“It’s a wonderful place to live, work and entertain in, a real source of joy,” she said. “And I love watching life on the canal below — who knew I would fall in love with wildfowl?”
© All pictures by Clive Nichols
California-born Von Strunckel predicted that King’s Cross would be a smart move, not because she saw it written in the stars, but because she’s a smart businesswoman. “King’s Cross was one of the most run-down areas in London but I was aware of Eurostar coming in, so I knew it would be fine,” she said. “And I knew that St Pancras Hotel was being renovated and then found out that this is the largest redevelopment area in Europe.
“When I moved in five years ago, my neighbours wouldn’t let me walk home on my own at night, but it has changed dramatically. There weren’t even any restaurants then.” Now, to make her joy complete, Von Strunckel’s food hall of choice, Waitrose, has just signed to open on her doorstep.
Previously, she lived with her husband in a large, chandelier-hung flat opposite Westminster Cathedral, then, after they separated, moved to a bijou residence in Marylebone — but only for two years, because, she said, “I couldn’t have 80 of my closest friends over for drinks.”
After the tight fit she craved space — and considered loft living, finding a property that looked promising online. When she walked in, the space was full of natural light — and Von Strunckel was hooked.
Not used to white, open spaces — and needing a complete reworking of the layout — she called in her friend, the designer David Bentheim, who gutted the place and started afresh, setting up a new configuration that gave her a central L-shaped living area and a wealth of storage space as well as three bedrooms and three bathrooms. One of the bedrooms is used as her consulting room which, with a sofabed, is easily converted to a guest room.
“David knows how I work, that I cook, that I entertain, that I have a lot of clothes. I gave him the footage of my books so he could work out how much space I needed for them,” she said. “And he did a brilliant job: the space flows wonderfully and takes tremendous advantage of the views and the light.”
He also understood that Von Strunckel found modern furniture scary — “I speak fluent Victorian Gothic” — and that her favourite haunts for furniture are country sales, auction houses and flea markets. She had to be led by the hand into B&B Italia and coaxed into buying a long, lean, mocha-coloured sofa and an outrageous, burgundy velvet, circular seat that fits the space perfectly, and which, with her fondness for rich jewel shades, she loves.
“David encouraged me to mix periods, so the circular table is Biedermeier and my chairs are Philippe Starck, yet they hang out happily together.”
She works, dines and entertains — she holds charity benefits here for her favourite causes, such as the English National Opera — all in the same large, long space, open kitchen at one end, glass table at the other, which is in fact two Habitat tables pushed together to make an almost-square.
This is where she dictates her phone predictions and writes 5,500 words every week for publications that range from the London Evening Standard and The Times of India to Good Housekeeping Philippines and Chinese Vogue. When dinner guests are expected, she simply sweeps her papers and charts on to a trolley and shunts it out of sight.
Her expansive larder, fitted with long shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling, includes a fridge she bought purely for holding champagne, because, she said, “I’m an adult. I don’t want to have to put champagne in the bath.” A tall glass vase filled with champagne corks stands symbolically by the kitchen, which is fitted with a professional Falcon cooker, but then she is a disciple of cook Julia Child.
Drinking glasses are upcycled from Diptyque candles — Von Strunckel’s idea of thrift — though she did bulk-buy 80 champagne flutes for £1 each from John Lewis.
No surprise that her soon-to-start blog is called the Champagne Mystic, a tag which neatly sums up her strong spiritual core and her effervescent love of the good life and glamour. “The whole mind, body, spirit thing tends to be a bit abstemious, but this will be about a celebration of the best of life. To me it’s natural to sit and look at a Buddha and drink champagne.”
The pieces she cherishes and has brought home from her travels personalise the space — Chinese wedding chests, Peruvian ecclesiastical candlesticks, exquisite Indian miniatures — while the white walls make the perfect backdrop for her contemporary paintings, one of which is hung over a wall of sliding panels that conceal yet more art.
“A collector who has his own museum came here and said, ‘Make storage space for your art,’ and it never crossed my mind that you could store your art, and rotate it.”
Many are painted by artist friends, and she displays them New York style, hanging from wires so they don’t mark the walls and can be easily moved around. One painting looks like Japanese calligraphy but is, said Von Strunckel, a channelled painting, which is the work of a higher being who sent it through the artist. Another, hanging over her main library of books, Italian style, looks like a mystical black-and-gold astrological chart that she might consult, but is in fact the iconic Hermès zodiac silk scarf.
Even more humorous is what appears to be a deeply spiritual Indian painting appropriately hanging above her bed, complete with token Krishna and Buddha, until the wicked Von Strunckel delightedly points out the artist’s signature, writ large in gold: Atelier Versace.
Pictures by Clive Nichols