Home Tour: A Light-Filled London Mews House With A Colourful, Contemporary Interior
Across the road from Hyde Park, London, lies a row of mews houses. Built during the 18th and 19th century, traditional mews houses are history-rich spaces that are typically narrow and dark, as they originally served as stables for horses and servant accommodation.
These historic buildings still have many upsides—besides being in close proximity to restaurants, bars, schools and many other amenities, these houses are located along quaint cobbled lanes, within almost traffic-free zones in peaceful neighbourhoods, all of which desirable qualities in the British capital.
London-based architectural design studio Echlin took the task of giving a contemporary refresh to one such abode for a family. The exterior retains its historic charm, while the 2,400sqft interior infuses a modern sensibility into the traditional structure.
“The original dwelling was formed with lots of little rooms, and it felt very cramped and dark,” says Sam McNally, the co-founder and director of Echlin. “A priority as part of the redesign was to increase a sense of space and introduce as much natural light as possible.”
One of the challenges for McNally was creating a flexible and functional layout that still embodied an airy and luxurious atmosphere. A consistent ambience had to flow throughout the entire interior. “The client wanted open-plan living, with the ability to close areas off should that ever be required; this was achieved by opening up the plan and providing views into other spaces allowing the full width and length of the house to be experienced.”
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Taking centrestage in the main living room is a massive 5m rust orange modular sofa, custom-designed by the studio. Sitting under an artwork by British artist Sam Lock, the warm copper sofa is striking and makes a major visual impact. The sofa is adjacent to a walnut Fritz Hansen PK22 lounge chair, alongside a lone Alvar Aalto lighting.
Towering shelves double as a partition and extra storage space. The large dining area off the living room features a bespoke olive dining banquette in velvet alongside a marquetry dining table. Portugal-sourced chairs crafted from rattan and linen make for additional seats at the table. The homeowners enjoy entertaining guests, and as such McNally created seating spaces catered to large gatherings.
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The home’s various textures and colours combine to form a soft and vibrant touch, brightening up the otherwise moody interior. The homeowners were deeply involved in the colour selection process. Inspired by their travels, they wanted to blend the rich colours of hotels they’ve been to with the essence of London.
“The clients do a lot of travelling and were particularly inspired by some of their favourite hotels and lounges, a lot of the furniture colours and material palette came from there,” says McNally. “We looked at lots of international projects for colour inspiration, but then worked with lots of London and UK-based makers and artists to bring the design to life.”
Connecting the three-storied house together is an oak wooden helical staircase, which makes a striking architectural statement; this curvaceous feature was handmade in East Sussex. Resting at the bottom of the staircase is a SansTitre No.5 sculpture by Francesco Moretti.
“We wanted the staircase to not take up too much of the footprint, so as to make the most out of the usable area of each floor, but it also couldn't feel cramped or compromised,” McNally explains. “We chose the helical shape as it felt more organic than a straight spiral, and worked with artisans to clad the piece in timber. Through the shape and use of one material, the result is a staircase that looks incredibly simple—but like nature itself, is in fact very complicated underneath.”
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The statement staircase leads down to a spacious open-plan kitchen and entertainment area. Conscious of the homeowners’ love of entertaining, McNally designed the kitchen in a manner such that the utilities can be concealed behind pivoting walnut pocket doors, creating a clean and compact area. “The kitchen had to be functional but one that could be closed off and out of view for when guests come to visit.”
A smaller dining space with a bespoke pale timber table features here, forming an alternate dining area for the homeowners and guests. McNally explains the creation of dual dining spaces: “These are not only dining spaces, but also living spaces for games, meetings, and working areas. The different treatment in materials reflects an informal living space in the basement floor, and more of an entertainment feel in the upper dining area.”
An ivy pendant light by British lighting designer and manufacturer CTO, as well as additional pieces by Foscarini pulls the space together.
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Beyond the cosy kitchen and dining area, a sunken living area creates an alternate communal space. The informal living space makes for a homely retreat, forming a cosier space for the family to lounge, relax and bond. Another custom-designed corner sofa forms the focal point; one can lounge comfortably and soak in the sweeping views of lush foliage, out of the expansive floor-to-ceiling sliding windows.
The topmost level houses the master suite and two other bedrooms. Featuring a monochromatic palette, the master suite serves as a canvas for a bespoke bed wrapped in Pierre Frey velvet, as well as lacquer bedside tables with églomisé mirror tops. Brass table lamps from Vaughan light up the space.
With the walls of the master suite clad in a polished plaster finish, the overall look is a bedroom filled with a sense of serenity.
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Generous natural lighting floods the space in the day, courtesy of McNally’s inclusion of two skylight windows. “With London planning laws not allowing us to add windows on the back, we had to look upwards to get the light required,” says the designer. “Lighting that comes from skylights is our favourite way to light a space, particularly in urban areas as it allows the most privacy internally, but also externally makes you feel like that little rectangle of sky belongs to you and only you.”
The idyllic theme continues in the en suite. This space was carefully crafted with thought; McNally conscientiously made distinctive the materials used in designing the bathroom from the bedroom to keep from a repetitious iteration. Here, limestone-clad walls accompany the brass and white onyx bathroom fittings, large dual sinks and a freestanding bathtub.
Featuring a harmonious blend of elements, the result of Echlin Studio’s work is a sophisticated place that surprises in scale and space. “The vision was to transform a small mews with compromised rooms into a contemporary home with a great feeling of space,” says McNally. “The interiors of the home have been designed with a constant consideration of warmth and wellness, combined with subtle reminders of the upmarket and historic location through the use of metallics and heritage tones.”
- Photography Taran Wilkhu