The Resident takes a tour of the Chelsea townhouse that David Bowie lived in during the 70s. The story goes that he painted the interior jet black during the miner’s strikes, but the five-storey stucco townhouse, just off the King’s Road, has a bright future, says interiors designer Sophie Paterson
Words: Mark Kebble
There’s rightly been a lot of press coverage on the passing of David Bowie and the legacy he left behind. Musically, he was so ahead of the game and a trend setter, but he also has seemingly left his mark on properties in and around Chelsea.
‘Funnily enough this is the second house I’ve designed in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea that has previously been lived in by David Bowie,’ smiles interior designer Sophie Paterson. ‘The first one was on Clareville Grove in South Kensington.’
Funnily enough this is the second house I’ve designed in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea that has previously been lived in by David Bowie
The second one is a five-storey stucco townhouse just off the King’s Road. Bowie resided here in the 1970s, with the story going that during the miner’s strikes of that decade he painted the interior of the house jet black to try and understand the conditions experienced by those that worked in the coalmines. Unsurprisingly, today it looks completely different following a complete revamp.
For Paterson, this was yet another Chelsea project to add to her portfolio. ‘I’m a huge fan of the period architecture in Chelsea,’ she enthuses, ‘there are so many beautiful buildings and I’m personally a huge fan of Georgian architecture, namely the Queen Anne-style townhouses.’
After meeting the client of this Oakley Street property – ‘We instantly clicked, the relationship between client and designer has to be built on trust and mutual respect’ – what was the brief that came Paterson’s way? ‘My client was very clear that they wanted the house to reflect them and their personal style, they didn’t want it to look too interior designed, in the sense that some designers can inflict their own personal style on clients’ properties and it doesn’t suit or reflect the people who live in it,’ she says.
‘They had some existing pieces of furniture, such as the antique dining table in the kitchen, and the Poltrona Frau leather armchairs and Ottoman in the drawing room, that we reused. Their style was quite a masculine but neutral style with lots of texture such as leather, velvet, suede and cashmere.’
Visiting the finished design, it all starts as soon as you enter. ‘The hallway is very grand with generous ceiling heights, so we wanted to emphasise this,’ Paterson says on the stunning oversized chandeliers. ‘We also wanted some lanterns that would look like they could have always been there.’
Many people put the kitchen in the basement, but as generally we live in our kitchens these days I think they were very wise to stick with their instincts and keep it on the ground floor
This leads to the kitchen, which Paterson says ‘was such a special design’ where no expense was spared. ‘My client was very brave and open with her material choices. It is a great use of the ground floor in the house – many people put the kitchen in the basement, but as generally we live in our kitchens these days I think they were very wise to stick with their instincts and keep it on the ground floor. It looks great by day, but comes to life at night with all the mood lighting.’
It’s here that Paterson made use of the aforementioned antique dining table. ‘I love antiques and in this particular project the client was a fan of combining antiques and contemporary furniture,’ Paterson says, ‘hence the antique dining table in the kitchen next to the uber contemporary kitchen. The colours blend well and it creates an interesting contrast of styles. I found the mirror in the hall on one of my many sourcing trips to antique shops in Petworth, again it looks great above the contemporary bespoke console we designed.’
On the lower ground floor is a guest bedroom, en-suite bathroom, and TV room, and heading up to the first floor there is a formal living room, furnished with a combination of antiques and contemporary furnishings. ‘We design all of our upholstery and carpentry in house,’ Paterson adds. ‘Approximately 95% of everything we use in our clients’ homes is bespoke, which I love as you can’t look at one of our projects and know where everything is from, and for our clients they enjoy the fact that everything is made for their home and they won’t see it elsewhere.’
The master bedroom on the next floor up is a real luxury. ‘They must always be luxurious,’ Paterson states, ‘master bedrooms need to be a sanctuary from our busy lives. We ensured that our client’s bedroom was very pampering with the oversized four poster bed from Ralph Lauren, air conditioning, a Chesney’s gas fireplace and black out blinds to ensure a perfect night’s sleep. I like using wallpapers in bedrooms as it adds a warm cocooning feel.
‘As the layout in here didn’t allow for a separate dressing room, we decided to upholster the wardrobe doors in a taupe faux leather with bespoke bronze handles to add another layer of texture, warmth and luxury.’ There are a further two guest bedrooms heading up, and then you reach the roof terrace with amazing views across London. These are all Changes that would have thrilled David Bowie.
For more of this project, and others around Chelsea, see sophiepatersoninteriors.com