Chelsea's modernist treasure trove:inside the jewel-box home of an opera designer and Vogue photographer filled with vintage gems from near and far

The London home of a celebrated opera designer and his Vogue photographer wife is a modernist gem.

Patrick Kinmonth and Tessa Traeger’s home is in a modernist block at the confluence of two west London streets.

Built in 1938, it was an exercise in corporate benevolence, providing affordable housing for workers at a nearby electricity substation, which the couple can see from their respective studios — hers photographic, his design — a 45-second commute from their flat.

Their block is set around a central courtyard, with four towers holding seven extra floors, each floor with two flats served by a narrow lift.

In its day, it was the height of modern living. Deliveries of food, from outside or prepared in the long-gone brasserie below, arrived via a network of service lifts to a hatch in a hot cupboard in the kitchen of the flat.

The courtyard: in the building’s central courtyard, protection from the elements is provided by glass canopies. Two of the four entrances are visible (The World of Interiors)

Interior designer Kinmonth says he must have a client in mind with any project; in this case it was his wife. As one of Britain’s most celebrated opera and ballet designers, he’s found fame in mainland Europe. In their sixth-floor flat in one of the towers, his bags are always packed, ready to fly to Dresden, where he’s designing Don Quixote, or Karlsruhe (La Clemenza di Tito) or Venice, where his La Traviata is a cornerstone of La Fenice’s repertoire.

A jewel box of a flat, it feels almost maritime. From the bedroom, you can see the river slipping past the trees beyond. Traeger says: “You feel you are on an ocean liner.” When they found the flat it had been converted from two bedrooms to one. “I built on their good decision,” says Kinmonth. “Essentially a horseshoe of four interconnecting spaces, the apartment lends itself to a circular journey.”

The hallway is hung with Traeger’s striking photographs. A fine artist who happens to work with a camera, she is one of the UK’s most admired still-life and garden photographers, a stalwart of Vogue.

The kitchen: cupboards, their rich red echoed by the toaster, stand in stark contrast to petrol-blue tiles from Fired Earth and the large white tea caddy — a ceramic model of Palladio’s Villa Rotonda (The World of Interiors)

To the right is the small galley kitchen, with cupboards in lacquer red. Two bookcases that Kinmonth joined to the ceiling fill one end of the living space, the gap between them leading into a small study. Connecting the living room to the bedroom and papered in an Edward Bawden-inspired design by Robert Kime, it holds a chinoiserie chest. The bedroom’s far wall is given over to a wardrobe designed by Kinmonth in dyed veneer satinwood with sliding doors and pull-out rails.

Above two painted Bhutanese cabinets in the bedroom are more Traeger artworks and above the bed, a photogram of frogspawn by Susan Derges. A second doorway leads back to the hall and through it, to the left, the bathroom has its original bath with marble surround. “This flat has been Patrick’s project,” says his wife, “and I’m thrilled with it.”

Read this feature in full in September’s issue of The World of Interiors, on sale now


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