Category Archives: House Tour

poggenpohl kitchen

A Subtle-Luxe London Flat

Just in case you think I have a general disdain for property developers, I should clarify that you can get some really good developments.  What separates the good from the bad just comes down to the care given to the details and finish.

I visited a new development on Saturday that I thought was really well done.  Once again, this development is near Casa del Dumpo.  This time, however, the development is a small block of flats instead of a McMansion.  Although each flat is 3 bedrooms, the layouts differ as does the square footage.  It’s not as cookie-cutter as it sounds!

living room sofa

The living room is spacious and has engineered dark oak flooring.  The ceiling is slightly dropped to allow for shadow lighting and the air-conditioning. I am neurotic enough to worry that the dropped ceiling is just a dust-trap but it is a minor niggle.  The whole flat has air-conditioning.  I guess air-conditioning really is de rigeur in high-end developments now!

living room ceiling

The living room opens onto the Poggenpohl kitchen with sliding pocket doors which is a nice touch.  I like pocket doors because they allow you to open or divide space as the occasion needs.  The beautiful kitchen furniture is a high-gloss grey with dark wood combination which is different from the usual white kitchen.

poggenpohl kitchen

Many of the Miele appliances come in pairs.  For example, each of the two refrigerators and freezers are side by side. I think this is a clever idea because two medium-size refrigerators can hold more than one large refrigerator.  Moreover, things get lost in a big refrigerator in the back.  It would be easier to separate out food into groups with two refrigerators.  It doesn’t look like there are that many units but that is because the handleless unit doors cover the drawers inside.  The look is sleeker than having individual handleless cupboards or drawers.  Check out how nicely the cabinets join the ceiling.

kitchen sink

I really like the way the worktop becomes the splash back.  Visually, it’s a very clean line and also more hygienic.  No cracks for dirt to fall into!


The clean lines and simple yet luxurious finish extends into the bathrooms as well.


The bathrooms are luxuriously clad in marble from floor to ceiling.  I like the marble being mosaic tiling on the shower floor – a little detail which will prevent slipping on the water.


I like this simple detail of a cut-out in the glass for opening the shower door.

shower door

shower door handle

The master bathroom is relatively small.  My daughter fell in love with the television at the end of the tub in the master bath.  She’s added that detail to her wish list for her future room.  I’ve told her though that if she’s not having a television in her bedroom, she’s definitely not having one in her bathroom.  I also noticed the Artelinea moulded-glass bathroom sinks in the master bath.  Love!  The bathroom lights are on motion sensors like in the other development I saw.

Artilinea vanity unit

The bedrooms are carpeted and plush.  Two of the three bedrooms are a good size with built-in wardrobes.  The master bedroom even has a dressing area with wardrobes.  The third bedroom in the show flat was furnished as a study.  It didn’t have any fitted wardrobes detracting from the floor space which would probably only have emphasised that it was a small double/large single.  These flats average about 1800 square feet – there’s definitely room for 3 good-sized bedrooms especially as they are all en-suite.  I think that was a mistake in the design of the floor plan.

grey bedroom

The only heating is under-floor heating.  Presumably with a new build, the requirements for air-tightness and insulation are so high you may not need traditional radiators to heat the rooms.


The lighting is controlled by a Rako system which I hear is becoming increasingly popular.  We used Lutron in our last house which used to be a fairly-standard for the high end market.  Apparently, Rako is just as good but much cheaper.  I will definitely be investigating (and possibly writing a post on that in the future!).

The system is controlled by an iPad set on the wall.  Having done that ourselves in our last house, I would not do that again.  First of all, the iPad was continuously going missing since the children could find it fairly easily on the wall and take it down to play.  Second, I don’t want to put my bets on a control system based on Apple technology which rolls out new models every year. Presumably after putting in a state of the art system, you don’t want the control obsolete in a year.  For example, we had our glass backsplash in the kitchen cut to fit an iPad II inset holder, but within months, Apple introduced the iPad Air which is a different size inset. Upgrading the inset would have meant replacing the whole backsplash – annoying!

What did you think of this developer’s show flat?  Do you like subtle-luxe as much as I do?



Mid-Century Modern Style on a Budget

My favourite design-inspiration room set at Grand Designs last week was created by Maxine Brady, an interior stylist from Brighton.  Entitled “Inspiration for First Time Buyers”, she has perfectly created a style-conscious, budget-friendly look in a limited space.  The finished look relies heavily on the current trend fashion for mid-century modern furniture and Scandinavian style.  The studio room works well because different areas are zoned for different uses but underlying themes and colours create a coherent look.


Although the colour scheme appears bright, the colour palette is very limited.  She has used flashes of yellow to add interest to a predominantly grey and white neutral scheme.  Having a base that is neutral with accessories in colour makes it easier to swap out items if you decide your space needs a revamp.

The Ikea dining table is based on an iconic Saarinen design.  The chairs and the step stool are Ikea as well.  I think the use of the Ikea kitchen is inspired as well.  With a mix of flat fronts, textured fronts and open shelving, the kitchen looks very designer.  The hexagonal wall tiles also are a very current trend.  They are used in a small space and so give maximum impact for a limited budget.

Living Room

Pattern is also used throughout the space to add interest.  There are lots of geometric prints but they don’t clash because of the restricted colour palette. sofa I love this table and the Hay nesting trays on it.  Although not a cheap option (the Hay trays together cost about a £100), they are a design classic.  In addition, buying good-quality accessories is cheaper than buying name-brand big items.  They also elevate the rest of the space into looking more expensive than it really is. table

 Study Area

Like I mentioned in a previous post on how great Concreate looks, I love flooring which mimics poured concrete but are actually tiles.  This floor is from Harvey Maria which is a cheaper option than Concreate for the budget-conscious.  The look of the floor is warmed up with cozy patterned rugs.  I also like how the sense of space in the room is highlighted because of the mid-century modern vibe of the furniture.  The furniture is lifted of the floor on slender legs which visually adds space to the room.  Everything seems collected and calm which goes well with the rest of the Scandi look. study

Get The Lookgeometric

  1. Ando Concrete tiles, Harvey Maria, £42.95/square meter
  2. Hex tiles, Piazza Tiles, £49/square meter
  3. Frankie, Plantation Rug, £175
  4. Inlay cushion, Sian Elin, £45
  5. Tress wallpaper, Sian Elin, £90/10-meter roll
  6. Tress teatowel, Sian Elin, £6
  7. Geo knitted blanket, Seven Gauge Studios, £250


mid-century modern

  1. Curve candlestick, Edited Brighton, £22
  2. Buttons 3-seater sofa, Sofa Workshop, £1279
  3. Ben de Lisi Set of 2 Metal Tables, Debenhams, £76
  4. Kmix Toaster, John Lewis, £50
  5. Frame coffee table, Joined & Jointed, £195
  6. Hay Kaleido Tray, Heal’s, £12
  7. Ceramic flower pots, Chive, £12
  8. Tolix-style stool, Lakeland Furniture, £59


What do you think?  Do you like this room as much as I do?  Would you style anything differently?  I’d love to hear what you think.


Visiting Kenwood House

You don’t actually need to leave London to get the whole English country house experience if you are a visitor to London with limited time.  My last post looked at the famed Adam designed library at Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath.  The rest of the house is beautiful too!  The outside is welcoming with these charming benches set around to appreciate the gardens.  After Adam went to the trouble of relocating Hampstead Lane away from the front of the house, it seems only right to  make an effort to take in the garden view!


Upon entry, you are welcomed by a fire just as if you had entered an 18th century gentleman’s home.


Much of the furniture had been sold off by the Mansfield family before it was bought by Lord Iveagh.  Interiors appropriate to the time, however, have been sourced by English Heritage to create an appropriate look.  This beautiful piece, for example, opens up to reveal storage for cutlery.  We were told that the Georgians may take their own cutlery when invited for dining.  Hence, why it is located in the front entrance!

cutlery coffer


I love the grand staircase which has been painted a light blue more in keeping with Georgian times than the black it had been pre-restoration.  The details are of stylised honeysuckle and palm fronds. Doesn’t the blue really pop against the warmth of the browns in the wood?


The famed Adam-designed portico is visible from the windows.  The exterior haas been refinished in sand applied to wet paint to mimic the look of stone (just as Adam had done for the original finish).  I was interested to hear about this facade application because George Washington’s stately home, Mount Vernon, on the shores of the Potomac near Washington D.C. had the same thing done to it.


The house has lots of artwork by famous artists.  The Georgians were big into art collecting as part of their love of conspicuous consumption.


This painting by Vermeer was sold by Vermeer’s wife upon his death to pay off bills.  It is believed to be a relative of the Vermeer family because she was loathe to part with it.  It was sold on the condition that she could buy it back if she raised enough funds.  Sadly, she never did.


The Georgians loved the exotic which was increasingly brought to England by the growth in trade and subsequent prosperity.  This chinoiserie detailing on one of the fireplaces is exquisite.

One out-of-the-ordinary Georgian detail is that Lord Mansfield’s mixed-race niece, Dido Belle, was raised at Kenwood House.  Dido was the illegitimate daughter of Royal Navy Admiral who was the nephew of the first Lord Mansfield.  The Mansfields had no children of their own and they took on the upbringing of Dido and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray.  Dido was a mixed-race aristocrat in a time when that was a rarity.  This beautiful painting, depicting their youth and exuberance, treats both girls on equal footing with each other (another rarity).  Although a recent film was made about Belle’s life (Belle, 2013), another house stood in for Kenwood House which was undergoing restoration.

dido belle

Kenwood House is run by English Heritage. Located on Hampstead Lane in Hampstead, English Heritage have a easy-to-use website with useful information for a visit.  It is very child-friendly with an inside play area, a good cafe and plenty of gardens to roam. My children love visiting Kenwood.  You really do get the feeling of being in the country!

children's art





If Miss Havisham Had Gotten the Decorating Bug

You all know how I love a good house tour.  Especially, now with the planned renovation on our house, I was not going to miss an opportunity to nose around some houses in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard.  Besides, my friend and I wanted an excuse to escape our children for a couple of hours.

Edgartown was a major port for the whaling industry in the 1800’s.  The captains of the whaling ships built grand houses in the town many of which are still around. Intermixed with these houses are smaller homes dating from the 1700’s and houses built or renovated in modern times.

So, what did I learn about expensive Edgartown houses and their owners’ decorating tastes?

Well, the Edgartown interiors style generally seems pretty traditional. And fussy. We’re talking flouncy bedskirts, table coverings and window dressings.  Kitchens tend to be traditional with marble countertops.  Ditto on the bathrooms.  Marble, marble, everywhere. most of it Carrera.

The homes were also big on collections – scrimshaw, shells, porcelain etc.  People really had accumulated a lot of stuff.  I was fascinated to learn about ‘Sailor’s Valentines’ – artwork made from shells by bored sailors.  A whole wall collection, however, felt overwhelming to me because each piece was so intricate.  I wasn’t sure where to look.

Sailors' Valentine artwork photo:  Ebay

Sailors’ Valentine artwork
photo: Ebay

Much of the furniture is antique (the 19th century brown kind).  The artwork tended to be traditional oil paintings and heavy on the nautical theme.  It was all very expensive.  And oppressively heavy and photo

I did love the little quirks in a home, such as the painted electrical outlet below depicting Edgartown lighthouse and harbour.  Such small touches make a home feel less like a museum.

electrical outlet

We saw 5 houses in total which I assume were picked because the owners were happy to display them.  The house tours were packed with participants.  We overheard many ladies of a certain age who loved the interiors.  The majority were simply not to our taste.  Some just felt like Miss Havisham had gone into interior decorating.

Of the 5 houses, I was taken with only one because the interior style seemed curated.  This house was recently completed in 2011 by noted architect Louise Brooks and has appeared in New England Home.  Moreover, the owner of the house is an interior designer.  Although this house did have its share of collectibles, they were dispersed throughout and didn’t overwhelm the space with clutter.  The house was light and bright with a neutral backdrop and great flow.  Not only was the antique furniture mixed with modern items but there was also many small touches that paid homage to the traditional design.  For example, the wooden beams creating the kitchen mantlepiece was a beautiful feature and the same coloured wood was used in the kitchen island.

Photos of the house are on the Brooks and Falotico website but here are some of the features I particularly liked.

favourite house details

So what does this information from the house tours mean for my house renovation?  Maybe, if I’m going to appeal to a traditional American crowd, I’ll need to reign in my modern European tendencies a bit. Or do I?  Surely, there must be some contemporary styling somewhere on this Island.  I’m on a mission  – wish me luck!!

What do you think?  Do you prefer the traditional look or more contemporary?  You know where I stand.

It’s Good to be a Duke

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the super rich are different from you and me — they keep camels in the conservatory.  And, no, not just for a game of Clue (Cluedo for the British).

Doris Duke, fabulously wealthy American heiress, kept her camels, named Baby and Princess,  sheltered in the conservatory of her 115 room Newport mansion, Rough Point, during a hurricane in 1991.  The rest of the time they had their own sheltered tent just outside the conservatory.   A little window in the room (a “camel port”) let people feed them treats.  Doris purchased planes from Adnan Kashoggi (Saudi Arabian business man and international arms dealer) and insisted 2 camels be thrown in for the purchase price.  She got the planes but not the camels.  So, what’s an heiress to do?  She went and bought her own 2 camels and billed him for their cost.  The camels travelled in a horse trailer up from her New Jersey mansion to summer in Newport.  They were infamous for chasing the security guards around the grounds for the occasional bite.

photo:  Newport Restoration Foundation

photo: Newport Restoration Foundation

Rough Point is one of the great mansions of Newport. Touring one or more Gilded Age mansion is an obligatory experience when visiting Newport.  They are just so surreal in the obvious display of wealth, magnificence and occasional lapse of good taste.

Rought Point was built by one of the Vanderbilts (Frederick).  If you think a lot of Newport mansions were Vanderbilt cast-offs, its probably because they were a large family.  For example, Frederick was one of 8 siblings and his older brother built The Breakers.  When Frederick tired of Rough Point, he sold it to a tin mine mogul who sold it eventually to the Dukes.

Doris was 12 when she inherited Rough Point (and $80 million) upon the death of her father in 1925.  An only child, she was nicknamed “Million Dollar Baby” by the press.  She used some of that money acquiring fabulous art and antiques for the home, much of which is still available to view now.  Among the many treasures are paintings by Renoir, van Dyck and Gainsborough, Belgian tapestries and Chinese porcelain.  The house was opened to the public in 2000 as a museum upon Doris’ death.

Rough Point was built in the style of an English country house in the late 19th century and named after a promontory on the cliffs it overlooked.  When the Dukes purchased the house, they enlarged the outside and modified the interior.

come on in!

come on in!

The tour itself was a great experience because they are lead by tour guides.  Our guide was great with our children (keeping them engaged with look and find questions) and a knowledgeable source of information for the adults.  For example, the ballroom/music room was planned out by Doris herself.  She bought 2 lots of Chinese wall hangings at auction which were near enough in appearance to decorate the whole room.

photo:  the

photo: the

Doris notoriously ran over her interior designer Edward Tirella in what was deemed an accident.  Perhaps he disagreed with her flamboyant choice of mother-of-pearl, purple and yellow for the master bedroom suite?  Here’s one of the antique chairs from that bedroom.

The grand staircase was imported in whole from an English manor house and installed at Rough Point.  The stained glass depicts the coats of arms of the signers of the Magna Carta.

from ; photo by Stan Godlewski/Liaison

from ; photo by Stan Godlewski/Liaison

Likewise, the wood panelled rooms had the panelling imported from an English manor house which was being stripped.  One such room is the Great Hall which is effectively used as an art gallery.



The conservatory was supposed to have been Doris’ favourite room.  It’s easy to see why because of the fabulous views over the manicured lawns to the Atlantic Ocean.



Even the kitchen had great views over the lawn and the Atlantic Ocean.

photo:  Apartment Therapy

photo: Apartment Therapy

The gardens were laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead, the renowned landscape architect famous for designing Central Park in New York City.

The camel topiaries no doubt keep the spirit of Princess and Baby at the house (and the security guards on their toes).

rough point camels

This Gilded Age mansion is definitely worth seeing.  I would have loved to take more photos but photography is limited inside the house because of all the priceless treasures it contains.

Lavender House in Hampstead

Lavender House in Hampstead is an architectural and design delight.  It was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Paxton-Locher which had originally bought the site for a client.  When the client decided to relocate overseas, Richard Paxton and his business partner/fellow architect/wife, Heidi Locher decided to take on the project.  Unfortunately, Richard passed away before construction was finished and Heidi completed the project on her own.

Let’s take a guided tour, shall we?

The house is hidden discreetly behind fairly anonymous white gates.  Before you approach the house, there is off-street parking which is a luxury in this part of the world.  To the side of the house, a separate passage allows entrance to the guest room and a service entrance to the house.

Inside the house, I was impressed most by the focus on light and space.  You really did not feel you were steps away from Hampstead High Street.  I visited on a cloudy day and yet, the home was filled with light.  It was almost like being in California – a spacious contemporary home, filled with light and even a pool.  Although a whopping 6000 s.f., it does not feel cavernous.  I’ve been in very large houses before which just feel endless (and not in a good way).  I’m inclined to agree with Heidi that the house is adaptable for both a family and for a large party.

The glass roof opens up to let the outside in.  Inside, the glass both demarcates specific areas but its clarity allows you to see from one end of the house through to the other.  The very spaciousness makes the living area convivial for family living.  You can all be together but still have your own space.   The house is also designed to be a party house with an ease of flow and plenty of gathering areas for conversation and mingling.  In fact, Heidi’s daughter Caitlin got married at nearby Burgh House and had her reception at home in March.

photo:  Goldschmidt & Howland

photo: Goldschmidt & Howland

There are also retractable fabric shades covering the glass roof preventing the space from becoming too sunny.  The living area is open plan and bright leading out to the patio garden.  Note the inset bookshelves which provide a streamlined book.  The whole look is clean and minimal but warm through the judicious use of wood throughout.  Speaking of warm, the white contemporary shelf in front of the pool is actually a fireplace.

photo:  The Modern Home

photo: The Modern Home

One end of the open plan space has the kitchen/dining area and the other end has the hot tub (believe it or not, discreetly covered in the lower left hand corner by a metal cover) and leads into the laundry room, utility room and 2 children’s duplexes. Note the glass insert in the floor which allows light into the floor below.

photo:  Goldschmidt & Howland

photo: Goldschmidt & Howland

The Baulthaup/Gaggenau kitchen is capacious with a walk-in pantry.  If you are entertaining entertaining, the kitchen area can be shielded from view by a retractable shade and staff can enter through the side entrance which leads directly to the kitchen.

photo:  Goldschmidt & Howland

photo: Goldschmidt & Howland

The pool is an integral part of this house and visible from many of the main rooms. The top half is visible from the open plan living area and master bedroom and the bottom half from the television room.  The placid strip of blue of the water almost looks like an art installation.

The master bedroom has his and her bathrooms (luxury!!!) opening from each side of the room and the whole back of the bedroom is a spacious walk-in closet.  From one of the bathrooms, you can access the pool area.  Or you can just slide the glass door back and jump right into the pool from the bedroom!  The retractable shade in the bedroom provides privacy when needed.

Photo:  The Modern House

Photo: The Modern House

There are two duplexes identical to each other created for the Paxton children.  On the bottom is a living area with a kitchenette leading to a small patio area.  A spiral staircase leads up to a bedroom, dressing area and a bathroom.   A ceiling light runs through both floors providing plenty of light (but with specially designed black-out shades for sleeping).

photo:  The Modern House

photo: The Modern House

The television room lights seen below are pinpoint lights randomly scattered on the ceiling.  When the room is dark, they look like a constellation in the sky.  With the blue of the pool visible on the right, you can almost close your eyes and pretend you are lying under the stars on a beach.

photo:  The Modern House

photo: The Modern House

In the picture below, the pool is visible on the right side.  The room is kept cozy with a rug inserted into the flooring for a streamlined look.  No tripping over this rug!

photo: The Modern House

photo: The Modern House

The mezzanine walkway connects the glass study area directly over the kitchen to the pool at the other end and reminds me of a minstrel’s gallery.  Like so many other details in this house, this contemporary home pays homage to decor found in traditional English homes, such as a fireplace, a study, a snug and a minstrel’s gallery.

photo:  The Modern House

photo: The Modern House

The patio garden is charming and flows from the open plan living area.  Heidi received this bronze bull statue which adorns the patio from her late husband as a wedding gift.  The bull has followed them from home to home.  Heidi showed me a charming picture from the 1990’s which had their young children snuggling up to the bull.  Apparently it was a favourite plaything.

photo:  Goldschmidt & Howland

photo: Goldschmidt & Howland

Overall, its a beautiful one-of-a-kind house in London, constructed with care and attention to detail and design.  I’m glad I got to see it before it gets snapped up by some lucky buyer who most likely will never show it to the public again.

Heidi has decided its time to move on.  She’s doing more art and design work with her own firm Studio Locher.   Her son is living in New York.  Her daughter is creating her own marital home and starting a new business (Paxton Chocolates – which are delicious by the way). The house, itself, however, is an incredible tribute to Paxton-Locher.

The house is available for sale through Goldschmidt and Howland for a guide price of GBP6.85 million.