Natalie and Gian-Franco Cencelli, owners of bespoke property company Fornacelli, talk us through their designer Lion House
Tell us about the property?
The house is one of the original terraced Victorian houses within the tree-lined Peterborough Estate. Uniquely, the houses in the area were built over a single time period in the 1900’s and this contributed to their unified appearance.
Today, if you look up the from street level to the top of the houses, you will see Jimmy Nichols’ trademark terracotta lions dotted on the gables of the houses all the way down the streets. It is said that Nichols ordered too many lions and so he gave each house a lion of its own and one to share with the house next door. Hence the houses have become known as the ‘Lion Houses’ of Fulham.
Having fully extended the current property, the house now stands majestically over four floors and includes 4100 square feet of living space.
When did you move into the property?
Our company, Fornacelli Homes acquired the property in September 2012 with the sole aim of refurbishing the house to its former splendor and glory while adding a modern touch. Our work encompasses both our own property developments as well as joint ventures with homeowners looking for a means of extracting maximum value out of their existing home.
What appealed to you about the property?
Arguably the best address in Fulham, it is a fantastic alternative to people looking for a home in Chelsea, but want the extra space without having to compromise on the location. Lion Houses are larger than most of the houses in area with generous proportioned entrances and high ceilings. Much of the property is hidden behind the façade, so it is only upon entering through the front door, you realize the true size of the property.
In the heart of Parsons Green, close to Kings Road/Sloane Square and a short drive into Central London, and ease of access to Heathrow and the M25, make it a prime London location.
Were there any key features you wanted to enhance?
With all our projects, our main desire is to breathe back life into old places and bring back the original character and features of the original property for example coving, ceiling roses, fireplaces, Victorian tiles and traditional staircases. At the same time we strive to enhance the space, flow and natural light of the property by incorporating modern aspects of design such as walk on glass, full height bi-fold doors and skylights.
Although people love to live in old houses, they ultimately look for the luxury of modern living. With this in mind we felt the master bedroom had to be a luxurious, haven to escape a busy day and so we incorporated a relaxing living space around a traditional marble fireplace in the room. The main suite also benefits from a whole room dedicated to a walk-in dressing room and a spacious ensuite with Aquavison television.
Today there is a huge interest in collecting fine wine and the bespoke wine wall with separate cooling areas for white and red wine is the centerpiece of the dining area.
The gym in the basement is there for mums who are short on time and are able to work out from home while being in close proximity to her children. We’ve even included a steam room so there is no need to leave the house.
In addition we have added modern technology to make living in the home easier and more comfortable. The house benefits from a dedicated computer data room which houses the Crestron home automation for all AV and lighting and Cat 6 cabling. All this can be operated by the owner, at a touch of a button without even being in the property. There is also air-conditioning and underfloor heating system throughout.
What changes [if any] have you made?
The entire property was taken ‘back to brick’. Extended the loft, excavated the basement fully and re-configured the internal layout completely to create generously proportioned rooms and open plan living spaces with an abundance of natural light.
It’s a very stylish home. Tell us about the design…
The design was months in the planning. Even before the building refurbishment began, we scrutinized the property to find the very best layout to allow for the most natural flow of space and light. Our interiors are stylish and modern, but at the same time, because we bring back the original features of a property, they timeless and classic too. There is a warmth of feel to what we do which prevents our interiors appearing cold and soulless. Neutral tones are used, but juxtaposed with a bright fabric, textured wall, original furniture or statement piece of art, to create a focal/centre point in the room. All these aspects are easily changed and updated to move with the times and the fashion, so you don’t feel you’ve moved into a home that will need to be revamped a couple of years down the line.
What were your inspirations?
We take our inspiration from everything around us whether it is buildings where the original architecture is preserved to modern buildings and stylish interiors. Exploring different textures, materials and how colours work with each other and always keeping an eye out for innovative designs and new and exciting floor layouts is where we find inspiration.
Are there any particular places you source interiors and home wares from?
We source from a wide variety of suppliers and our little black book grows all the time, but over the years we have built strong relationships with some of the local Fulham businesses. European Heritage on Dawes Road, is one such place. They are a fantastic source for superior quality, porcelain and mosaic tiles. Chelsea Flooring is another great shop for carpets and stair runners.
Fulham is constantly evolving and changing and new shops come into the area all the time.
Our current top interior tip, is the art agency, Degree Art (degreeart.co.uk). Many of the pieces in the property have been sourced from this graduate art gallery where they handpick the most promising artistic talent, so you can invest in original pieces of art at affordable prices, before they become the next Tracey Emin or Damian Hirst.
What attracted you to Fulham as an area?
We’ve been in the Fulham area for 17 years and love the fact that there are so much many green spaces around us and yet only a hop and skip from Knightsbridge, Hyde Park and the rest of Central London. It has a ‘village’ feel although it is a large area with so much culture and diversity. There is a good choice for schools in the area and a strong international community, attracted by the French schools and Spanish nursery nearby.
What do you enjoy about the area?
Parsons Green with all its boutique and designer shops, coffee shops, restaurants and bars and specialist grocer. Bishops Park and the scenic Fulham Palace Gardens in the summertime. The River Café and the close proximity to all the delights of the Kings Road and Sloane Square.
At the time of interview the house was on the market through Savills and Knight Frank Estate Agents.