It’s all about being brave
A wildly stylish futuristic transformation of a Georgian terrace was the dream come true for this couple, discovers Philippa Stockley
GUTTING a Georgian house is rarely possible in London because so many have been listed, making alterations difficult. But if you can find one in an unlisted terrace with no original interiors left, the transformation can be spectacular — as it has been in the home of Sardinia-born London restaurateur Mauro Sanna and his English wife, Ashlea.
Even so, once the entire insides of their property had gone, and all Ashlea could see were four walls, sky, and “a bloody great house-sized hole” she couldn’t quite believe it would ever be “home” again.
Mauro, 58, and Ashlea, 49, bought their 2,150sq ft, five-storey house in a Belgravia back street in 2010, lived in it for four years, then in 2015 went for broke with a total transformation, creating something with hints of the Thunderbirds. It is gung-ho in its technological adventures yet still in the spirit of the 18th century, when grace and light were essentials.
Self-made Mauro came to London at 18. He wanted to be an architect, but instead started his first Olivo restaurant in 1990 in Belgravia. He’d met art student Ashlea in King’s Road in 1986. They’re a good team. Ashlea does the social media and design side of things. “Quality of life is a top priority for us, and living near where you work is imperative — I love my business,” Mauro says. The couple lived in Pimlico, but in 2009 they wanted a bigger house with a big basement for an inviting cooking/entertaining space.
That’s a tall order in London, where basements are usually cramped and dark. But it was their red line. The couple own a Mediterranean-modern house in Sardinia. Under blazing blue skies it’s all about light, with huge picture windows and clean, contemporary spaces, and this light- filled look was what they wanted in London. Sardinia also inspires the food and design at Mauro’s restaurants, frequented by stars such as Dame Maggie Smith.
Mauro and Ashlea spotted the house in 2010. The rooms were tired, but the basement had excellent height and had already been opened up with an old extension and a walled garden beyond. The couple knew architect Andy Martin and liked his adventurous, modern style, so they asked him to do the job. Their brief was important: contemporary, with
top right, the concrete lobby floor was cast on site; right, a new extension has sliding glass doors
Dappled delight: the stair is sided with perforated steel panels on the upper floors