Cover A gold-leaf side table by Clotilde Ancarani adds a glamorous touch to the monochromatic living room

This duplex apartment in London features an ethereal interior that soothes the spirit and makes worries drift away

“My intention was for the entire home to feel like a cloud when you step into it,” says interior designer Rebecca James and the founder of her eponymous studio.

Indeed, looking at the 4,000sqft duplex apartment in its present state, it’s hard to imagine that this enchanting abode was once a dark and cluttered office. Left untouched for over two decades, it has a narrow, elongated layout, with a pitched roof vaguely reminiscent of Parisian-style Haussmann apartments. Instead of seeing these features as design limitations, the studio cleverly used these French cadences as a source of inspiration.

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“Our vision was to create a contemporary Parisian-style apartment with reined-back luxury, layered with textures all working together in harmony,” says James.  “Our clients tasked us with designing a family apartment with a contemporary and timeless feel. They wanted a home that was pretty and feminine with soft colours, and to fit in as many beds as possible for their grandchildren.”

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Being located on the fourth storey, the apartment also presented many practical challenges. Most of the furniture and heavy items such as the marble slabs had to be manually carried up the narrow stairwell, as they could not fit into the petite elevator. The windows on the front-facing facade were also too small for the team to crane-lift furniture through them.

“The project was a bit of a logistical nightmare,” admits the designer. “Each piece we proposed had to be carefully considered before ordering as it risked not making it up the stairs (if it was too large).”

Gone are the heavy furniture and draperies of the old interior—the team replaced these with furnishings in creamy shades and pastel tones. The ethereal effect is most apparent in the monochromatic living room, which features bespoke sofas and a sectional upholstered in off-white fabric. Crafted from Cordova shell limestone and white oiled oak, the round Concho coffee table by Yucca Stuff and a dappled rug from Tai Ping ground the look of the living area.

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The neutral palette continues further into the home, with each area differentiated by its accent colours. In the formal dining room, grey tones on the curtains and Ruby dining chairs by Fiona McDonald echo the colour scheme of the cloud wallpaper from Zoffany.

This area is among the designer’s favourite rooms in the apartment. “I love the wallpaper as it gives the room a cloud-like appearance,” says James. “The Hans-Agne Jakobsson chandeliers were sourced quite late (in the renovation process), but they really elevated the overall vibe of the room.”

The kitchen sports an earthy scheme with marble flooring, peppered with a hint of green on the accent cushions and upholstered banquette seating. Woven textures of the wall-hung Binga baskets from Zimbabwe and Cane-Line chairs contribute to the relaxed look of the secondary dining area, which serves as a cosy nook for breakfast.

Overhead, a Stilux vintage lighting piece and a Fontana Arte light by Max Ingrand float above the West Elm dining table and bespoke kitchen island.

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The master bedroom on the top floor similarly employs a light palette, with the ceiling and walls all painted in dove white, accentuated with pale pink dressers and a headboard from Elizabeth Eakins in a charming floral pattern. A dressing table and furry stool from Felice James, the designer’s namesake brand, soften the angular proportions of the room.

To welcome the couple’s troop of visiting grandchildren, the team created custom bunk beds for the little ones, making it a safe haven and venue for slumber parties. Bespoke wallpaper featuring the landmarks of London brings a playful touch to the space.

In contrast to the understated palette in the rest of the home, the guest bedroom and adjoining balcony are dressed in rich sunset hues, presenting a more decadent look. “Fabric and textures play a pivotal role in my designs, and they are usually my starting point (in any project),” shares James.

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Classically trained as a ballet dancer, James had previously pursued a career as a fashion model. Yet interior design has always been her calling—it took a much-praised renovation of her personal home to spur James into finally starting her namesake firm in 2006. Her team has since crafted a bevy of beautiful abodes in London and beyond, as well as a resort on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

“I had always planned to be an interior designer from an early age, but the timing had to be right,” she says. “I actually did an interior design degree while working in fashion, so the career switch was always on the cards.”

Although the challenges of this project were numerous, the end result appears almost effortless; a testament to the firm’s design savvy. The renovation was completed in thirteen months. “My clients are ecstatic about their new home, and I believe we surpassed their expectations,” says the designer with pride.

This story was first published in the April issue of Tatler Homes Singapore; the issue is available with our compliments on Magzter until 31 May 2021.