A fascinating glimpse behind the closed doors of London homes

A Spitalfields bathroom reminiscent of Ancient Rome, a 'Georgian' four-poster made from a billiard table, and a mirrored grotto. Londoners never cease to surprise.
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View our gallery: take a look inside of some of London's quirkiest homes.

Tour some of the capital's quirkiest and most stylish homes, ranging from the Veneto Villa in Regent's Park to a globetrotter's houseboat on the Grand Union Canal, with roving photographer-and-writer team René and Barbara Stoeltie. In their new book, London Interiors, the couple celebrate the extraordinary diversity of the city's living spaces as created by artists, gallery owners, interior designers, architects - and in doing so, provide inspiration for our own homes.

Creative chaos 
"London is a fascinating battlefield between the conservative and creative spirits," says Vauxhall gallery owner David Gill, who lives above the shop - a series of galleries and storage rooms - in what was once a glove factory, and who decidedly falls into the "creative spirit" category.

Gill's spectacular collection of designer furniture and contemporary art sets the benchmark for eclectic style, so that a Thirties baroque chair covered in chartreuse silk looks perfectly at home beside a Pop Art Mattia Bonetti sofa, a modernist Marc Newson metal table and a Jeff Koons sculpture. How to make collectables of different styles and periods work? Barbara Stoeltie gives a clue when she describes Gill's look as "studied chaos".

Architect Seth Stein's motto is: "A house does not need clutter, just architecture," and his conversion of the Victorian coach house he bought for his practice and his family in west London proves the point. Glass walls, sliding doors, concrete floors and an elevator contained in a concrete cylinder create exciting new spaces, while the spiral staircase in the living room, set within a curving white wall, resembles a fabulous contemporary sculpture. Minimalist Stein has allowed only a painting, a pumpkin and a scale model of a vintage aeroplane as decorative objects. That's what you call discipline.

An Italian job
How do you turn a small basement courtyard into a grand Italianate garden? You paint a balustraded staircase on the back wall and add a plaster statue of a Greek goddess at its head, surrounding it with real ferns and vines to lend the lie. This is the work of the late Roy Alderson, trompe l'oeil artist extraordinaire, who captured the Tuscan countryside on the bathroom wall of his Victorian terrace house, painted palm trees and frangipani flowers in his bedroom and, best of all, gave his front door the finest neoclassical fakery, complete with Greek key friezes.

View our gallery: take a look inside of some of London's quirkiest homes.

Creating theatre is the speciality of Argentinian artist Ricardo Cinalli, who, at his house in Spitalfields, went a long way to restoring the 18th-century ambiance by painting the panelled walls of his bedroom Georgian yellow and turning a billiard table upside down to create a stunning four-poster bed, the canopied yellow and greystriped bedhead an artfully draped old bedsheet. Painting huge trompe l'oeil fragments on to pieces of board, and hanging them in the small bathroom to recreate the magnificence of the Ancient Roman baths, sensationally shows that audacious moves pay off.

Personal style statement 
Following your heart, with no compromise, can be a great way to make a strong style statement. Artist, designer and photographer Danielle Moudaber was raised in Lebanon, and says she has been influenced by a domestic life that revolved around an intensely blue swimming pool, which accounts for her love of the colour she calls "watery blue". Thus her two-storey Kensington apartment has panelling, paint, furniture and fabric all in the same cool blue that teams so beautifully with icing white. A bonus of using just one colour throughout is that when you use a contrast - such as the rust-red wall lights purloined from a Forties cinema, hanging above a chaise longue in ice-blue velvet - the colour really pops.

"Classical architecture is like good food or wine, because it has served the cause of civilised man across the ages," Quinlan Terry has said. Our country's foremost classical architect more than proved the point with the imposing Veneto Villa, designed in 1989 for the Outer Circle of Regent's Park, which was based on original plans by the great 16th-century Italian architect Palladio. The entrance hall lives up to the magnificent exterior. A marble bust of the Grecian god Paris stands guard and several medallions on the wall represent the profiles of Roman emperors, while neoclassical statues grace staircase niches.

View our gallery: take a look inside of some of London's quirkiest homes.

Tat's Original
Going for broke is what antiques dealer and inveterate collector Keith Skeel did, literally, in the basement of his Islington home. "I collect and store everything, so I had bits and bobs - handles, knobs, legs from old pieces of broken furniture, interesting old bottle stoppers - and I had a long basement tunnel that I didn't know what to do with." The solution? Stick everything on the walls, then slap several coats of white paint over the lot. The result? A fantastic underground grotto set with mirrors that reflect the tunnel infinitely and present the best argument ever for upcycling hoarded tat. Copy - but with the risk of going completely bonkers.

Reader Offer
London Interiors (Flammarion) costs £32.50, but Homes & Property readers can buy the book for £24.50 including p&p - call 01903 828 503 and quote ref HPL14. The offer lasts until 31 May 2014. 

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