It is rare for a designer to be asked to put practicalities aside in favor of good taste, especially when the homeowners have three small children in tow. Not dissuaded from buying the ‘best’ for fear of inevitable scratches or sticky fingers, Larry Hillier, a barrister, and wife Helene, a strategic consultant, challenged interior designer Lauren Gilberthorpe to be ‘brave and bold’ with her designs.
They wanted their Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in London not to be a relic or a showpiece, but for it to display signs of life – scratches and all. ‘Larry and Helene wanted playful, family-orientated interiors, but they weren’t overly precious about making sure it was all washable and indestructible, which is frankly unusual,’ says Lauren. ‘It’s such a fun house, reminiscent of a sweet shop when you walk in with its candy color palette, fabulous fringing and lollipop lighting. They really pushed the boundaries and it’s utterly delightful as a result.'
Lauren Gilberthorpe is the founder and creative driving force behind her interior design practice. She heads up and oversees a carefully assembled design team, offering direction and inspiration from her wealth of experience based on a decade and more in the industry.
The house had been untouched by its former owners, the illustrious journalist Katharine Whitehorn and spy novelist Gavin Lyall, and was in need of a complete overhaul to make it suitable for modern family life. Russell and Lauren worked collaboratively to reconfigure the layout, gutting the kitchen, repositioning the main en suite, and pushing out the dormer on the top floor to add in a bathroom and two larger bedrooms for the children.
‘There was a real feeling of breathing new life into the old house and not trying to replicate what it would have looked like, but juxtaposing vintage pieces and heirlooms with modern designs – it’s a halfway house between minimalist and maximalist, with quality pieces used sparingly but each adding something, whether that’s color, texture or narrative.’ says Lauren.
For the formal living room, the couple ‘wanted a smart evening space for grown-ups, but brought up to date in a playful way,’ says Larry. ‘The solution was the curved statement sofa, which dominates the space and creates the perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks.' For the living room wall decor, a Ben Pentreath-inspired map wall depicts 18th-century London.
Following tradition, the more utilitarian spaces, including the kitchen, snug and TV room, are found below stairs – but there’s not a scullery-style kitchen in sight.
While the rear extension designed by architect Russell Everton from Nagan Johnson is unashamedly modern, it speaks the same language, repurposing the original Georgian timbers and plastered using traditional methods of the era.
Larry and Helene waived the predictable shaker cabinetry in favor of a pared-back design by Jack Trench, with the focus on luxurious finishes and detailed craftsmanship. The tiled stone floor continues into the garden with the large glazed door accentuating the inside-outside feel.
Double doors then lead to the en suite, which was designed to ‘not look too bathroomy’, with a heavy focus on texture. Warm and luxurious textures of tadelakt, bronze, and wood ensure that the bathroom is unified with the cozy bedroom.
By contrast, the daughters’ shared space on the top floor is a riot of color and decorated with pattern, with vibrant clashes of pink and orange tones.
‘My favorite part of the day is reading bedtime stories with the children – it’s really cozy up there,’ says Larry. ‘The whole house feels like it’s been lived in for a long time and that we’ve always been here – it’s just a lovely, happy space to spend time in.’
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