Most designers start with the big picture and work down to the details, but Tim Gosling prefers to start with the details and work his way up.
The architectural designer’s now-palatial flat in Clapham’s Old Town started off in 1995 as a small, one-bedroom raised-ground-floor property, which he transformed with his meticulous attention to detail, adding the lustre of silk curtains and the shimmer of gold leaf. Since then, Gosling has bolted on two neighbouring flats, moved doors, changed layouts and raised ceilings — and the flat is still a work in progress.
Two decades ago, the flat Gosling viewed in an 18th-century house had just two whitewashed rooms with a tiny kitchen and bathroom, and no garden. But the high ceilings and original cornices caught his attention, and he decided he had to have it.
When he bought the property, he was in partnership with furniture designer David Linley — Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret. “At £110,000, it was all I could afford,” says Gosling, 49. It seemed an enormous amount of money.”
Born in Jamaica in 1966, the eldest of four boys, Gosling’s father was scientist Raymond Gosling, whose groundbreaking first image of DNA formed the basis for the play Photograph 51, which featured in the West End this year, starring Nicole Kidman.
The family moved back to England in 1970 and on leaving school, Gosling studied theatre design at Central St Martins. Linley suggested they join forces and the technically gifted Gosling became his senior design director in 1993.
Once Gosling had bought the Clapham flat, he moved the door connecting the two rooms and gave the hole a very theatrical surround. He built impressive bookcases with mahogany pillars, “but the rest is MDF”. A friend with a château gave him a wooden carving that is now over the principle door.
He didn’t want to put downlights in the corniced ceiling, so cut a channel around the floor and put in uplighters instead. “Lighting is important,” Gosling says. “Get it wrong and it will ruin the show.”
He has just painted the room flaming red, in preparation for Christmas. “I do a different colour every year,” he says. To either side of the fireplace are two mirrored doors that were a present from Lord Petersham, Linley’s father-in-law. “But I kept looking at them stuck on the wall and wished they led somewhere,” Gosling says.
In 2002 when the small flat on the other side of the wall came up for sale for £390,000 he pounced, and then knocked the wall through. He looked at the room’s proportions and brought the walls in to make a square. Not only does this make a perfect space for a circular ebony dining table — to his design, inlaid in bronze with Russian eagles — but the boxed-in walls made space for concealed cupboards, which hold glasses and china, as well as oculi — circular openings from which casts of Greek and Roman busts peer.
Off the dining room, through another pair of doors that fling dramatically wide, is a powder-blue bedroom, its mahogany four-poster going all the way to the ceiling.
“I had the posts elongated,” Gosling says. “Never be afraid of running your four-poster right up to the ceiling.”
Many people would stop there — but not Gosling. When a third flat came up in 2006, he bought that, too — gaining a library and a corridor that will, in time, become part of a much bigger kitchen, which will have a fabulous corkscrew staircase rising up to a roof garden.
Here and there in this magical flat are bits of plaster moulding waiting to find the right home, or gilded frames awaiting the right picture. It takes extraordinary vision to do something like this, but Gosling’s home is a real work of art.
|What it cost|
|Flat A in 1995||£110,000|
|Flat B in 2002||£390,000|
|Flat C in 2006||£600,000|
|Cost of work||£210,000|
|Value now||About £2.2 million|
Tim Gosling’s design tips
Never be afraid of using colour: I painted the drawing room myself in a day, you just have to use masking tape and take down paintings.
It is a myth that painting a room in a strong, dark colour it will make it look smaller. In fact it usually makes it look larger, because the eye is drawn to the colour and lingers. For a really forceful, singing colour, use modern synthetic paints such as Dulux. If you want a soft, evanescent colour — dove grey or silk-like teal, that changes with the light — use companies such as Edward Bulmer (www.edwardbulmer.co.uk) or Papers and Paints (www.papers-paints.co.uk), which mix colours using costly natural pigments.
If you are lighting a stage set, the wrong lighting will ruin the show. It’s always worth taking the time to get it right.
Don’t be afraid to have something custom made, particularly sofas. We are all so used to making do with something that will sort of work. But companies now offer services to tailor-make aspects of the design such as fabric, legs, wood, and so on…. So even if you can’t design from scratch, take advantage of this to get what you really want.
Pure wool carpets are incredibly hard-wearing and clean beautifully. Just use the best possible underlay and watch out for moths: move objects such as sofas often, and clean thoroughly beneath them.