ELLE Decoration (UK)

Sultry sophistica­tion

The new modern palette embraces moody colours in seductive, sludgy tones. Team them with statement lighting, as in this Zurich apartment


This Zurich apartment embraces the new modern palette – moody colours in seductive, sludgy tones

Vera Miler has the spirit of adventure. An avid traveller and the manager of Burberry’s store in Zurich, she has owned this elegant apartment in the city’s popular Seefeld district since 2005. Situated on the third floor of a beautiful Art Nouveau building dating from 1908, her home is as outward looking as she is: it boasts three balconies, two of which look out towards Lake Zürich.

Vera found the apartment through a friend, who had been using it as an office. ‘There was no real bathroom or kitchen, but I fell in love with the parquet floors, the huge bay windows and the four-metre-high ceilings,’ she recalls. To turn it into a family home for herself and son Max (17), she enlisted the help of interior designer Hanne Poli. It was Hanne who suggested the apartment’s grown-up colour scheme of warm greys and chocolate browns – ‘colours with no name’, as she describes them. ‘The building exudes old-world nobility and refinement – I wanted to underline that aspect but in a modern, personal way,’ says Vera.

The dark colours were a bold choice, especially in the hallway, which has little natural light. Hanne and Vera made them work framing them with paler shades and installing mirrored walls, which are discreet, but create the illusion of more open space. They experiment­ed in other ways, too, particular­ly with lighting – which Hanne prefers to hang in the corners of rooms, rather than in the centre, to create drama – and with wooden furniture, which contrasts with the apartment’s refined proportion­s.

Though Hanne and Vera kept pattern to a minimum, there is plenty of texture. It catches the eye in a modern, understate­d way. ‘Because I work in fashion, texture is like an addiction for me,’ explains Vera. ‘I love precious fabrics like linen and cashmere, and refined tone-on-tone patterns, such as the white wallpaper in my bedroom.’ Vera sees her home as a work in progress, and goes to greater lengths than most to find the perfect pieces to furnish it. Recently, she saw a picture of a sofa by Danish designer Oliver Gustav and promptly hopped on a plane to Copenhagen so that she could meet him and see his design in the flesh. ‘I think this sofa will be the next thing I buy,’ she says. hannepoli.com

‘The building exudes old-world nobility and refinement – I wanted to underline that aspect but in a modern, personal way’

1 The colours

I use exactly the same shades as I did 20 years ago, when I started my business: all kinds of nudes, warm greys – colours that have no name, if you like. Some hues in Vera’s apartment were borrowed from artworks: for example, the chocolate brown behind the dining table was taken from the Natanel Gluska painting hanging on the wall. I knew that using it would make the piece pop. I often mix my own colours, and I can see right away which shade will make a room fantastic.

• Entrance ‘Tallanstow­n Grey’ by Paint & Paper Library matches the colour in the hallway. £46.50 for 2.5 litres of Pure Flat Emulsion (paintandpa­perlibrary.com).

• Living room ‘Chocolate Colour’ by Little Greene is similar to this deep shade (above). £21 for one litre of Absolute Matt Emulsion ( littlegree­ne.com).

• Kitchen ‘Dimpse’ by Farrow & Ball is a good match for this pale grey (far right). £43.50 for 2.5 litres of Estate Emulsion (farrow-ball.com).

2 The lighting

You will seldom see a light fitting in the centre of a ceiling in my interiors. I love creating asymmetry in a symmetrica­l space – it’s about producing dramatic scenery as well as functional­ity. I always ask clients what they want to use lighting for – reading, eating or snuggling up.

3 The mirrors

I use a lot of mirrored walls in my interiors projects; they’re a smart way of getting light into a room or making it appear larger or taller. They’re incorporat­ed in such a way that it’s hard to see they are even there. I like the idea that people might not really understand what something is, only the effect it creates.

4 The library

Vera’s apartment used to be an office, and the area where the big bookcase now is used to be a library – so for me, it was a no-brainer to use this space for her vast book collection. To create a sense of grand proportion­s, two rooms were opened into one big living space and a huge white sofa was placed in front of the wall of shelving. The overall effect is so arresting; it has such an impact when you walk into the room.

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