let him.’

Some years later, hav­ing aban­doned a de­gree in tex­tile de­sign, Philippa was of­fered a role at Citibank. ‘I was signed up with a temp agency when the call came through. It was one of those piv­otal life mo­ments. Ini­tially, I baulked at the idea of work­ing in the City, but, in the end, I ab­so­lutely loved it—i like pa­ram­e­ters and de­tails and I like get­ting things done.’

‘Be­fore I even opened the door, I knew it was the right house

When a friend said she was set­ting up on her own, Philippa jumped on board. Their first project was for a Le­banese friend. ‘He asked us to do a bed­room, then that ex­panded to a few more rooms. He then rec­om­mended us to friends and we were off.’

From the firm’s cor­ner of­fices in Knights­bridge, Philippa em­ploys a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team with a ‘360˚’ ap­proach to projects. ‘I’m a con­trol freak, so we op­er­ate a one-stop shop and do every­thing from the ar­chi­tec­ture to the land­scape de­sign, in­te­ri­ors and project man­age­ment,’ she says. Her three daugh­ters, Camilla, Belle and Letty, are also part of the team. How­ever, it’s in the ar­chi­tec­ture and the in­te­rior lay­out where her heart and in­ter­ests lie. ‘I have one skill and it’s an abil­ity to un­der­stand space. I can see the in­ter­nals of a prop­erty and know ex­actly what to do.’

When it came to find­ing a new home, this ‘one skill’, as Philippa mod­estly puts it, proved in­valu­able. ‘Be­fore I even opened the door, I knew it was the right house.’ Her daugh­ters were less en­thu­si­as­tic. The Grade Ii-listed prop­erty, with a 1960s ex­ten­sion, was painted pink on the out­side and ev­ery other colour on the in­side. ‘It was the view across the val­ley that sold it to me—i knew that the house could be fixed.’

By the time Philippa re­turned to her desk, she had the new lay­out—which in­cluded mov­ing the front door to the north­ern el­e­va­tion and build­ing a new stair­case, as well as trans­form­ing the garage into a guest an­nexe and link­ing the two with a con­tem­po­rary glass atrium—drawn on the back of a nap­kin. ‘It’s be­come a fam­ily joke that, when I see a stair­case, I in­stinc­tively want to move it. The draw­ing I did then is ex­actly how the house is laid out to­day.’

Although there’s no ‘sig­na­ture Thorp look’, the in­te­ri­ors of Dray­ton House are tes­ta­ment to Philippa’s abil­ity to cre­ate bright, well-planned spa­ces that are brought to life by in­ter­est­ing art­work and pops of colour and are dec­o­rated with taste­ful, tai­lored fab­rics. At the top of the hand­made stair­case are the fam­ily bed­rooms, each with a bath­room, dressed in fresh linens and fabric-backed or painted pan­elled walls.

The main bed­room, with ex­tended views out across the val­ley, has a four-poster bed and a vast, walk-in wardrobe. Three guest bed­rooms, in­clud­ing a dou­ble-bunk room are in the ad­join­ing brick-and-flint cot­tage.

Back in Knights­bridge, a four-hour ‘lock-in’ is in ses­sion, with clients look­ing at var­i­ous schemes for their barn ex­ten­sion near Hen­ley. The team is also work­ing on re­design­ing the club­house at Went­worth and Philippa is pre­par­ing to pitch for jobs in the Ba­hamas and the South of France. No one flinches—it’s a typ­i­cal day at the top of the global dec­o­rat­ing game.

Philippa rethought the lay­out of her house, chang­ing door and ceil­ing heights to cre­ate bright and flow­ing spa­ces

The Grade Ii-listed prop­erty fea­tures an el­e­gant stair­case, de­signed by Philippa, and has been com­pletely re­con­fig­ured

The bed­rooms have per­fectly pro­por­tioned bath­rooms and rooms are brought to life with wall­pa­pers in fresh colours

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