After purchasing the 14th and 15th floors of a new development adjacent to Paddington Basin, together with a roof terrace, the private owner of the empty shell duplex space commissioned renowned London architects and designers SHH to transform it into a luxurious, cool and contemporary penthouse, to serve as a London pied-à-terre for himself and his extended family. The resulting stylish and unique residence, the largest in the development and offering spectacular views over the city, is an oasis of calm, in considered contrast to its bustling, urban setting - just a short walk from Edgware Road.
The brief from the client - with whom SHH had worked previously on a number of commercial schemes in the Middle East - was for the space to function effectively as a bespoke boutique hotel, so that any family member could stay in any of the five bedrooms at any time, whilst the differing functions each individual might also require from the penthouse were all to be subtly incorporated, without the overall space feeling disjointed. Originally two separate properties, the 14th and 15th floor apartments were merged to create the new penthouse via the installation of a new central staircase, creating a single residence of approximately 5,000sq-ft, including external terraces. It then fell to the SHH interiors team (led by Emlyn Conlon and Rene Dekker) to devise a cohesive, intelligent scheme which would unify the various spaces and deliver the beautifully-crafted environment the client desired.
'On entering the apartment through the main entrance hall on the 15th floor, the language of the interior scheme is immediately apparent', commented Emlyn Conlon. 'Although the spectrum of colour runs from dark browns and creams to greys and silvers, the overall feel is consistently one of subtlety and sophistication, communicating the instant repose from city life that the best hotels always achieve.'
The entrance hall to the penthouse features dark brown silk wall coverings and a copper leaf feature wall (by DKT Artworks), ceding to a clear view of the cool greys and silvers of the main reception room beyond. The hallway allows brief glimpses of three similarly-styled bedrooms, also on this level. A bespoke mahogany cabinet and white leather bench sit comfortably in this spacious entrance, offset by a contemporary Terzani pendant light, which creates eye-catching patterns on the marble floor and reflective wall surfaces. An abstract black and white print completes the look and is an indication of what is to come.
The main reception room is flooded with light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, yet remains satisfyingly calm, with rhythmical portrait views of the city and skyline providing an interesting and ever-changing backdrop. Although essentially open plan, there are also clearly defined areas within the room. 'This was the key focal area of the whole scheme', commented Emlyn Conlon, 'and takes up most of the upper floor space. This is where everyone can be together, but at the same time can be involved in different activities, from dining or reading to playing games and watching movies, with enough sense of space for all, from the smallest child to the client and his wife or extended family members.'
At the centre of the room is a fireplace island wall, finished in a metallic cross-combed polished plaster, again by DKT Artworks, framing a bespoke, dark-stained oak dining table, which seats ten. Flexform ME dining chairs around the table are upholstered in fabric from Romo's Zinc range. The dining area is served by an ultra-contemporary, white Molteni Dada kitchen, which was within the remit of the main contractor.
The double-sided fireplace opens also on to the more formal side of the reception room. Here, a sumptuous, bespoke, deep-buttoned leather sofa commands centre stage, positioned perfectly under three striking black and white artworks from German artist Godwin Hoffman. Two low back armchairs from Meridiani and a white lacquer coffee table from Porta Romana complete the ensemble. Punchy accents are achieved by carefully-placed, deep purple satin and cream silk scatter cushions with copper accessories, which subtly reference the earthy tones of the entrance hall.
Opposite, a less formal seating area is defined by the bespoke modular sofa from The Sofa & Chair Company, creating the perfect place to relax and take in the stunning views or to enjoy the apartment's state-of-the-art audio-visual system, integrated into the bespoke, full-height joinery. Fabrics and finishes continue in the same soothing grey and metallic vein and a cameo of colour is found in the exquisite ottoman-come-coffee table, a combination of rich macassar ebony with an aubergine, hair-on-hide inlay, bespoke-designed by Emlyn Conlon and beautifully executed by Interior Joinery. 'A very important aspect of this scheme', Emlyn explained, 'is that all joinery is bespoke. We wanted every available space to have furniture that fitted perfectly, so that no space is wasted or taken up unnecessarily.'
A bespoke low cabinet in grey stained oak serves to connect this less formal area and an arrangement of four upholstered chairs and low round table makes this the ideal place to savour morning coffee or indulge in evening backgammon. Pulling everything together are two striking, bespoke silk rugs from Tai Ping, with all colours hand-picked to mirror exactly those of the surrounding tones and accents, in both finishes and furniture.
'Ultimately, the key to the success of this space as a whole is the ability of individual family members to engage in different activities but still remain together, in areas which are intimate without feeling disconnected, something which was of great importance to the client and which was achieved through the clever arrangement of key pieces and an overriding harmonious and balanced palette', Emlyn Conlon concluded.
Further accommodation on this level includes three of the total five bedrooms, four of which are en suite. The client requested that there be no hierarchy among the five bedrooms, so that any one room could be occupied at any time by any member of the extended family. Therefore, the approach was a measured one, each with its own individual treatment, but with a commonality which sits comfortably within the context of the entire apartment.
Dark brown earthy tones are again evident in bedroom one, anchored by a full-height upholstered bespoke headboard in black fabric with a gold and copper fleck, from Chase Erwin. Finely-woven fabric wall covering from Innovations and supplementary fabrics from Kravet, J Robert Scott and Abbott & Boyd provide the expected level of luxury and the overall feel is one of understated sophistication. As the emphasis in this residence is on the living and family areas, great care was taken to maximise the limited space available in the bedrooms. The rooms are uncluttered yet welcoming and all joinery is bespoke, designed by Emlyn Conlon and expertly made by Hannah Contracts Ltd., to fit exactly into alcoves and corners, so as not to hinder the flow of passage through the rooms and giving an open and spacious feel. In all bedrooms and indeed throughout the apartment, the finely-detailed joinery, both freestanding and built in, compliments the textured surfaces and luxurious finishes in a very subtle way.
Bedrooms two, three, four and five are a continuation of this ethos and are equally pragmatic in their layout, as well as cohesive schematically. The palette moves effortlessly from dark brown and black to cool grey and olive, charcoal and cerulean, limed oak and taupe and to graphite and dark rust. Individual pieces such as a Florence Knoll bench in tungsten leather, an ebony and gold scalloped mirror from Porta Romana and original prints from Liverpool artist Lindsey Moran, add another layer of interest and give each room their own character.
The contemporary marble, glass and steel staircase is home to one of the most striking features of this apartment. A double height mural, inspired by Turner and developed by the SHH team with DKT Artworks, is a visual bridge between the two levels and indeed every area of the apartment. An explosion of colours, layered over textured plaster, including all the silvers, greys, purples and copper hues evident throughout, converge in one fantastic, abstract artwork. The effect is stunning and a perfect foil for the sculptural antique bronze and satin brass Lunar pendant light from CTO. A decorative fretwork screen frames the composition and filters the natural light cascading from an adjacent skylight.
Descending the stairs to the 14th floor, one enters the second reception room, again benefiting from refreshing streams of natural light and far-reaching views, but forming a more intimate space than the main reception on the floor above with a casual, relaxed air. A large, bespoke, low back modular sofa, upholstered in carbon-coloured cotton and with a generous scattering of cushions in a mixture of silver, gold and plum silks and velvets, sits easily on a linear-patterned silk rug, with a number of loosely-placed ottomans for company. Light grey textured fabric wall covering from Stereo and faux fur throws on the sofa enhance the feeling of warmth and comfort in this informal lounge area.
Profiting from the open plan nature of this area and maximising the space available, an informal dining area and study have also been incorporated and are an appropriate extension of the living area. As throughout the apartment, the continuity and cohesiveness of the colour palette and finishes exits here also. The same Stereo wall covering extends to three of the connecting walls, whilst the four dining chairs from Casamilano, that encircle a bespoke round dining table are upholstered in fabric from Romo, which echoes the tones of the main sofa. A Caboche suspension light from Foscarini gently illuminates, whilst another original print from Lindsey Moran completes this vignette.
The study joinery, designed by Emlyn Conlon and again manufactured by Hannah Contracts, who carried out all the interior decorations, is crisp, contemporary and perfectly arranged. A combination of open and closed storage and a series of floating elements, it is a feature in itself, with its geometric design an extrapolation of the fretwork screen on the floor above, offset against an exquisite two tone silk feature wall covering, in deep purple and gold. The monolithic dark stained oak desk is a playful contrast to the delicate shelving and defines this space. Like the main reception room, the nature of this entire space is multifunctional, aligned with the client's wishes.
Along with the aforementioned two bedrooms on this level, a private cinema completes the accommodation. Distinctly dark and moody, it is the perfect setting for watching movies on the 2m-wide projector screen, integrated within bespoke joinery that also houses concealed speakers and all the necessary audio-visual equipment. Indeed,throughout the apartment, the audio-visual capacity is extensive and all areas, including lighting and window treatments, can be controlled independently via remote Crestron panels.
The textured fabric wall covering on two sides is a fusion of charcoal and mid-grey and the wall opposite the screen is clad in randomly scratched oak panels finished in the same mid-grey. Lit from above, with recessed halo lighting, the effect is quietly dramatic while also providing a warm glow of indirect light. The bespoke modular sofa, again from the Sofa & Chair Company, provides ample seating for family viewing and loose ottomans and large floor cushions give flexibility and cosiness when desired. Upholstered in fabrics from Romo's Zinc series and ranging in colour from graphite, ash, and black to silver, gold, copper and cream, the link with other areas is maintained and the contemporary cohesiveness observed. Black B&B Italia side tables on the silver shimmering rug are another sculptural element and the finishing touch to a room of considerable comfort and style.
Of course, no city centre penthouse would be complete without great views and this particular location certainly does not disappoint. Up on the impressive roof terrace, London completely envelopes the viewer. The stunning panorama takes in all the key landmarks and iconic buildings including The Royal Albert Hall, Battersea Power Station, The London Eye and the soon to be completed Shard London Bridge. The city scape needs little embellishment and the understated treatment of this external extension of the apartment befits this and does not compete with the views. The contemporary, low modular furniture, in dark brown vinyl with sand coloured cushions, is arranged in distinct groups. Starting in the South West corner, an L-shaped sofa and ottoman provide the perfect vantage point from which to experience the city in all her glory. Cedar lattice screens, olive trees and heathers in dark grey rectangular planters further soften the expanse and help frame the various zones, leading you leisurely across the terrace. The next arrangement of seating, another L-shaped sofa with coffee table and ottomans, sits central to an outdoor TV, built in to a dark slate and grey stained iroko surround. Just beyond is a spacious dining area with seating for eight and an outdoor kitchen with integrated BBQ and fridge. Finally, and to complete the luxury penthouse brief, a 3m by 2m Jacuzzi, clad again in dark slate and iroko, offers - day or night - a great example of how life could, or should be....
Above all, this penthouse scheme fulfils the client's brief, providing him with the home he wanted, through clever planning and an astute awareness of family life. But more than that, the quality of the finishes, the balanced yet provocative palette, the unique individual pieces and indeed the overriding commitment to considered design, come together effortlessly, culminating in a sophisticated and harmonious slant on a contemporary, luxury penthouse in a vibrant 21st century city.