Fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic, whose sexy, boldly coloured designs are a catwalk favourite with everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to Michelle Obama and actress Cate Blanchett, had Ali, 37, design her previous home. In 2011 he was shortlisted for architect of the year, and, having started out with “starchitect” David Adjaye, he was no stranger to bold colour and striking form.
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Pictures: Lyndon Douglas
A vivid blue staircase is the stunning focal point at the north London home of footwear entrepreneur Philip Bueno de Mesquita and his fashion designer wife Roksanda Ilincic. The power couple bought the new-build house at the fit-out stage and architect Rashid Ali created the staircase to give a fluid space with plentiful light.
The couple were after a modern gallery feel on the ground floor, which has been successfully achieved with poured resin floors in a gentle shade of grey, an all-white bespoke kitchen with extra-deep Corian worktops, architectural strip lighting and the dramatic staircase at its core.
The perfect blue
While discussing the house’s internal redesign, Ali and his clients toyed with lining some of the walls with intense blue fabric. Then he came up with the idea of making a visually permeable steel staircase, powder-coated in the same vivid blue. He did exhaustive tests to get the colour perfect - with a feature this dominant, "nearly right" doesn't cut it.
Strong 3D design
Made of narrow steel “fins”, the staircase is super-strong as well as see-through. Light moves around it as the sun moves, and also as different electric lights come on, creating constantly changing effects. The fins were made to Ali’s 3D designs in sections by a specialist fabricator, then fitted by the developer.
Ali replaced the “chunky” window frames and went for a narrower option. Rather like swapping heavy spectacles for frameless ones, the windows now melt into the background, while also letting in more light. Architectural stick lights accentuate the space, says Ali, who feels downlighters focus light too much in one spot.
Practical good looks
The stair has built-in shelves on the sides at ground-floor level, making it a practical as well as sculptural feature, on a floor which has been completely opened up by altering the original, boxed-in stairs that effectively sliced it in half. Now the room feels so much more spacious.
Timeless and so liveable
The kitchen of lacquered MDF is a perfect fit for the three-storey house, bought by the couple in 2013. Those Corian worktops give a soft gleam, and the strip lighting, with LED bulbs on dimmers, completes the clean-lined gallery look.
Get an expert in
Ali says architects create added value for clients - "not just aesthetically, where even small things can really improve your daily experience of life, but financially, too. Good design increases value. Even if a client only has a £50,000 budget, there is usually a huge amount that can be done."
The Japanese-style bath is understated and elegant - and don't use mean strips of mirror in a bathroom, Ali advises. "One huge piece of mirror will enlarge the sense of space, and if you get one cut by a glass merchant, it will only cost about £100."