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A London Designer’s Apartment Remodel for a Demanding Client (Her Mother)

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A London Designer’s Apartment Remodel for a Demanding Client (Her Mother)

June 22, 2020

After earning an architectural interior design degree from the prestigious Inchbald School and working for two design firms in London’s Chelsea, Lonika Chande felt ready to strike out on her own. What she needed was an initial solo project to show what she can do.

That commission came from Lonika’s mother, Lucy Dickens, an artist (and great-great granddaughter of Charles Dickens), who dabbles in real estate: she and Lonika’s stepfather had bought a one-bedroom fixer-upper in Hampstead that they wanted to overhaul as a high-end, long-term rental. The place needed a top-to-bottom renewal: scroll to the end to see the Before shots.

“Having worked on a number of projects since, it’s fair to say that working with family is not the easiest,” Lonika tells us. Among the challenges: having to cater to her own and her mother’s perfectionist standards on a budget, select finishes that can take a beating from renters, and persuade Lucy to embrace color: “her tendency has always been to paint absolutely everything brilliant white.” Being “more emotionally invested,” Lonika adds, also played to both of their strengths. Join us for a look at the results.

Photography by Simon Brown, courtesy of Lonika Chande Interior Design.

situated on the ground floor of a victorian building, the approximately 645 squ 9
Above: Situated on the ground floor of a Victorian building, the approximately 645-square-foot flat was in recent years  used as student digs, but had initially been an artist’s studio, and that’s the vibe Lonika and Lucy wanted to re-create using traditional detailing.

The living area came with nearly 10-foot-tall ceilings and original windows that required restoring. Lucy agreed to expand her white paint palette: the walls are in “a warm and inviting but still neutral shade,” says Lonika—Paper I from the Paint & Paper Library. “With no cornice, the ceiling was painted in with the walls to soften the junction between the two. The window sash bars and rails were painted in Off-Black by Farrow & Ball, not only to make them stand out, but also to highlight the pretty Victorian spindles on the balcony behind. We went for bespoke sheer roller privacy blinds set inside the recess to expose as much of the original paneled detailing on the window architrave as possible.”

the first step in the remodel was removing the partition wall between the livin 10
Above: The first step in the remodel was removing the partition wall between the living room and kitchen and installing a new kitchen.

The furnishings are a mix of midcentury pieces Lucy already owned and antiques Lonika tracked down at good prices. The sofa cushions are made from vintage Kuba cloth: “as an artist, visual texture is extremely important to Lucy,” says Lonika.

lonika designed a u shaped kitchen with shaker style cabinets (purchased throug 11
Above: Lonika designed a U-shaped kitchen with Shaker-style cabinets (purchased through her builder) that she managed to convince her mother to paint in Paint & Paper Library’s Muga, which she describes as “a deep Indian yellow in a glossy finish.” Lonika’s grandparents on her father’s side were East African Indians—”their parents came over from India to build the railways in Africa”—and she says her post-college travels in India are what solidified her plans to become an interior designer.
  lonika&#8\2\17;s contractor opted to paint the cabinets in situ, a proce 12
Above:  Lonika’s contractor opted to paint the cabinets in situ, a process she describes as “a decorator’s nightmare given the lengthy drying time between the coats: after the base, my painter applied three oil-based layers, and each took three to four days to dry—but it was definitely worth it.”

The fridge and pantry are concealed in the tall cupboard to the left of the sink. The counters are in durable, stain-resistant Carrara quartzite, “just as expensive as marble, so not a cost-saving exercise but a practical detail.” The peninsula configuration, Lonika explains, “allowed for some additional base cabinet space, enabling us to get a full-size washing machine and dishwasher in. We also wanted to keep an open feel, and so restricted the upper wall cabinets, and needed to make up the space elsewhere. I worked through a few layouts and this was the best solution.”

an antique shelf provides storage and a place to prop art over the sink. the un 13
Above: An antique shelf provides storage and a place to prop art over the sink. The unlacquered brass cabinet knobs are from Rowen & Wren, and the Old School Electric Blown Glass Pendant Lights are from Holloways of Ludlow.
the living rooms opens to a compact dining area with a \1960s extendable teak t 14
Above: The living rooms opens to a compact dining area with a 1960s extendable teak table, Serge Mouille-style light, and antique pichwai wall hanging,  a devotional Hindu painted cloth. The new floor is engineered oak.
in the hall, lonika introduced paneled doors with reeded architraves, painted i 15
Above: In the hall, Lonika introduced paneled doors with reeded architraves, painted in a pale green from Paper & Paints Library called The Botanist. The paintings are by Lucy: to see more of her work, go to Lucy Dickens.

“We spent a lot on the build and getting the bones of the property right, with good-quality flooring, tiles, and other fittings,” says Lonika. “Things like the ironmongery and the new doors were expensive. This meant that we had a tighter budget for the soft furnishings.”

for continuity, the hallway green reappears in the bedroom on the woodwork (the 16
Above: For continuity, the hallway green reappears in the bedroom on the woodwork (the walls here are in Paint & Paper Library’s Wattle V). The oak and cane bed is the Reema from Made, and the quilt is an antique kantha.
lucy&#8\2\17;s antique kimono hangs on the wall next to a chair from myriad 17
Above: Lucy’s antique kimono hangs on the wall next to a chair from Myriad Antiques in Holland Park and a Belgian sideboard in its original paint.
a matilda goad signature scalloped lampshade on a flagon table lamp by loaf. se 18
Above: A Matilda Goad Signature Scalloped Lampshade on a Flagon Table Lamp by Loaf. See more ideas in Trend Alert: The Return of the Artfully Patterned Lampshade.
in the tiny bath, lonika installed a glass walled shower with metro tiles on th 19
Above: In the tiny bath, Lonika installed a glass-walled shower with metro tiles on the walls and Portuguese Encaustic Alvito tiles on the floor, both from Fired Earth. The cabinet is bespoke and painted in a glossy Farrow & Ball shade of auberine called Brinjal.

Before

the apartment was originally &#8\2\20;one large, elegant, dual aspect room  20
Above: The apartment was originally “one large, elegant, dual-aspect room that was gradually partitioned off to create a series of smaller spaces,” says Lonika.
for years the apartment was rented out to students, hence the loft bed. the pla 21
Above: For years the apartment was rented out to students, hence the loft bed. The platform was removed to make way for the new dining area.
the bathroom had received a slapdash remodel quite a few years ago. 22
Above: The bathroom had received a slapdash remodel quite a few years ago.

Here are three more inspired apartment remodels from around the world:

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