A stroke of luck is how interior designer Jane Gowers describes her chance encounter with a beautiful but dilapidated house. She spotted it in a tiny picture in a magazine.
Luck again, the place was for sale and she and her husband were house-hunting. They viewed the house, in one of London’s loveliest terraces, just as a deal with a developer was falling through. “We were told that if we could complete in a week, the house would be ours,” says Gowers. “We didn’t bother with a survey. We could see it was a wreck.”
With her husband working abroad, homes in Dubai and Jerusalem to run, and three children at school and uni in the US, her life was more than busy but she decided to gut the place till only the roof and staircase remained. She needed builders she could rely on — so she sought out Broseley, of Kensington.
A basement was added and the lower-ground-floor ceiling height was increased by a metre. Building took two years. It had been Gowers’ original intention to decorate in a very modern way but once the shell was complete, she had a change of heart. “It’s about the place speaking to you,” she explains.
So, a subtle palette of olive green walls with woodwork in Farrow & Ball’s Off Black confronts you as you walk in the front door on the raised ground floor. To the left, the dining room, with a handsome walnut directoire table and Thirties French chairs, is painted in soft earthy tones, as is the adjoining kitchen with its La Cornue oven island. Double doors lead out from here to a small roof garden, with pots of herbs on rustic shelves.
As you walk upstairs, a pause on the half-landing reveals a previously asbestos-blighted space, now a light-filled study with its original windows remade, furnished with a mid-century desk overlooked by a Serge Mouille wall light. There is Indian art and more 20th-century furniture in the drawing room, where two Jacques Adnet glass and metal tables stand between elegant sofas that were found in New York.
A pair of Twenties circular tables by Raymond Subes, with onyx tops on a waterfall of curvy ironwork, flank one of the sofas. These are among the few exuberant touches in the room, along with a splendid Louis XV crystal and gilt bronze chandelier, the chimneypiece and the new leafy cornice, but the overall effect is calm and understated.
For the walls here, Gowers asked specialist painter Sean Oldham, who also painted the hall, to emulate the worn patina of an old Italian palazzo. The tranquil garden room opens to the garden on one side and the charming spare bedroom on the other. Bricks, tiles, and colours from the garden link all three spaces.
Luck played its part here, but so did good judgment. Gowers chose the right builders, mixed eras judiciously and created a great background for the couple’s art collection.
* The full version of this article appears in February's issue of House & Garden, out now