Home Tour: An Elegant London Townhouse Designed By Katharine Pooley
True refinement transcends time, location and trends—this is the belief of British designer Katharine Pooley, who was recently commissioned to transform a five-storey Arts and Crafts townhouse in Mayfair, London.
Having grown her eponymous design studio in London over 15 years, the highly sought-after designer is the creative mind behind some of the most stunning homes around the world. When the studio was approached by a client to transform a dilapidated townhouse into a functional but beautiful family home, Pooley did not hesitate to dive into the intricacies of the project.
The brief was clear: the client, an international ambassador to London, wanted to restore the building to its stately grandeur. Above all, it was to be designed for both family living and entertaining, as the client often hosts visiting diplomats and members of royalty from around the world.
Comprising two connecting red-brick buildings, the 21,000sqft property was in an extremely poor condition. “The building had incredible historic detailing throughout, most of which was badly damaged by its previous owners, who had ripped out historic ceilings, removed fireplaces and partitioned rooms to create a block of offices with no thought to preserving the historical integrity or beauty of the building,” says the designer.
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Determined to restore the property’s original architectural elements, Pooley and her team enlisted the help of craftsmen and restoration experts, who revived the mouldings, cornices, fireplaces and joinery. The potential of the seven-bedroom townhouse was soon revealed during the restoration process. One room on the first floor, in particular, demanded more attention. “The main drawing room needed more consideration as the ceiling was in very poor condition and required extensive refurbishment,” says Pooley.
To highlight the natural symmetry and the expanse of the space, Pooley created a balanced layout that emphasised the room’s elegant furnishings. Gorgeous lapis coffee tables are paired with chandeliers made of rock-crystal shards crafted by Australian lighting designer Christopher Boots in the formal living room. This space is pulled together by display niches framed by backlit white onyx. The result leads the gaze upwards, and one can’t help but marvel at the beauty of the painstakingly restored details on the ceiling.
“You just don’t find plasterwork of this quality anymore, and it was a complete labour of love to restore it to its original glory. Anything that could draw the eye upwards to these expansive plaster works of art was to be immediately embraced,” explains Pooley. “Beautiful lighting is like the best jewellery; it draws the eye and elevates everything around it.”
The theatrical use of lighting extends to the other rooms as well. The show begins when one steps into the main entrance, where a dramatic glass chandelier flows gently into the space, imploring guests to venture into the reception room.
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Designed by Pooley and handcrafted by Lasvit in the Czech Republic, it comprises hundreds of glass pieces that are assembled in a graduated wave. This crystalline display is subtly lit by spotlights, creating an iridescent shimmer that is reflected by the chevron-patterned parquet floor.
The presentation of the dining room is no less regal. Taking centre stage is a commanding chandelier with rows of cascading Murano glass pieces from Venice. This stunning fixture is set against panels of hand-painted wallpaper from De Gournay and anchored by plush dining chairs surrounding an agate crystal table.
As much as the townhouse is to be a space for entertaining, it is also a home for the family. The basement gym and spa are a private sanctuary, while the informal living room on the ground floor is where the family gather to relax and bond.
This informal living room is decked in a monochromatic palette that serves as a canvas for the citrine crystal lamps, a blue leather sofa, and a wool carpet with a geometric print of architectural photographs. Presiding over the space are Roll & Hill Modo chandeliers in crystal and stainless steel—futuristic elements that enhance the room’s contemporary surroundings.
“The client wanted a glossy, masculine aesthetic for much of the property and this brief inspired my design choices for the informal living room, an important room as the client foresaw spending a lot of time in this space. I chose a monochromatic palette that placed glossy, luxurious finishes at its heart,” says Pooley.
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To accommodate the family’s love of films and music, a high-tech AV home cinema system sits above a marble-framed fireplace. This cutting-edge feature resembles a mirror but when activated, a screen appears through the glass. This cosy retreat overlooks the newly added ground floor terrace, where the team has built a large retractable screen for an outdoor cinema experience. This private enclave offers the bird’s-eye view of the nearby Hyde Park and houses a glass lift built within the property’s central grand staircase, a complicated and meticulous process that took two years.
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“Every detail was considered and taken care of, and the client was able to continue his busy life. When the project was finally completed, the client and his family were spellbound by the design and also thrilled that we created it for them,” says Pooley, beaming with pride at the results.
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