Lateral thinking can turn a flat into a perfect family home

Sometimes it takes an artist's eye to make the most of a cramped apartment's potential, discovers Nicole Swengley
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As a chic Frenchwoman who put down roots in London 13 years ago, Leonora Beaubois knows a thing or two about stylish living. And the cool, calm, contemporary interior of her home reflects her designs for L&B, the specialist luxury linens store she runs in Belgravia.

Leonora Beaubois with her children Chiara, five, and Luca, four
Chic: Leonora Beaubois with her children Chiara, five, and Luca, four

The light, bright apartment is tucked away on the fourth floor of a purpose-built Victorian mansion block in south-west London. And its lateral layout makes life with her French husband, Jean, and children, Chiara, five, and Luca, four, much simpler than in their previous home. "It was a tall, narrow townhouse spread over four floors and we were forever running up and down stairs," she says. "Living in a lateral flat makes it easier and we use all the rooms much more than before."

Leonora, 33, is a third-generation fine linen specialist. The family factory is in the Loire in the same valley as her Grenoble birthplace.

She originally came to London to study art history at Christie's where she worked before setting up L&B in 2005. As an expat, she was attracted to the block less for its claim to fame as Princess Diana's pre-marital home than for its international inhabitants and private garden. "There are Spanish, Italian and French families here," she says.

"Nothing had been done in the apartment for 25 years which offered the chance to modernise and alter the layout."

Since the block is a freehold property, it was necessary to seek permission for interior alterations from the management company.

The dining room
One of the four bedrooms was converted into the dining room

Converting one of four bedrooms into a dining room and creating a partial opening into the adjoining living room was allowed. Permission to extend the kitchen and replace the original sash windows was refused. Leonora was required to fit acoustic underlays below the new, limed oak floorboards and "tank" the bathroom and kitchen floors. Both bathrooms have been enlarged, however, by filleting a slice off the master and guest bedrooms.

Gaining permission for the alterations took three months and it was a further six months before the work was finished. Now she says: "We've made the most of the space, given the constraints."

And she feels the cost — 10 per cent of the property's purchase price — was money well spent.

Walking into the apartment's hallway you barely notice a guest bedroom, bathroom and separate cloakroom hidden behind floor-to-ceiling, veneered oak doors.

The kitchen
Small touches of colour enliven the cool grey and white kitchen

Turning left you reach a central area, off which lies the kitchen. A grey Corian breakfast bar and work surfaces, white walls and a grey tiled floor create a soothing ambience that's enlivened by funky bar stools from the Conran Shop and a pendant light by Moooi.

Opposite the kitchen is the dining room and adjoining living room. The master bedroom and marble-tiled bathroom are located at the far end of the corridor, while the children's bedroom is near a second bathroom.

All the joinery was carried out by XVL, a Belgian company. They installed the Belgium-sourced floorboards and made the dining room table and chairs.

They also fitted floor-to-ceiling, veneered oak doors in the living room to conceal a tiny home office and storage space, and created bedroom wardrobes with customised storage compartments. Now every inch of space is maximised to conceal the family's clutter.

The Yves Klein table in the living room
The Yves Klein table is like “an extra light” in the middle of the living room

With her art-history background, Leonora has an eye for interesting work, displayed on gallery-like white walls. In the living room these include a Peter Beard collage and a framed pair of antique Indian feather headdresses. Yves Klein's low table, with gold-leaf sheets glittering below a glass surface, "is so bright that it's like having an extra light in the evening," she says. The colourful artwork in the dining room is Joseph Klibansky's On the Move, while a circular, LED-studded lamp is by Le Deun.

Despite its central location, the apartment is quiet and Leonora increasingly designs her linens from home. Her inspiration comes from catwalk fashions but, she says, "I pick the colours that will be timeless and because I like the linens to look contemporary I use a lot of light, neutral colours or white."


Linen will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter as it regulates body temperature. Egyptian cotton is the finest, while Italy is still the best place for weaving and dyeing. But do ask how threads are counted — per square foot or square metre. If a double thread is used, this will greatly increase the thread count. Leonora Beaubois usually stocks thread counts of 350 to 400 a square metre and also produces bespoke linens.

* L&B, 6-7 Motcomb Street, SW1; 020 7838 9592;

Photographs: Simon Maxwell

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