Breathing New York loft life into a West Hampstead mansion flat
PUBLISHED: 14:00 19 February 2016
Creating an element of surprise was key for the West Hampstead couple creating a cosy contemporary haven in a 19th-century north London block
“I think the only existing element still in the flat is the intercom,” says Sean Ronnie Hill director of RISE Design Studio, describing his thorough renovation of a mansion flat in West Hampstead. “We couldn’t change that even if we wanted to because it was connected to the system in the rest of the building.”
The fit out of the apartment belonging to Anna Montovano, 34, a pharmacist, and her husband John, 41, who works for an American company began as a simple commission to open up the far end of the period apartment and create an open plan living space and morphed into a year and long overhaul of each and every feature with a budget of £220,000 (exc VAT).
“When we started, Anna and John, the client, showed me the flat and said they’d like to open up the far end and put in a new kitchen. There was a long corridor with rooms opening off it and they thought it would be good to use the space a bit better. They wanted to create a lovely, bright through space for relaxing and entertaining,” says Hill.
The flat was large at nearly 100sq m, but didn’t seem to be because it was divided into small rooms. As work began on opening it up though, it quickly emerged that they had a bigger job than expected on their hands.
“We actually had to remove three walls which was a very big thing to do,” says Anna Montovano. “I’m very glad we did it but it was a bit nerve wracking when we discovered that.”
They decided to capitalise on this newly major endeavour and decided to create a new look for the entire property giving it a contemporary urban loft feel.
“We wanted it to be modern but still cosy,” she says. “We both really like having people over and entertaining so it was very important to us that our bedroom remain completely separate and private, which we’ve got with the big brass screen, which means we can totally shut it off.
“We wanted somewhere comfortable, light and inviting for our friends to come and hang out but that also looked modern.
“I’m Polish, my husband’s American, I lived in New York for seven years and we wanted to have a little bit of that feel in this flat with exposed brick, and steel.
“We wanted to go for a bit of a surprise: you look from the outside and you think about something completely different and then you go in and see this open, modern space and you feel a surprise.”
As it sounds, this was not quite a typical job and a lot of the furnishings and fittings were created bespoke to fit with the Montovano’s tastes, as well as the style and size of the original building.
Bespoke floor-to-ceiling storage was fitted throughout the flat with full height wardrobes in the bedrooms and an entertainment wall in the living area with a steel and opaque glass sliding screen, to disguise the television when not in use.
RISE also created bespoke furniture for the mansion flat to fit with the industrial chic style of décor.
Hill says: “We tried to source pieces that would fit in with the flat but we ended up designing our own. We created a line of coffee tables, which we topped with materials found elsewhere in the property, including the antique wood flooring, encaustic tiles that we used in the kitchen and lacquered black steel used throughout the property.
The studio also created the El Montovano light shade named for the couple, a brass cage with a luxe industrial look which hangs above the dining table.
“We described to Sean what we wanted as a dining room light and he showed us what he’d designed and said he was going to call it ‘El Montovano’. That was very cute,” says Montovano.
“It’s a really nice thing to think that somebody else might have a light named for us in their home.”