Recent changes to local planning regulations warrant the provision of a larger, more expensive structure should the existing staircase be demolished, so Nikki retained it, dressed it up and made it a focal point.
Whimsical elements and classic English motifs reflect Nikki’s love for British eccentricity and dry humour.
The living room wallpaper is a humorous take on a Baroque design, with unicorn zebras and giraffes in leopard spots.
The wallpaper print depicting neoclassical architectural elements echoes the Victorian streetscape outside the apartment.
Having grown up in London, Nikki Hunt, Design Intervention principal, knew exactly where she wanted her holiday home to be. Based in Singapore, she shuttles between the two cities every quarterly to check in on her two children studying in the UK, and to manage commissions by Singapore clients to design their London homes, as well as to participate in trade fairs and award ceremonies.
“I wanted to be close to South Kensington or Knightsbridge because of their proximity to the airport. There is nothing worse than getting off a 12-hour flight and being faced with gridlocked traffic,” she says.
The 1,300 sq ft apartment – adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and within walking distance of Hyde Park and Harrods Food Hall – is the optimum size for her family of four. “If it was too big, I would feel guilty about leaving it unoccupied for extended periods, but I also wanted it to be spacious enough for the four of us to be comfortable and relaxed,” she explains.
Other criteria on Nikki’s holiday-home checklist included a live-in concierge to keep an eye on the apartment when the family is away, Victorian architecture with a sense of history, three bedrooms that can accommodate at least queen-sized beds with three bathrooms. “It’s a long wish list, but knowing what I was looking for made finding the ideal apartment much easier,” she rationalises.
The light colour ensures the room is not overly formal despite its proportions and details.
Nikki Hunt is the co-founder of award-winning interior design studio Design Intervention.
The apartment is part of the Knightsbridge Freake Estate that was built in the mid-1850s. When designing the interior, Nikki incorporated traditional architectural elements, and drew inspiration from the late British interior designer John Beresford Fowler, who designed beautiful country house interiors in the 1940s and 1950s, and was dubbed the master of the sublime comforts of the English country house.
His famous Yellow Room was her starting point, and reinterpreted in the living room with a hint of the contemporary. “London can be quite a grey, rainy city, so I consciously picked an uplifting colour palette. The result: a home that resonates with a cosy cheerfulness – even on the darkest of winter days.” There is also a touch of the orient, with Peranakan mouldings on the living room ceiling, and silk upholstery, creating what Nikki humorously refers to as “colonial Singapore inspired by British architecture and not the other way around”.
The living room is a space for the family to come together and the sofa was designed with this purpose in mind.
THE APARTMENT IS PART OF THE KNIGHTSBRIDGE FREAKE ESTATE THAT WAS BUILT IN THE MID-1850S.
The furnishings were designed and made in Singapore. “Designing everything in-house allows us to create a seamless flow and control the quality of what we put in. This is Design Intervention’s signature,” explains Nikki.
The juxtaposition of prints and colours inject a sense of light-heartedness.
The lavish interior reflects the apartment’s history. Back in the day, it was the base for its aristocrat owners while in London.
As with any work by Design Intervention, nothing is left to chance. Every detail is scrutinised, every element is considered.
Rich with historical references, the dining area has a curated selection of antiques and collectibles that goes back generations. A Georgian extendable dining table from Nikki’s old family home now sits above a zebra hide brought back from Africa by Nikki’s great uncle, while her grandma’s sideboard stands proudly against the end wall.
An existing windowless stairwell with a rickety spiral staircase underwent a dramatic transformation with the creation of an opening in the wall dividing the dining area and the stairwell. Now, light from the living room windows reaches into the recesses of the stairwell.
The tiles in her son’s bathroom are very Victorian. Art Deco details in the bathroom fixtures are reminiscent of classic English gentlemen’s clubs.
Millwork and cornices were added in a restrained manner to recapture the historical character of the home without overpowering the small bedroom space.
All the architectural details take on the same blue as the walls to expand the sense of space and height.
One of the bedrooms is done in blue. “In such a dark room, it was impossible to make it feel bright, so I opted to make it rich and cosy instead, using a deep French navy as the main wall colour, echoing the blue of an antique rug,” Nikki explains.
As a studio, Design Intervention believes in the power of design that transcends good looks. Nikki says: “The true magic of design is in creating interiors that make you happy and this is especially true for a holiday home.” And she knows that she has made magic happen because “every time I walk through the front door, I can’t help but smile.”
Text Lynn Tan Photos Design Intervention