PHOTOGRAPHY ANTHONY PARKINSON | TEXT RAPHAELLE DE STANISLAS

It’s a Georgian-style house in the district of Marylebone, London. On the outside it is no different from its neighbours – the interior is what makes it distinctive. Here the team of the prestigious SHH architecture and interior design studio, inspirationally headed by René Dekker, have created a unique and surprising interior-scape extending over six floors: from swimming pool in the basement to guest accommodation beneath the rafters.

In some of London’s districts they still stand side-by-side – houses built in the 18th and early 19th centuries in typical Georgian style, so called after the first of four monarchs from the House of Hanover who held sway during the days of the British Empire. In recent decades many similar stately houses have been divided up into small apartments or developed as business premises. This building in Marylebone came off unscathed and has remained a family home. Not that it did not need to be done up, as the designers at SHH Architects and Interior Designers soon discovered when they started restoring the building to its former splendour.

Their brief was to design a house that would astound all who crossed the threshold. The owner’s extensive art collection was their starting point and they succeeded in integrating it seamlessly into the new plans. They soon realised the work would not merely entail a facelift, but that the structure of the house would have to be addressed. The house had undergone alterations over the years and they proved to seriously threaten the structure.

Accordingly, the first operations involved structural upgrading in keeping with the original architecture. Only when that drastic intervention had taken place could the SHH designers unleash their creative forces on the interior. Led by René Dekker, SHH’s head of Residential Interiors and an associate of the company, the team has created a logical whole extending over six floors and with a total floor area of almost 1000 m2. The use of colour is the first thing to hit you, further reinforced by the large cartoons of Daffy Duck, Batman, Tweety Pie and Catwoman.

The design of all the rooms, starting in the basement which now contains a large swimming pool, is based on the balance between classical and contemporary. On the upper ground floor there is a large live-in kitchen with adjoining dining room. The first floor contains two large sitting rooms and a billiard room. The second floor is taken up entirely by the master bedroom, en-suite bathrooms and dressing rooms. The client wanted this part of the house to have a sunshine theme, which is reflected in the colour scheme and optimum penetration of daylight.

The next floor houses the children’s bedrooms, each with its own ambience – in which the children themselves had a major say. On the top floor SHH designed two guest rooms. They are under the rafters, but with many windows providing plenty of daylight. These two rooms also have their own distinctive style. You are not only struck by the variety of atmospheres in the house, but also by the quality of the finish and detailing, the use of superior fabrics and the combination of antique and modern furniture, all of which make it a unique totality. And, of course, there is an additional bonus in these times of developers with no aesthetic of cultural scruples and an inclination to split up or pull down such properties in pursuit of maximum profit – the classical building has been treated with respect and will be maintained for the coming years.