The Virgin sister abroad
The Independent | 3 Oct 2005
Vanessa Branson is aiming to outshine her famous sibling by making a big noise in the art world. Caroline Phillips meets her.
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“Caroline Phillips is a tenacious and skilful writer with a flair for high quality interviewing and a knack for making things work.”
Vanessa Branson is aiming to outshine her famous sibling by making a big noise in the art world. Caroline Phillips meets her.
Online food delivery services are expanding into ‘gourmet’ ready-made meals, with mixed results, writes Caroline Phillips.
GERALDINE and Michael Leventis cannot resist holiday souvenirs.
First there was the old farmhouse in the Lot in France, which they saw when they were on holiday in 1989. Then they had a vacation on the Greek island of Kea in 1994 and fell in love with a derelict mansion. So, naturally, they bought it. Next they travelled to Cape Town three years ago… and, well, you know how these things happen.View transcript
GERALDINE and Michael Leventis cannot resists holiday souvenirs.
First there was the old farmhouse in the Lot in France, which they saw when they were on holiday in 1989. Then they had a vacation on the Greek island of Kea in 1994 and fell in love with a derelict mansion. So, naturally, they bought it. Next they travelled to Cape Town three years ago… and, well, you know how these things happen.
Geraldine is the owner of Raoul’s Cafe and Raoul’s Deli in Maida Vale and is opening another cafe in Notting Hill this month. (If you’re passionate about property, why not?) A former self-professed “bored housewife”, it was a former dinner guest, the late Francis Bacon, who pressed her to open her own restaurant in 1985. Now her shops have become legendary for their home-cooked Mediterranean cuisine consumed by visitors such as Kate Moss, Christian Slater, Russell Crowe and Björk.
Chasing a property deal is the ultimate adrenaline rush for Geraldine. All but the most hardened property addicts would have given up after the couple’s experience of buying a house in Greece. “We were on holiday and had no intention of buying,” confesses Geraldine. “But then we came across this wonderful derelict neoclassical house on top of the acropolis of Kea.” “Originally it was built for the first prime minister of Greece,” intercepts Michael, her husband and an artist. “The Temple of Apollo had stood there in 300BC. Our steps are made from its plinth.”
Geraldine takes up the story: “It took five years’ of red tape before we could get permission to restore the house to its original state. We almost gave up.”
Once they got the go-ahead, there was still an uphill struggle. “We had to transport everything using mules because there is no access to the hill,” explains Geraldine. “Cast iron-baths and suchlike all had to be carried up on their backs!”
Work on the three-bedroom house was finished in a year. The property cost them £100,000. And how much did they spend on it? Geraldine bursts out laughing. “More than £400,000,” she replies.
They decorated it in neoclassical style and filled it with French and English late 19th century furniture, which they shipped over.
Now they spend Greek Easter and two weeks in the summer holidays there.
Buying in Cape Town was simple by comparison. “It’s the least problematic place in which to buy,” reveals Michael. “Everything’s well organised and the builders stick to their schedule and budget.” Naturally, they hadn’t intended to buy a home there. “We were staying in a hotel in Constanzia,” explains Geraldine, “and every day these estate agents would appear after breakfast for appointments with the guests.
“Eventually we thought, ‘Well, what’s this about?’
Out of pure nosiness, we started looking at houses.” And 10 days later they had found one. “It was really good value,” she says cheerfully. “It only cost £150,000.”
The house wasn’t attractive – it is a twobedroom Sixties redbrick bungalow – but it had spectacular gardens, a view of Table Mountain and a swimming pool on the terrace. “We plastered over the red brick and the architects did an amazing job. It looks very Hollywood now.” They spent £200,000 on renovations. (“We’ve already been offered to sell it for double our outlay,” smiles Michael.) The main house has two bedrooms and there is a luxurious guest cottage with one big bedroom and a sitting room. It has a contemporary look, with eclectic furniture from London: from various Fornisetti pieces to a Salvador Dali lip sofa and zebra skins.
Do they know why they became addicted to property? “Michael loves projects,” Geraldine smiles. “I like interacting with architects, choosing materials and visualising the finished project,” adds Michael. “Once we have handed over the money, my role is simply to approve everything,” Geraldine laughs. “To sit there and say, ‘I love it!'”
SHE designed the oak and limestone dining table herself; and the Bulthaup kitchen units were fashioned to her specifications. The modern oak and steel staircase, which leads up from the basement and has lights embedded at foot level, well, that was constructed from her blueprint, too. And let’s not forget who sketched the ergonomic workstation with floating bookshelves and mobile storage – and the delicate, armless sofa in the window of the drawing room. Indeed there’s very little in her house that doesn’t bear testimony to the talented hand of Gail Taylor, the Taylor part of leading interior design duo Taylor Howes.View transcript
SHE designed the oak and limestone dining table herself; and the Bulthaup kitchen units were fashioned to her specifications. The modern oak and steel staircase, which leads up from the basement and has lights embedded at foot level, well, that was constructed from her blueprint, too. And let’s not forget who sketched the ergonomic workstation with floating bookshelves and mobile storage – and the delicate, armless sofa in the window of the drawing room. Indeed there’s very little in her house that doesn’t bear testimony to the talented hand of Gail Taylor, the Taylor part of leading interior design duo Taylor Howes.
Gail and her husband Simon, a finance director, moved into the 3,000sq ft early Victorian stucco home in west London eight years ago. “I was pregnant with my first daughter,” says Gail, who is petite and blonde and wears jeans. “We’d been living in Holland Park but needed more space.” She transformed the groundfloor dining room into a drawing room.
The first-floor drawing room was altered structurally to become a master bedroom, walkthrough dressing room and bathroom. And the master suite was turned into a children’s room.
As the family has grown – the couple now have three children under the age of 10 – Gail has altered the Grade II listed house to adapt to their changing needs.
“When you have three kids you no longer have smart dinner parties,” she laughs. So two years ago she knocked down the walls of the basement, making it an open plan family room and extending it with a glass front. “It was a massive structural job. We had to move out,” she groans. “There are no foundations and our home was practically held up by the houses on either side.” She pauses. “Although the alterations were expensive they’ve proved a good investment.”
Gail has created an overall look that is peaceful, clean and modern. “The basement is contemporary and from the ground floor up the style is classic contemporary,” she explains, sipping tea. “You can do that with a tall house.”
The family room boasts an island with a chunky white top and stainless-steel worksurface surrounded by bar stools with chrome stalks, cupboards with sandblasted glass doors, glass shelves, Gaggenau appliances and wide, washed oak floorboards that extend into the garden.
On one side of the room is the dining area with woven chairs from Interdesign and oak and limestone table; on the other, an L-shaped sofa in “childproof ” oatmeal rib chenille, Buddha picture, bespoke gas fireplace and Loewe flat screen television. “The kitchen’s designed for cooking performances!” reveals Gail, who started her career as a kitchen designer in the Eighties.
“Simon’s a great cook. We love entertaining casually. And it’s so nice if guests can sit on a sofa and chat to him while he’s creating.”
Additionally, everything is stored – even the utility area is hidden behind sliding cupboard doors. “I’m the queen of storage,” admits Gail. “I always tell people to lose the clutter. It makes life more relaxed.”
Family and elegance may be an oxymoron. But not in this house. “We use our home for everyday, busy family life,” reveals Gail. Does she really have children? Well, sneak upstairs and you find her son’s bedroom – with his name painted in big letters around the room and a denim blind with denim pockets in which to put his toys. And her daughters’ room has fuchsia felt upholstered headboards, white walls (“they’re always asking when I’m going to paint the walls”) and a colourful playhouse that cleverly doubles as a wardrobe and toy cupboard.
But somehow the chaos of family life hasn’t impacted on Gail’s home, which is filled with flowers and Buddhas. Just take a look at her staircase with its taupe runner with suede border. Or her hallway with its polished plaster walls and cream saturna floor. And as for the glamorous drawing room, well, it’s cream and ivory (I ask you!) with soft taupe sea grass on the walls, a William Yeoward cream sofa covered with exotic cushions, Fox Linton’s John Hutton club chairs upholstered decadently in cream kids’ skin and cream silk Abbot and Boyd curtains, which hang delicately off glass McKinney Kidston curtain poles. A simple contemporary walnut cupboard hides the television. “The children aren’t banned from here,” protests Gail, laughing. “It’s their favourite spot for watching DVDs!”
The couple’s own room is a luxurious sanctuary with an eclectic mix of modern design and treasured items collected on their travels. It has a lacquered Japanese triptych above the contemporary four-poster bed, antique Chinese bedside tables and curtains of soft camel Jim Thompson oriental silk, which hang prettily from dark ebony arrowhead poles. There are bespoke stained-oak wardrobes with sandblasted doors, a bed throw made of woven leather lined with suede, an Interior Bis chaise longue upholstered in Bruno Triplet mohair in front of the fire … oh, and a clean, child-friendly cream carpet, of course.
Now what’s that they say about the patter of tiny feet?
Picture captions Left: the mark of Gail Taylor, the Taylor part of leading interior design duo Taylor Howes, is seen everywhere in her early Victorian stucco home, which is decorated along peaceful, clean and modern lines. Right: at home with the family
Dream cuisine: the family room boasts an island with a chunky white top and stainless-steel worksurface surrounded by bar stools with chrome stalks, cupboards with sandblasted glass doors, glass shelves, Gaggenau appliances and wide, washed oak floorboards that extend into the garden
Below: the chaos of family life hasn’t impacted on Gail’s home, which is filled with flowers and Buddhas and even dares to have a cream-and-ivory drawing room with soft taupe sea grass on the walls
Ancient and modern: a lacquered Japanese triptych sits above the dark ebony four-poster bed, with its curtains of soft camel Jim Thompson oriental silk
High maintenance: in the drawing room, chairs are upholstered decadently in cream goatskin
Made to pleasure: the bedroom’s bespoke stained-oak wardrobe has sandblasted doors. Top: African art collected on Gail’s travels adds the finishing touch
INSIDER KNOWLEDGE SHOPPING
Design: Taylor Howes Designs, 29 Fernshaw Road, SW10 (020 7349 9017).
Kitchen: design by Rob Gelling at Bulthaup (01865 426990). Appliances: Gaggenau (0870 840 2003; www.gaggenau.com).
Fireplace: Platonic fireplaces,Phoenix Wharf, Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, Middlesex (020 8891 5904).
Fabrics: silk by Jim Thompson at Fox Linton, Unit 2/19, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, SW10 (020 7368 7700).
Chairs: John Hutton’s Ensemble range at Fox Linton (as before).
Lighting: Sally Storey at John Cullen Lighting, 585 King’s Road, SW6 (020 7371 5400).
Furniture: L-shaped family room sofa, Interdesign, G30, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, SW10 (020 7376 5272), other sofa, William Yeoward, 270 King’s Road, SW3 (020 7349 7828), chaise longue, Interior Bis, 76 Chelsea Manor Street, SW3 (020 7351 1571), curtain poles, McKinney Kidston, Studio P, The Old Imperial Laundry, 71 Warriner Gardens, SW11 (020 7627 5077).
Wallpaper: “Schumacher” by Turnell & Gigon, ground floor, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, SW10 (020 8971 1711).
Pots: Casalla Design, 2 Caranday Villas, Norland Road, W11 (020 7603 9802).
WHEN Edith Ettedgui and her husband, Franklin, wanted to buy an apartment in which to live while their Belgravia home was being gutted, they were not interested in dealing with more builders. Which is why they chose a split-level flat in west London that had just been renovated to the highest standard. “It was perfect, exactly what we wanted,” explains Ettedgui, who comes from Tours.View transcript
WHEN Edith Ettedgui and her husband, Franklin, wanted to buy an apartment in which to live while their Belgravia home was being gutted, they were not interested in dealing with more builders. Which is why they chose a split-level flat in west London that had just been renovated to the highest standard. “It was perfect, exactly what we wanted,” explains Ettedgui, who comes from Tours.
And then a strange thing happened … the couple fell in love with the property and decided to live there permanently.
The Ettedguis bought the 3,230sq ft apartment two years ago and moved in two weeks after the purchase – having bought the furniture for it within that time.
“My husband went shopping with his brother, Joseph [the clothes designer],” explains Ettedgui. “They certainly knew what they liked.”
They even purchased pieces that were in the show flat, brought in by interior designer Concetto Marletta of Centimetro Interiors. “I loved his choice of B&B sofa,” laughs Ettedgui. “So we bought it.”
The ground- and lower-ground-floor flat is in a grand 1850s building, which was converted into flats in the 1930s. It has high ceilings, huge rooms and many original features – from cornices to “characterful” Thirties brass-andiron banisters.
The flat had been transformed by Marletta and the developers from a fivebedroom flat, which had not been touched since the Sixties and had had a grotty plunge pool and dark rooms featuring clashing flowery wallpapers, into a luxurious three-bedroom apartment with lots of Zen-like space. “It has amazing fivemetre-high ceilings with space and light,” says Ettedgui, in her French accent.
The developers and Marletta had not skimped: they had incorporated one “very functional” stainless-steel Arclinea kitchen with Sub Zero fridge freezer and wine cellar – “a real luxury; you can control the temperatures of the different areas” – and Miele appliances; another kitchen (“for entertaining”) with white Carrara marble surfaces; B&B Italia wenge bedroom wardrobes; and a snazzy Lutron Homeworks system controlling everything from lighting to televisions, security and Bose sound system that serves every room.
“Look at this,” beckons Ettedgui, bending inside a cupboard with a pilots’ cockpit of electrical switches.
The lighting – from recessed floor-level ones to Thirties-style wall lights, chandeliers and twinkling “stars” embedded in a wall – is clever. “I adore this chandelier,” she reveals, standing beside a Tom Kirk hall-light fitting, which required five men to hang it and is made from test tubes and bronze. “We wanted something modern that still keeps the flat’s Thirties feel,” says Marletta. (The Ettedguis liked his work so much they retained him to add the final touches to the flat after they moved in.) The look is luxurious minimalist with a classic twist. Where once there was a swimming pool, for instance, there is now a television room with Le Corbusier armchairs and chrome angle-poise lamps.
There are acres of neutral colours (shaded white walls, fawn carpets, walnut f loorboards, Fox Linton taupe linen curtains plus wenge, ebony and Chinese black lacquer throughout); furniture in le style Frank, inspired by French 1930s decorator genius Jean-Michel Frank; and an exotic blend of ancient Asian and Western contemporary art. “The colours are in the art,” explains Ettedgui.
The drawing room displays Thirties chairs, black-leather Ciancimino console tables and a beautiful contemporary mushroom silk-velvet sofa by Grillo Demo for David Gill. “It takes six people comfortably,” laughs Ettedgui. “Joseph gave it to us. He gets all his furniture from David Gill.” She uses the room for pre-dinner drinks and Sunday afternoon tea “with my friends, two grownup daughters and a nine-month-old granddaughter”, explains Ettedgui, who also has two dogs.
The master bedroom (“like an apartment within an apartment”) is on the same floor.
A dressing room is hidden behind a sliding glass door. “Sorry, it’s very messy,” says Ettedgui. The bathroom is behind another door. It has limestone and walnut fittings and a television set into the wall. “I watch TV in the bath. It’s fantastic.”
The bedroom has an oriental-style wooden bedhead and a satin upholstered sofa (designed by India Mahdavi, former assistant to Christian Liagre), and there are unusual lamps (including a budding flower one designed by Ayala Serfaty and made of plastified fabric), sharks’ skin console tables, Picasso drawings and a dressing area behind a stud wall, which divides the room and also contains a recessed television. “It’s the only bedroom I’ve ever enjoyed when I’ve been unwell and had to stay in bed,” Ettedgui smiles.
Upstairs is a capacious hallway with vanilla satin Art Deco chairs, Chinese Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) pottery figures and a fireplace with limestone surround designed by Marletta. “It’s when I saw this,” Ettedgui motions with her hand, “that I knew I had to have the flat.” It’s easy to see why.
Picture captions Liner style: Thirties attention to detail is important in halls as well as rooms, and in the bedroom beyond, oriental touches add a flavour of worldly elegance. In the hall, uplighters and neat Roman blinds work well
Touch of luxury: the main kitchen, used for entertaining, includes white Carrara marble surfaces
Chic: French-born Edith Ettedgui has plenty of space in her drawing room for friends, family and her dogs
Simple and functional: an Arclinea kitchen with Miele appliances is for everyday use
Comfortable: a mushroom silk-velvet sofa by Grillo Demo for David Gill in the drawing room
Warm look: Edith Ettedgui fell in love with the limestone surround fireplace that was designed by Concetto Marletta
Red letter: signature notes of colour are used carefully to accent the whole room. Flowers were supplied by Carter Cherrill Master Florist (020 7225 3725; www.cartercherrill.co.uk)
Switched on: many lamps in the house are designed by Ayala Serfaty and Tom Kirk
HOW TO GET THE LOOK
Interior design CentiMetro Interiors: 9 The Enclave, 2 Dallington Street, EC1 (020 7251 2010).
Furniture David Gill Gallery: 60 Fulham Road, SW3 (020 7589 5946) and by appointment at 3 Loughborough Street, SE11 (020 7793 1100).
Ciancimino: 99 Pimlico Road, SW1 (020 7730 9950).
India Mahdavi: 3 rue Las Cases, 75007 Paris (00 33 1 45 55 67 67).
Lighting Ayala Serfaty: Budding Flower lamp in the bedroom is designed by Ayala Serfaty from David Gill Gallery (as before).
Tom Kirk: lighting designer. Call 020 8766 6715.
Antiques Guinevere: 574-580 King’s Road, SW6 (020 7736 2917; www.guinevere.co.uk).
Kitchen units B&B Italia: 250 Brompton Road, SW3 (020 591 8111; www.bebitalia.it).
Kitchen appliances Sub Zero: Call 020 8418 3800, or visit www.subzero.eu.com.
Miele: Call 01235 554455, or visit www.miele.co.uk.
Marble and stone Stone Age: Unit 3, Parsons Green Depot, Parsons Green Lane, SW6 (020 7384 9090; www.estone.co.uk).
Hi-fi Bose: Call 0800 107 4999, or visit www.bose.co.uk.
Electrical and security controls Lutron Homeworks: Call 020 7702 0657, or visit www.lutron.com.
SHE will fire your cook in Portuguese and arrange for your shoes to be put into boxes with Polaroid shots of them on the outside; help you buy, decorate and let your houses; try to get your daughter into Francis Holland, organise dinner for three or 300, personally scrutinise your Bahamas holiday home or fly masseurs to meet you in Cannes and return in your private jet.View transcript
SHE will fire your cook in Portuguese and arrange for your shoes to be put into boxes with Polaroid shots of them on the outside; help you buy, decorate and let your houses; try to get your daughter into Francis Holland, organise dinner for three or 300, personally scrutinise your Bahamas holiday home or fly masseurs to meet you in Cannes and return in your private jet.
Meet Lady Cosima Somerset – Cozzy to her buddies and clients – director of Concierge London. She has blonde hair (colour by Sejours, cut by Robert Casson) and is wearing natural makeup (“Trish McEvoy, at Harvey Nichols, is the best – I always go there before a party,” says Cosima) and sexy Jimmy Choo boots with Agnes B clothes.
Aged 43, she has a great body, (“Tim Bean, who charges £5,000 for a 12-week programme, changes your shape,”) and may have sought the services of Dr Elizabeth Dancey (“Britain’s leading dermatologist – amazing skin prick nutrition treatments”) and Yannis Alexandrides (“tops for laser treatments for the skin and botox”). She is also sweet, professional and funny.
Her clients range from her aunt, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, to Jemima Khan, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Mark Birley and Tamara Mellon. Let’s have some gossip, then. “No way!” But she knows everybody, doesn’t she? “No,” laughs Cosima, daughter of the Marquess of Londonderry and former wife of Cosmo Fry and Lord John Somerset. “But I certainly intend to.”
Concierge London membership costs £4,000 plus VAT a year. For this, clients get two free requests (up to an hour’s work) a month. “We’ll research a hotel in Barbados or buy something for you.”
Services thereafter cost £30 an hour, charged in quarter-hour slots – so, booking a restaurant costs £7.50.
Relocating people and organising parties is their forte; the most frequent request is for hiring and firing, though catering is high on the list – “We use Organic Express. The food is superb.”
Concierge London was started in 1999.
Clients live mostly in Belgravia, Hampstead, Chelsea and Kensington. “They want help managing their houses,” says Cosima, a former television researcher and mother of two. She likes long-term relationships. “The more we know clients, the better the service works.”
She says the secret of her success is simple. “It’s the scope and quality of our service, attention to detail and absolute discretion. And understanding our discerning members’ needs.” Add to that the ability to deal with bizarre requests.
“I’m always flying facialists to Paris and jetting off across the world to view houses. It no longer seems unusual.” She claims to always succeed. “Even if things sometimes take a while.” She pauses.
“But rich people always want everything done by tomorrow, at the latest.”
Concierge London, Studio D3, The Depot, 2 Michael Road, SW6 (020 7736 2244; www.conciergelondon.co.uk).
INSIDER KNOWLEDGE: COZZY’S CONTACTS
Maria Clancy: Organic Express – Caterers Who Care (020 7277 6147; email maria organic-express.com).
Tim Bean: personal trainer at the Insitute of Physique Management (07947 329696).
Dr Elizabeth Dancey: dermatological treatments (020 7821 8257).
Yannis Alexandrides: for skin treatments (020 7486 8055).
Hairdressers Karl and Luke: the former for colour and the latter for styling, at Sejours, 3 Bray Place, SW3 (020 7589 1100).
Robert Casson: hairdresser who makes house calls (07956 810265).
WHEN Vanessa Higgins first saw the mill house from a nearby public path, she ran back to her waiting husband, David, excitedly proclaiming: “Wow.”
The mill, in a tiny Wiltshire hamlet, is an 18th century building with waterside gardens and paddocks, but a mill was recorded on the site in the Doomsday Book.View transcript
WHEN Vanessa Higgins first saw the mill house from a nearby public path, she ran back to her waiting husband, David, excitedly proclaiming: “Wow.”
The mill, in a tiny Wiltshire hamlet, is an 18th century building with waterside gardens and paddocks, but a mill was recorded on the site in the Doomsday Book.
“It took months to purchase,” recalls Vanessa, 39.
“We had pulled out of buying a property in Devon at the last minute, then found the mill. It was just so pretty – the perfect family home.” But it wasn’t cheap. It was on the market for £1.3 million, but the drawn-out negotiations – which took not much short of a year – worked in the couple’s favour. By the time it came to agree money, the market had dropped.
“We paid a little over £900,000,” says Vanessa.
“Which was considerably less than we had offered initially.”
So, how many bedrooms does it have? Vanessa is not so sure with these numbers: “I don’t know … one, two, three … six – no, seven.” But the layout is, admittedly, rather complicated; the living areas are in the old mill and the bedrooms are spread among two attached cottages. But, all in all, there is ample space for David and Vanessa, David’s three children from his first marriage, two children with Vanessa, their dalmatian and highland terrier – and the energy consultancy business the couple run from home.
The family moved into the mill in 2001; the previous owners had been there for 20 years but their children were now grownup. “It was quite dilapidated,” says Vanessa. “Water was running down the walls and it was a bit smelly and damp, having been left empty for a while. It also needed major plumbing work.” Other problems were more instantly obvious: “It hadn’t been touched for years. The walls were covered in buttoned green fabric and psychedelic herringbone wallpapers.”
It was stripping these off the walls that revealed the “cracks, bits falling off and treacherous wiring”. Vanessa laughs: “We felt glad we had survived.”
The house is listed, of course, so there were constraints on the refurbishment.
“We weren’t allowed to alter anything at all on the outside, but we won approval to make changes on the inside, mainly because these preserved and improved the house,” says Vanessa, who is particularly taken with the approved dampproofing material – “like mega-giant bubble wrap”.
Some walls were removed to open up internal spaces, and a conservatory was built to provide a dining area. The kitchen windows were enlarged (“it was so closed up and dark”). Finally, another conservatory was built to provide a link to a barn, which is now a double garage and an office.
A local joiner built the home’s three new staircases, but a crew of builders had to travel down every day from Birmingham to turn the Seventies kidney-shaped swimming pool into a state-of-the-art 12-metre model.
“We lived in a building site for a year. We thought it would all take six months, but after two years we are only just finishing.” And then there was the bill.
“We spent about £500,000,” she says.
The results are an interesting fusion of traditional and modern: a large and original buttress in the new open-plan kitchen area has a bespoke modern cabinet hanging from it, for example. A glass panel in the kitchen floor looks onto the mill stream, while a cool, flat TV is suspended from an antique timber eave in the couple’s bedroom.
In the bathroom, a freestanding roll-top bath, Thirties-style polished chrome fittings and Art Deco-style walnut and bird’s-eye maple furniture are juxtaposed with contemporary sandblasted doors and panels for the walk-in shower.
There are cream carpets, Travertine and oak floors and white walls. (“I might introduce colour later. But I wanted to make it light.” ) Authentic Art Deco furniture sits alongside Simon Bray’s modern bespoke GK Design furniture and contemporary John Lewis pieces. Boys toys include a fancy Bang & Olufsen sound system that can be turned on by remote control anywhere in the house.
“We spent more than £30,000 on B&O; one of the TVs was £11,000 alone,” says Vanessa. She is looking at the specially built and studded sitting room wall that was recessed to take the Odeon-sized beast.
“You can even turn the telephones down by remote control,” she chirrups.
The kitchen is by Bray, too, and is something of a focal point, with black granite surfaces, lacquered cupboards, glass-fronted cabinets and Miele appliances. A large and bright open space has been divided with furniture by Bray. A glass-topped curved oak bar with chrome and leather stools connects the cooking area to the conservatory and the family room. “Even when I’m cooking, I’m still in touch with everyone,” she says.
NICHOLAS Logsdail, owner of the Lisson Gallery, is one of the art world’s most powerful figures. So it’s strange to discover that his first home was up a tree. “My parents had a big Arts & Crafts house in Buckinghamshire,” says Logsdail. When he was 14, he moved to the bottom of the garden.View transcript
NICHOLAS Logsdail, owner of the Lisson Gallery, is one of the art world’s most powerful figures. So it’s strange to discover that his first home was up a tree. “My parents had a big Arts & Crafts house in Buckinghamshire,” says Logsdail. When he was 14, he moved to the bottom of the garden.
“I’d built a treehouse. It had a first-floor bedroom, a room below, another bedroom and a balcony.” It was more like an apartment, really. “I lived there during the school holidays,” he smiles. “It had a paraffin stove, electricity and I hotwired it to install a telephone.”
Logsdail’s first home purchase was in 1967 in Bell Street, Marylebone. “I was a country boy. I came out of Marylebone Station, didn’t know London, turned into Bell Street….” Since then Logsdail, 59, has owned endless buildings in the street. He bought number 68 when he first married, number 54 in 1991, which he turned into his gallery, the Lisson, and 27, where he lives. Oh, and 31-37 where he lived with his second wife. “I don’t have a passion for property,” he claims. “I just love interesting buildings.”
He designed the first gallery, working with the builders. “I’m an amateur architect,” explains Logsdail, who represents artists Julian Opie, Douglas Gordon and Anish Kapoor. “We made it from two early-19th century tumbledown buildings I bought in 1966 and 1972.” The current Bell Street premises were a collaboration with Modernist architect Tony Fretton.
“We worked together on the design for two years.” The exterior of the new build has metal-clad panels and large glazed picture windows, while the interior gallery space was originally three back yards. “It has a feelgood factor, doesn’t it?”
In 1981, Logsdail found another derelict property – a 40,000sq ft brownstone block of 22 flats on New York’s Lower East Side.
Now the Notting Hill of New York, at the time the area was rough. “It had been a drug dealers’ squat and was boarded up.
The price was $1,000 an apartment – $22,000 in total. Lots of people were after it. I had to find the 10 per cent deposit within two hours.”
Logsdail acted instantly and acquired the building. Then the problems started.
“There was a $45,000 bill to pay, because the city taxes hadn’t been paid for 15 years. Things had to be done urgently to stop squatters moving in,” he says.
“Suddenly I owed $150,000 for upkeep plus $150,000 legal costs. I’d bitten off more than I could chew.” A year later he sold the building. “I recouped my costs and kept three large apartments.” Now he owns only one flat.
The experience did not discourage him from tackling another derelict building that needed his artistic touch – a 14th century farmhouse in a charming village in the Maltese island of Gozo. He bought it in 1984 for £8,000 and took 18 years to restore it. “I spent nearly two decades mixing cement and carrying around building blocks.” It now has a private courtyard, large mill room, kitchen, five double bedrooms and a tower with bedrooms offering island views. “It’s beautiful. I was sad to give it away when I divorced.”
In 2003, Logsdail visited friends in Kenya. “I thought I’d get some dreaded disease, be robbed and murdered.”
Instead he discovered Lamu – “an idyllic, safe island on the Indian Ocean” – and an 18th century, 6,000sq ft Swahili house with exquisite carvings and stacks of antique furniture. An elderly English couple were selling the house and contents.
“It has an exotic Arabian Nights feel and the original harem quarters,” he divulges.
“I took a no-money down lease for five years with an option to buy at a fixed price – on the condition that I restored the building. It wasn’t difficult to organise, just slow.”
To rent the Lamu house for £1,000 to £2,000 a week, email Nicholas@lisson.
co.uk. To rent the Gozo house, email Caroline Logsdail at stellamaris safeserve.com.
Artistic touches: Nicholas Logsdail (above) restored this 14th century farmhouse in Gozo, with its spacious mill room (below) and (above, right) terrace for entertaining, and hammock for relaxing (above, far left).
THERE’S a doggie spa and a pooch bakery in Telluride, Colorado. The former offers custom-made towelling robes and a grooming package (from $210, or £157) for four-legged guests; while the latter sells icing-topped cookies baked specially for the canine market. Visitors can also savour another unusual experience in Telluride: iceskating with Zimmer frames – a unique approach that is perfect for the elderly and skating virgins.View transcript
THERE’S a doggie spa and a pooch bakery in Telluride, Colorado. The former offers custom-made towelling robes and a grooming package (from $210, or £157) for four-legged guests; while the latter sells icing-topped cookies baked specially for the canine market. Visitors can also savour another unusual experience in Telluride: iceskating with Zimmer frames – a unique approach that is perfect for the elderly and skating virgins.
It doesn’t stop there. How about dining in the village on elk, venison, bison or buffalo?
Drinking in a Victorian pub that comes straight out of a cowboy movie? Shopping for antiques, cashmere throws and snowboards?
Or attending a jazz festival where every dog wears a bandanna?
It’s all possible in Telluride, in the middle of the majestic 14,000ft peaks of the San Juan Mountains. Located on the far western slopes of the Colorado Rockies, it can be difficult to get there – my banker husband, Robert Stein, and I fly from London to Denver first – because Telluride is the highest and most dangerous airport in America. This is fantastic, because it keeps the riffraff away. But in winter, we don’t risk the hazardous conditions and fly to Montrose instead.
Yes, Telluride is exclusive. Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and Sylvester Stallone have homes here. They are drawn to Telluride Mountain Village, where the big wealth and our property, Bobcat Lodge, is. Houses on sale there range from $8.95 million (£6.4 million) to $14.5 million (£10.35 million). It’s just a scenic gondola ride from the historic town of Telluride, with its charming Victorian cottages and Old West atmosphere.
Our property is a traditional log cabin – 7,000sq ft and five bedrooms – with Ralph Lauren furnishings and antiques. Think rich chocolate Chesterfield sofas, paisley cushions and log fires. The bedrooms boast king-size beds – from a leather one to a four-poster – and the bathrooms have sunken baths. It also has a media room with a 16sq ft plasma screen, underfloor heating and broadband connections. We let it for $2,000 (about £1,430) a night.
One night I took eight friends on skidoos (ski motorbikes) to dine at 11,300ft at Alta Lakes Observatory. It’s a beautiful mountain lodge 13 miles from Telluride that, in winter, can only be accessed on cross-country skis, snow shoes or a snowmobile. Wearing headlamps, we spent a fun hour getting there through the forest and were rewarded with a delicious dinner, charades and a return trip on a Snowcat.
I love skiing and luckily the lodge is right on the slopes. Telluride has some of the most difficult skiing in America – it’s where the US team do their training – and the United States’ best iceclimbing park, in Ouray.
In the summer we ride, fish, river raft, go rock climbing, mountain biking, running, play golf and climb mountains. One week we did four 14,000ft climbs – leaving at 2am and climbing for 12 hours. You can’t beat sitting under the stars afterwards, roasting marshmallows, putting them in a cracker and dipping it in chocolate. Just grab a tent, rucksack, sleeping bag, sandwiches and crampons and go.
If the exertions get too much, you can always relax alongside the rich and famous in one of the world’s best spas: Wyndham Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa in Telluride. Once I saw Jerry Seinfeld there – he kept winking at me!
It’s very upmarket and serene, with huge towels and everyone whispering. Its treatments use fresh natural ingredients found only in Rocky Mountain country.
Is there anything wrong with Telluride? Yes, people who aren’t used to high altitudes will initially get headaches and experience breathlessness. Just drink lots of water and stay still – but not for too long as there are 355 days of sunshine a year to enjoy. We have a house in Belgravia, a castle in Scotland and a villa in Phuket, but if I could change the world to be like Telluride, I would.
To rent Bobcat Lodge, contact Katharine Pooley at 19 Wilton Row, London, SW1X 7NS (852 9430 2000; email: email@example.com).
Katharine Pooley was talking to Caroline Phillips
BUYING Get comfortable: the following properties in Telluride Mountain Village are similar to Bobcat Lodge: the ski-in, ski-out Sundance Lookout has seven bedrooms, a lift, and even its own bowling alley for $14,499,000 (£10.35 million). Aspene Pointe has five bedrooms and direct ski access for $8.95 million (£6.4 million). Both through Telluride Real Estate (001 970 728 1611).
Canine comforts: pamper your pooch at the doggie spa at Wyndham Peaks with a doggie massage for $60 (£43). Room rates start at $165 (£118) a night and vary by season. Wyndham Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa, 136 Country Club Drive, Telluride, Colorado (001 970 728 6800; www.wyndham.com).
For gourmet pet food and fab accessories, visit Mountain Tails, 224 East Colorado Avenue, Telluride (001 970 369 4240).
Posh nosh: for bison and other exotic meat dishes, dine at Harmons, 300 South Townsend, Telluride (001 970 728 3773).
LUCY Judd appeared to have it all – a great husband, Dominic, a wonderful baby and an 18th century cottage home with roses round the door and sheep in the neighbouring field in exquisite Bodiam in East Sussex.View transcript
LUCY Judd appeared to have it all – a great husband, Dominic, a wonderful baby and an 18th century cottage home with roses round the door and sheep in the neighbouring field in exquisite Bodiam in East Sussex.
But Lucy, 31, was itching for something more. Most days she would jump in the car and drive 90 minutes just to be with friends. “There was no one likeminded nearby,” she recalls. “Most of them had never even been out of the area.”
There were no decent shops close by, either, and certainly no health club or amenities for mothers with young babies.
Lucy missed her past life as a property consultant for Ernst & Young, when she and Dominic had been one of Clapham’s Dinky couples – duel income, no kids yet.
All that changed overnight when their baby, Henrietta, came along in 2001.
They decided to move to the country, not realising it would mean a three-hour commute for Dominic, who recruits surveyors, nor how much their lifestyle would change. Says Lucy: “I morphed out of all recognition; I was miserable.”
A year ago, they moved again, but not back to London. They now live in another 18th century house – complete with Aga, beams and rambling outbuildings – also in East Sussex. But this time they chose a location near Fletching, close to busy Uckfield and easy for trains at Haywards Heath. Everything they need is now on their doorstep.
The move has prompted Lucy to turn her unhappy experience to good use. She has started a home-search company, Simply Sussex, which shows people how to avoid emotional and expensive mistakes when they move house – and to get it right first time. She charges a registration fee of £600 for a 26-week period, plus 1 per cent of the purchase price.
People’s first problem, she says, is a lack of time: “What should you do when you don’t have enough time to look, or when you are fed up with wasted journeys to see unsuitable properties, or when you don’t know the area terribly well and are frustrated by continually chasing agents?
Obviously, you should use a search company.” She is bouncing another new arrival, baby Freddie, on her knee.
Her questioning of clients goes beyond what type of house they want, to cover their transport, amenity, leisure, school and childcare needs.
“This is the crux,” says Lucy, who runs her company in between looking after the two children. “People make the mistake of concentrating on the ideal property – that chocolate-box cottage, say – instead of things like the commute, schooling and their children’s future needs.”
Some clients recently came to her with a specific property in mind.
“What they didn’t know was it had been on the market for a year and the price had been cut dramatically. They just thought it was great. It is only later that they discovered the plans for new houses opposite. But I already knew about them and could have saved them loads of time.
“In one case, I also knew about a busy road junction nearby that gets really noisy at rush hour. But whenever the clients came down it was evening and quiet. All they saw was a peaceful place.
“Also, in London, people often live in Victorian houses with big windows. In a cottage you may get low beams and a dark room, and in 17th and 18th century houses there is also a lot to go wrong.”
FOR her lifestyle, Lucy now has the perfect home. She has friends and a great primary school nearby, and a 10-minute drive to a good gym.
CLOSE your eyes and imagine you are on a long-haul flight; now open them. This contemporary steel, glass and timber house might be in Malibu or overlooking the harbour in Sydney, but actually, it is in south London. It belongs to Eric Lanlard, 36, a pastry chef from Brittany – supplier of gateaux to Fortnum & Mason and owner of Savoir Design, which produces extravagant celebration cakes – and his partner, Paul Newrick, who runs an aviation leasing company.View transcript
CLOSE your eyes and imagine you are on a long-haul flight; now open them. This contemporary steel, glass and timber house might be in Malibu or overlooking the harbour in Sydney, but actually, it is in south London. It belongs to Eric Lanlard, 36, a pastry chef from Brittany – supplier of gateaux to Fortnum & Mason and owner of Savoir Design, which produces extravagant celebration cakes – and his partner, Paul Newrick, who runs an aviation leasing company.
Their detached house, built by architect HM2 in 2001, sits away from the road, behind video-controlled gates: a modern cube approached by a Big Brother-style timber-decked path.
“A change from our last home,” admits Lanlard, in his strong French accent. “We lived for seven years in a tall, Victorian terrace house in Putney. We modernised it totally – but with old houses you always have to start again. When more cracks began appearing, we just got bored.”
Prior to that, the couple had experienced loft living in the penthouse of a converted match factory in Bow. They rather fancied living like that again.
“We decided to look for a plot on which to build,” says Lanlard, sitting on one of the simple Habitat dining chairs, which they covered in brightly coloured velvets. “The week after we put our home on the market, we saw this house in a magazine. We knew we wanted it, just from what we could see of the outside. We would probably have built something very similar to this anyway.”
The 2,097sq ft property cost £1 million a year ago. “We spent two nights unable to sleep, because we couldn’t afford it,” Lanlard admits. Then they discovered that the owner, a developer, was in a rush to move. So they persuaded him to let them pay a deposit, with another six months to complete. It was not until the week before they moved in that they finally managed to raise the money, thanks to the sale of their Putney home.
TO THE front and rear of the cube house are walls of full-height glass doors, which slide back completely, creating a continuous living space between the house and two garden areas. The steel frame of the building is exposed in an atrium, which has a glass roof. Upstairs there are huge windows everywhere, including internal ones – so ubiquitous are these, you have to remember to pull down a blind when you visit the bathroom.
The open-plan living/kitchen area is white, with more white – white on the wall, white kitchen units and even a white grand piano (this extravagant object can be programmed via a CD-rom to play all by itself). A feeling of space is created by the use of limestone tiles that are laid throughout the ground floor and then out to the garden areas. The space-boosting tricks don’t stop there: holes are punched through the steel in the treads of the glass-sided staircase, the glass coffee table and the windows in every direction all help to cast light around the double-height gallery area.
“The perfect place for summer entertaining, weather permitting,” says Lanlard, of the open-plan area running out to the gardens. “We can fit 100 people in here and the gardens, and our dining table, which normally seats 10, can be extended to 18.”
The house has exposed pipework for air-conditioning, underfloor heating, elaborate lighting and a sound system from Bose that provides wraparound music everywhere from tiny speakers. It’s all very hi-tech, but it still feels cosy.
“We wanted it to be warm. It took ages to find contemporary furniture that was comfy, stuff you could sink into without hurting your back,” says Lanlard. Two swivel leather armchairs and a matching plum leather sofa with a curved back did the business, but cost £15,000. “The sofa seats eight people happily, though,” he reveals.
The developer’s style is seen in the bathrooms, with their taupe anthracite tiles, sleek frameless glass shower enclosures, double-ended Bette baths, modern fittings and large cabinets to hide the clutter.
Similar taste is exhibited in the guest suite, which has a contemporary white B&B Italia bed in the middle of the room, floating shelves and jute curtains – “Yes, they’re sackcloth,” laughs Lanlard.
Did they do any work on the house? “We just knocked down a wall between two bedrooms to make a large master bedroom and extended a few walls for our furniture.” One wall was lengthened to fit their big, glass-fronted cabinet. Constructed of nine glass-and-steel boxes, it has remote-controlled lights that change colour inside and help to set the mood on the outside. “It’s our most expensive piece,” sighs Lanlard. “About £20,000.”
Upstairs they laid a violet carpet in the master bedroom and painted the walls mauve. A faux leopard-bedspread adds to the drama. The walk-in dressing rooms are piled with Louis Vuitton luggage.
“I’m the freak who collects Louis Vuitton,” laughs Lanlard, who has lived in Britain for 15 years. Outside, on the gallery, he has hung a horizontal painting vertically. The artist painted one of the panels using a baguette instead of a brush.
Ah, the French influence …
‘Our £20,000 light show’
The dining table may seat 18 and the grand piano play all by itself, but the most astonishing object in the house is the £20,000 wall of illuminated storage cabinets – made up of nine glass boxes. Eric Lanlard (above) says the unit is the pair’s most expensive purchase, but its remote-controlled coloured lighting (below) can be set to suit any mood …
WHERE TO GET THE LOOK
Limestone floor tiles from Stone Age (020 7384 9090; www.estone.co.uk)
Kitchen and bathroom from Alternative Plans (020 7228 6460; www.alternative-plans.co.uk)
Lutron for the lighting system (0800 282107; www.lutron.com)
Candela for recessed lighting (020 7720 4480; www.candela.ltd.uk)
Habitat for dining chairs (0845 601 0740; www.habitat.net)
Velvet for dining chairs from Today Interiors (01476 574401; www.today-interiors.co.uk)
Dining table is from The Collection (01962 771773; www.the collection.uk.com)
Sound system from Bose (0800 085 9021)
Self-playing piano from Markson Pianos (0800 074 8980)
Sorry, there aren’t any favourite 2005 articles.