Inside an eclectic London apartment designed by David Netto full of charm and visual deception

Ask David Netto about the ground floor maisonette in London which is owned by close friends and he is ruthless. “The Queen Anne architecture of the 1880s, this whole Gilbert and Sullivan thing, gets me down,” says the interior designer. The floor plan of the terraced house, a few blocks from Kensington Palace, shocked him: a central hall measuring over 100 feet long and flanked by square rooms with high ceilings, one side opening onto a garden common, the other overlooking the street. “It made me think of being in a hospital corridor during World War I and looking for your wounded son,” he observes. Although he begged the American expats not to make the purchase, “I was powerless to stop them,” Netto admits, raising his hands. “They know their own mind.” The woman agrees, demonically noting that this is the dreadful fourth residence they’ve surrendered: “I like to challenge him.”

Seeing the two in conversation is pure Nick and Nora Charles: the dialogue is lively but affectionate, the opinions sweetly searing, and the teasing expertly targeted. Everyone knows exactly which button to press, and properties with aesthetic drawbacks seem to be a particularly tricky subject. Netto also didn’t like the couple’s Hamptons beach house, largely because of its expansive McMansion – “He was appalled,” the woman laughs – but he managed to give it comfort as well as some comfort. blade. Knee reactions aside, the designer admits that once he comes to terms with the inconveniences, troublesome homes always “end well.” At least that seems to be the case when he’s in charge.

A series of colorful prints by John Baldessari light up a corner of the living room. (© 2021 Broomberg & Chanarin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Daniel Gordon.)

Working on the apartment with a favorite ally, low-key architect Simon Templeton – whose projects include historic properties for prominent Britons – Netto approached the high backbone of the London apartment by imagining what the Italian modernist Gio Ponti could have done with passage in a Venetian palace. “It had to become a completely theatrical space,” he says. Today it’s just that, transformed into a cabinet of curiosities structured by space deception. “I wanted to divide the space into something you can digest visually,” Netto says of his brilliant decision to segment the space into a rhythmic parade of bite-sized pieces. White beams and moldings organize the ceiling while quarter-sawn oak paneling, inspired by photographs of boats from the 1970s, covers the walls, the latter housing period Italian sconces. Choice arrangements of wrecks and jetsam – down the hall stands a full-scale Egyptian Neo console supported by a digital C-print of Idris Khan on the wall – stop visitors in their tracks for further examination thorough. You can stroll past 18th-century Northern Italian armchairs clad in olive velvet, sturdy antique Minton planters, a welded-steel Julian Mayor chair that resembles a spider’s web, and artwork and photography striking performances by William Klein and Marco Breuer. “I wanted the effect of a family collection in a palace,” Netto says. “This is the hall’s mission. To amplify this scenario, he had hoped to install a terrazzo floor, but structural issues led him to pave the space with wide planks of English oak, as bare as the day they were milled.

Black marble covers the walls of the guest bathroom.

© simonupton

A Swiss railway clock shows the time in the kitchen, where the walls are covered with exquisite surface tiles.

© simonupton

The rooms on either side of this theatrical sweep are a continuation of the gallery’s mixmaster aesthetic, says Templeton, from the living room to the bedrooms to the music room. (The couple and their 14-year-old son are amateur musicians, the guys on the guitar, the wife, who also sings, on the piano. Dinner.) Imagine interiors put together by the coolest art history teacher that you have never had or a freewheeling and subversive museum curator. “Every room has to be a good room, even a baby bath: it’s about breaking down hierarchies,” Netto says of the furniture he and the clients have assembled and placed everywhere. Think of the giant 1960s silver portraits of Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, a Tulip table paired with Scarpa chairs, a daring fireplace channeling Thomas Hope against a mirrored wall, organic pieces of abstract sculpture, bespoke sofas with a air de seraglio, and a fair amount of what Netto calls “good local English stuff,” like the carpet in the reception hall. “I wanted to do something Edwardian style, like the rugs on the Titanic,Add to it all a casual way with the placement – the pictures, for example, are propped up against windows and walls, in large part because, says the woman, “it’s wonderful not to have to commit “- and you have an apartment which, according to architect The Spirit of Templeton is unlike anything else in London.” A bad designer will do something pretty for you, “the woman explains,” a great designer will challenge you. ”

If treasures from all times, eras and materials surround her, she hastens to add that she does not consider herself a collector. “To be a collector you need concentration, and I don’t have one,” she says, once a budding museum curator. “I have serial obsessions. You just go down into a rabbit hole and come out later. Netto also has a magpie mentality, though he’s much better at fixing things, she admits. “When David does an installation he is like a guide; he unveils it with a story that no one else can match. Plus, he’s super fun. I would like to have an unlimited number of houses and be able to do them with it.

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