Young professionals who start life in St Johns Wood can rarely be persuaded to leave. This grand and tranquil retreat is one of London’s most upmarket residential locations, offering the same ‘rural village’ feel that was first established in the early 19th century, with picturesque tree-lined streets and sweeping rows of grand Georgian villas. The district may initially attract residents to its elegant high street that offers traditional stores and artful dining, who later settle for the strong community feel and network of reputable schools.
Whilst young families continue to move into the area, St John’s Wood has met a new demand for luxury apartments offering flexible, hybrid living in an impressive London location. The rise of such modern conveniences have left architectural designers to question how the Georgian villas of St John’s Wood can compete, around the limitations of their listed building control. This was the challenge for London-based interior design studio Catherine Wilman, who was appointed to turn a Georgian Villa into ‘a bright open family home with open plan living’ whilst reinstating its characterful integrity.
Faced with such a diverse brief, the team at Catherine Wilman Interiors firstly analyzed the home’s structure. The mantra of the boutique architectural design studio is “employing a good designer is an investment, not an extravagance” and so the longevity of the design was a key consideration in the initial planning, to allow the design to grow with the young family’s changing needs.
Achieving an ‘open plan’ living concept in the listed building posed the largest hurdle, as the client requested for the entire upper ground floor to have hardly any walls. This did not transfer to what Listed Building Control would allow, so the designers found a resolution by adding large opening doorways between the rooms for freer space. The kitchen, where the family would spend a lot of their time, was also moved to the upper floor where they could benefit from curved windows that extend to the ceiling. “We feel in the end, we exceeded the clients expectations on what was achievable,” says Catherine, Director of the firm, “as we worked to ensure the heritage of the building but create that flexible, open space to allow for client dinner parties and keeping an eye on their young children.”
Heritage was the nucleus of the villa design from the architecture to the interiors. Working to a theme of ‘contemporary style with a vintage twist’, the initial sourcing of materials began with analyzing textures and colour schemes to complement the home’s original features, including the unusual curved, vaulted staircase.
“The black staircase came about as a natural progression. The handrail and spindles were original to the building but covered in decades worth of paint. The contractors stripped this back to bring out all the amazing detail and the black was added to make the staircase the main event” Wilman explains. Accompanying the dark ironmongery with a larger, more natural rendition of a monochrome check floor was key in lifting the classic details with a fresh, new identity.
In line with the architectural ironmongery, the theme of dark, metal hardware continues through to the bathrooms and joinery. Why? “We love bronze hardware! It’s timeless, hard wearing and pairs with anything” says Wilman. The juxtaposition of dark vs. light was a recurring theme to create a sense of depth and detail in the ensuite bathroom, using unique applications to elevate timeless interiors with interest.
The free flowing layout was the primary focus of the ensuite, created by a large, walk-in shower along with a large double vanity with plenty of practical storage. As the client wanted something light, fresh and modern but still in-keeping with the overall scheme of the house, a classic pale marble was applied to the shower in a brickbone pattern, with larger scale rectangles compared to typical herringbone tiles. Such subtle yet interesting design detail is evocative of Catherine Wilman’s masterful eye for timeless elegance.
For the shower and basin fixtures, LMK Industrial brassware was selected in rich City Bronze, primarily for its sophisticated tone. “It’s a timeless, classic finish that pairs effortlessly with other antique brass light and cabinet fittings” explains Wilman in their decision for the hand-applied, deep metallic brass finish, that is matt lacquered for practical appeal. Twin basin taps with bold spouts and intricately knurled levers stand statuesque above the inset basin unit, creating features that sit neatly amongst the wider scheme. Black framed mirrors and midnight blue paint on the face of the cabinetry evokes a dramatic statement beside clean, white walls.
“We chose LMK Industrial brassware because it has a more industrial edge and sits well in a classic contemporary design as a modern twist. The collection has a presence and scale that stands out against the delicate marble tiles and pale, fresh interiors” continues Wilman.
Reinstating and refreshing St John’s Wood Villa presented complex challenges, however Catherine Wilman Interiors used their highly trained eyes to see the beauty in boundaries.
“Spatial planning and being on site is always good fun for the team. It’s challenging, almost like a puzzle that needs to be solved, to fulfill all of the client’s needs but also be designed well and beautifully” Wilman says. “It really gives the team a chance to test all of our skills and also show the client possibilities, to hopefully improve the way they live in their home.”
St John’s Wood Villa is a true home of distinction, joining Catherine Wilman’s portfolio that is only continuing to grow.
“LMK Industrial has a more industrial edge and sits well in a classic contemporary design as a modern twist. The collection has a presence and scale that stands out against the delicate marble tiles.” - Catherine Wilman Interiors