This London home shows how colorful touches can transform neutral spaces

A combination of designer Kate Guinness’ creativity and a collection of striking artwork has made this home exquisitely colorful

neutral living room with white sofas and colorful, patterned cushions and patterned rug
(Image credit: James Merrell)

It was only a week after founding her own interior design firm that Kate Guinness was called upon by new clients to bring color and personality to their home in Notting Hill, location of some of the world's best homes

Kate has a knack for creating authentic and lived-in looking schemes, which are achieved by an avoidance of trends and over-styling. She instead anchors her interiors with timeless details that will never age.

‘Creating a home that feels as if it has gradually grown over time is one of the things I pride myself on. With these clients, there was also an accumulating art collection to work with,’ says Kate. While the owners had completed some of the bedrooms, much of the property was painted white and it lacked characterful fabrics and furnishings. 

‘The house had fantastic bones and the architect had already done a great job so I was able to completely concentrate on paint finishes, fabrics and furnishings. What was different about this project to how I usually work was that the design process was so gradual, unfolding room by room over a period of time,’ Kate recalls. 

Kate’s schemes were definitely dictated in part by the artwork the homeowners, a couple with three young children, were investing in. ‘For the lower ground and ground floors we chose a specialist paint finish, with the lower floor being a slightly lighter shade of the corresponding colour above. The walls have these broad brushstrokes that give depth and a sense of movement but, crucially, it doesn’t compete with the artwork,’ Kate observes. 

The property, being the classically tall, narrow Victorian townhouse so indicative of the area, had lots of stairs, so Kate helped to reorganise the home, giving each floor its own sense of identity and function. 

Hallway

white hallway with staircase with neutral runner in London house

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Hallway ideas include decorating with a simply beautiful stair runner and neutral walls to allow the many artworks to draw attention.

Study

office with statement painting, wooden table and green chairs

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Kate assisted her clients in finding a new purpose for the old dining space next to the sitting area. ‘We created an open-plan sitting room that leads onto a study area with a large antique desk,’ she says.

Home office ideas revolve around flexibility – the large antique desk, which matches the scale of the painting, occasionally doubles as a dining table when the owners host intimate dinner parties. 

Living room

neutral living room with white sofas and colorful, patterned cushions and patterned rug

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The calm, elegant sitting space is reserved for the grown-ups. ‘We used a special paint and bold brushstrokes to give the walls a sense of movement and depth,’ says Kate.

Living room ideas include incorporating a colorful Luke Irwin rug, representing the mosaic he discovered under the floor in his home in Wiltshire, to ground the neutral scheme.

Kitchen diner/family area

white kitchen with green pendant lights with seating area

(Image credit: James Merrell)

‘The basement is where the family spend most of their time across the kitchen and family room, which is also used as a playroom. The dining section of the kitchen leads out to a communal garden so we had to make this whole area very resilient to high traffic,’ says Kate.

Kitchen ideas include choosing a large island to zone the different spaces in the basement.

Family area

living room with black glazed cabinet, orange chairs with patterned cushions and lamps with striped shades

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The formal air of this space is softened with the eclectic choice of fabrics.

‘The owner has a great eye so every cushion was carefully considered and she really knows her fabrics, too. One of the most enjoyable and challenging parts of my job was introducing her to fabrics she didn’t know in order to surprise her,’ Kate reveals.

One of the defining features of Kate’s work is the ability to masterfully combine unexpected materials and colours, from the horsehair fabric used on the ottoman in the family room area to the antique Hungarian miners’ bottles that she has had made into lamps. ‘Working so gradually was a bit of a challenge in some ways, but I think it’s had an interesting outcome and looks carefully considered,’ notes Kate. 

Dining area

cream dining room with wooden table and white dining chairs and statement artwork and armchairs

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Among Kate's dining room ideas was the positioning of neatly proportioned African Yoruba chairs hand-embroidered with thousands of tiny beads to make a statement and add personality. 

Landing

mezzanine and staircase with bookcases and orange armchair and blue and white blind

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Bookshelves and an occasional chair have transformed this once neglected upstairs landing area into a charming reading nook.

Main bedroom

bedroom with dark gray walls and colorful bed throw

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Dramatic dark walls are one of the bedroom ideas used to provide a cosseting feel. Carefully chosen fabric details and the natural beauty of wood lift the pared-back scheme.

bedroom with dark gray walls, neutral curtains and colorful bed throw

(Image credit: James Merrell)

A neutral button back armchair provides handy seating and provides contrast to the dark gray walls.

Daughter's bedroom

girl's bedroom with pink patterned sofabed with canopy, patterned rug and red armchair

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Using a Kit Kemp fabric as the leading edge for the curtains brought a cohesive identity to the daughter's bedroom but ensured the print didn’t dominate.

cream girl's bedroom with red patterned curtains, neutral armchair, patterned rug and statement artwork

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Statement artwork pulls together the colors used in the scheme.

Son's bedroom

boys' bedroom with blue beds, blue patterned throws, red curtains and colorful rug

(Image credit: James Merrell)

In the son's bedroom, canopies above the beds give the impression of grandeur, while the colorful, eclectic textiles add a playful twist.

Interior design/ Kate Guinness Design (opens in new tab)

Photographs/ James Merrell

Styling/ Mary Weaver

Text/ Juliet Benning

Vivienne Ayers
Houses Editor

Interiors have always been Vivienne's passion – from bold and bright to Scandi white. After studying at Leeds University, she worked at the Financial Times, before moving to Radio Times. She did an interior design course and then worked for Homes & Gardens, Country Living and House Beautiful. Vivienne’s always enjoyed reader homes and loves to spot a house she knows is perfect for a magazine (she has even knocked on the doors of houses with curb appeal!), so she became a houses editor, commissioning reader homes, writing features and styling and art directing photo shoots. She worked on Country Homes & Interiors for 15 years, before returning to Homes & Gardens as houses editor four years ago.