Good design is all about context. An interior is not autonomous, after all, it must connect seamlessly with its surroundings.
In British properties, this often requires consideration for existing details, while instilling contemporary values. According to luxury interior design practice Oliver Burns, this fusion has created the quintessential British eclecticism. “Tradition plays a key part in British interiors,” says Katia Perez, head of design at the practice. “British homes are full of history, and although they are classic, there is now a move towards a style that mixes old and new to fit with modern lifestyles.”
Character is in high demand, with listed properties and those built in Georgian and Edwardian era particularly desirable. Therefore the design has to fit around the architecture of the building, says Perez, however challenging. This Grade II listed property, designed and developed by Oliver Burns, was once the home of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister. “Internally, we designed the apartments to reflect the history, elegance and beauty of the Georgian building, from reinstating palatial period features to uncovering apex ceilings,” Perez explains.
As for the finishes, they were classically British. “We used grey blue and sage green, reflecting the colours of the Georgian period, alongside Georgian patterns and prints.”
Without compromising the historical backdrop, the design also needed to accommodate 21st century mod-cons such as media systems and appliances, so the practice looked to bespoke furniture that solved both issues simultaneously.
Where possible, Oliver Burns tries to use British designers and craftsmanship, especially local artisans for bespoke pieces. Joinery experts Richwood London created specially designed cabinetry for this master bedroom, with glass topped display drawers to house collectors’ items and artwork.
The practice has also worked with Helen Amy Murray, a London-based artist who hand sculpts leather and textiles into, “arresting works of art,” describes Perez. Murray produced this headboard for a Mayfair apartment by Oliver Burns.
They also collaborated with Cole and Son to produce two previously unprinted Georgian prints from the fabric company’s archives for this Walpole Mayfair apartment.
Perez also cites Lee Broom and Mark Humphrey as notable British makers; Broom’s studded ottoman was used in the master bedroom of Oliver Burns’ Fitzrovia apartment.
Humphrey’s Goddess sculpture was used in the Georgian townhouse. Both Broom and Humphrey have successfully given contemporary twists to the projects.
Far from the clichés attached to old-fashioned British styles, with frilly swags and tails in window dressings, and other more gimmicky symbols, the practice’s take on British aesthetics combines the best of different eras, with modern finishes set alongside original architectural features such as wall panelling, cornices and vintage accent furniture. In this kitchen, for example, the practice has set a classically beautiful chandelier and traditional cornicing details against sleek cabinetry and high-tech appliances.
This subtly curated combination brings a heritage property up to date, fitting for a modern lifestyle, making for an elegant, timeless and innately British design.