A rare look inside the Kensington home of one of London’s best interior designers, Justin Van Breda.
If Justin Van Breda’s Kensington home is anything to go by, then designers’ own homes are the very embodiment of their personal style. His three-bed, three-bath home in a stuccoed Kensington street is a beautiful example of the laid-back, elegant look you see in his other projects across prime London. Van Breda describes it as a “gradation in sophistication, with a country feeling in the garden level and becoming more urban in the drawing room.”
Certainly the drawing room, with its grand piano and original Georgian 8″ wide floorboards, has all the quiet good taste you’d expect of a house in this postcode. The walls are painted in muted Sanderson and Farrow & Ball colours, giving it a calm, restful feel. But there are also unexpectedly irreverent touches, like the Warhol portrait of the Queen, which hangs above the mantelpiece.
As Van Breda says, the traditional-style kitchen has a more eclectic feel, with a skylight and large sash window offering outside views. “I designed the kitchen knowing exactly how I wanted to live in the space,” he says. “and though it’s really just a galley, it works very well and is a bit like an art installation.”
When he and his partner moved into the house, it had been untouched for 30 years. They added a roof extension, as well as extending from the kitchen and into the side return. But what are the pitfalls of working on your own home? Are there unexpected challenges, or is it a job like any other?
“I treated my partner like a client, so we kept all the job files and admin up to speed, which helps,” he says. “The greatest challenge was not to bulldoze him, but to consider both our design viewpoints and styles.” The modern extension was also tricky, he adds, “and keeping the integrity of what is essentially an early Victorian worker’s cottage.”
The interiors were designed on what sounds like a particularly fruitful trip to Cornwall. “I sketched the kitchen on a napkin and it’s pretty much just like that,” he says. “Although we’d lived in the space for two years, and so had a clear idea of what would and wouldn’t work.”
From there they created a storyboard (“We always do,” he says), incorporating existing pieces into the scheme “so that there’s a lovely flow and nothing jars.” The result is a lovely, masculine look, without the black leather sofas and gadgetry that this implies. Although these definitely aren’t something you should overlook. “Don’t ignore the gadgets,” he says, “as we do live with them. Just know where you’re going to put them. If you start with that premise, they’re easy to conceal and work around. A lot of people throw them in at the last minute and they jar with the interior.”
And if there’s one thing we can learn from this house, it’s that an uncluttered, unified look is the first step to a chic home.