Interior designer Rebecca Tucker talks us through the secrets to creating an innovative space that forms the heart of a new community…
Decorating with a muted palette of whites can so easily leave you with cold, sterile, bleak interiors. Yet this contemporary four-floor townhouse is a masterclass in the kind of breathtaking beauty you can achieve when you strike the right balance between clean whites and warmth-inducing details.
Mixed tones of white, punctuated by bright and bold artwork and ingenious detailing, wash through this unique show-home in the newly developed Portobello Square, Notting Hill.
Prepare to throw away those old connotations of soulless show-homes, devoid of character and personality. This is a new era; a living, breathing, evolving space that sits in the heart of the community and also serves as a pop-up gallery space.
So while visitors to this stunning alabaster townhouse may not come away buying a new home in the development, they could become the new owners of a striking piece of modern art and will most definitely discover a new window on the community.
Supporting local business has been a major focus within the redevelopment of the area and this project – entitled ‘White on white’ – has been designed by Rebecca Tucker of Suna Interior Design for Catalyst By Design. Together they teamed up with the London Westbank Gallery in Westbourne Grove, who specialise in bold contemporary artists.
Rebecca worked closely with the gallery to find pieces that fitted with the aesthetic of the home and chose 30-40 in total, which are on display throughout the townhouse. Hung against the muted backdrop, these works really pack a punch.
‘The premise was that we’d fill the house with artwork and if they sold, they’d be swapped out and replaced, so it would always be changing, always moving forward. It was a fantastic opportunity to do something a bit different,’ says designer Rebecca Tucker, co-owner and co-director of London-based Suna Interior Design.
‘In terms of the overall design, the challenge was that we couldn’t go so far down the gallery route that it felt cold and hard and clinical – I had to take the white on white concept and make it work in a home and feel comfortable.
‘It was very important that the design was strong enough on its own. The fantastic works of art are the piece de resistance, adding glamour and making the design completely unique.
‘But the challenges tend to be the things that, if they’re successful, they really sing. And I think we’ve created a confident, statement scheme – a talking point and we’re absolutely thrilled.’
There are ways of making muted colours work in a busy family home and there is plenty of inspiration to be drawn from Rebecca’s clever design features and flavours of subtle glamour, which you can recreate at home.
‘Whenever you limit your colour palette, you need to bring in other elements like texture and pattern to give warmth,’ explains Rebecca, whose background is in fine art.
‘I ran my palette from crisp cold white to taupes and warm greys, but very much on the white end of the spectrum. And we added plenty of texture and other detailing, as well as different furniture finishes such as gloss and woods.
‘The wooden floor that runs from the stairs up through the house breaks up the white-on-white backdrop and in the living room we used a dusty grey and off-white rug to ensure that the room has more of a softer feel. We also used a lot of wallpaper and tactile furniture to add interest; like the dining chairs, which have that cut-out detail. When you keep the spectrum very limited, you need other elements to compliment it.’
The house is not only impressive in its interior design, but in its architectural detail as well, with full-height glazing, recessed pelmets, front to back rooms and an internal balcony. The ground floor comprises of a kitchen and dining area; the first floor has a huge wraparound living area and a study section; the first floor has two bedrooms; and the top floor houses the master suite with its statement faux tiled ceiling.
‘We wanted to draw on the interplay between the contemporary gallery space and the more traditional features of a typical London townhouse, so we used tiled wallpaper on the ceiling as a twist on a period feature,’ explains Rebecca. ‘Architecturally it’s quite a complicated ceiling, which was a challenge in itself, but now I think it works better because of that architectural detail, rather than having a standard flat ceiling.’
This is just one of many playful features that lift the house’s muted palette – the statement bottle chandelier pendant light in the dining area and the carved wooden headboard in the children’s room punctuate the white in a similar way.
‘The headboard on the bed is actually made from a folding screen and the dining area had the only pendant light in the house, so it needed to be a key feature piece. As an interior design company we approach every project on a one-off basis and we like to do things that are a little unexpected,’ she says.
The furniture and accessories are key to the overall design and Rebecca explains that, as a company, Suna Interior Design approach everything from a bespoke nature, even when designing show homes for developers.
‘We’re a relatively small company with 13 of us in total and seven designers and we’re proud of that. When it comes to furnishings we give everyone the freedom to source what they want, where they want, as long as it’s in budget – that could be high street brands or designer pieces. We don’t have a big warehouse full of accessories, we shop individually for every job, which is a slightly more expensive way of doing it, but it means you can really pinpoint the exact thing you want.’
Interior design is as much a passion as a profession for self-confessed serial house-buyer Rebecca, who is currently renovating her own home in Carshalton Beeches, South London. She took over the company in 2007 with best friend Helen Fewster, who initially trained in theatre design.
‘We were friends before and we still are! People always say don’t run a business with your best friend but who else would you want to run a business with?’ laughs Rebecca.