The brief for this top-floor London duplex was a simple one: transform a former doctor’s office into a cosy, warm space that also allowed for a bit of indoor-outdoor living – English weather permitting. Tucked among the rooftops off Portland Place, the space was originally all industrial carpets and low energy down-lighters with the added flash of purple rubber tiles in the bathrooms.
With a tight timeline from acquisition to moving-in date, a casting call for local contractors generated a predictable chorus of, “Sorry mate, there’s no way you can complete this in that amount of time,” and “To do what you need done is gonna really cost you.”
At this point it was time to reach for the phone and call Blumer Schreinerei (see monocle 15) outside St Gallen to see if they were up for the task. Two days later a hearty mountain man from Appenzell raced up the stairs (there’s no lift in the four-storey building) and took all the necessary measurements. Three weeks later he returned with more Alpine folk of varying ages and heights and they set to work delivering a completely new flat ahead of time and under-budget – the latter was partly achieved by a favourable pound to Swiss franc exchange rate.
“It was quite amazing to watch this truck pull up from Switzerland with the pieces of furniture covered in heavy felt blankets and, all fit perfectly into the flat,” says the owner. “It was also entertaining to watch the local painters stand slack-jawed and remark that this level of quality simply doesn’t exist in the UK.”
With two bedrooms and bathrooms on the lower level, it was key to achieve an ambiance that would welcome guests but also help them navigate their way up the stairs to the open-plan living area. Here Blumer built a floor-to-ceiling storage unit for coats and bags that leads visitors around to the staircase on the opposite side. Upstairs a Vitsoe unit was used to create a wall for both print and digital media, while Trekanten’s JH Massiv storage system in oak was used for housing other books, magazines and CDs.
“It wasn’t easy finding two storage systems that complemented each other while also working with existing pieces from Gio Ponti, Hans Wegner, Ole Wanscher and others,” explains the owner. “But the mix of a solid Danish system with Dieter Rams’s system for Vitsoe offers plenty of room for growth and can even demount for the next move.”
A sheltered, south-facing terrace captures the sun when it puts in an appearance and is furnished with pieces from German brand Garpa. For entertaining, an Ikea kitchen was purchased and altered by the Swiss to make it feel a little more Bulthaup than budget.