Give me a decent budget to renovate my house, and top of my list would be some new curtains, a walk-in pantry and loads more storage.
But the finalists in the Society of British Interior Design (SBID) awards, which took place last week in London and celebrated the best of the UK’s creative minds, showed rather more ambition.
A home complete with a “sky city for cats” – an entry into one of the three residential design categories – is a contemporary home for a mother and daughter in Taiwan with soft lighting, modern wooden beams and a Scandinavian feel.
One room was created with a discerning feline client in mind: a scratching pole runs up the wall, connected to an obstacle course on the ceiling, with hanging wicker hammocks.
It was up against a beach house in Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, which is half a home, and half a teen den with attitude. A sign in scrawling blue neon letters hangs above the glass-fronted fireplace reading, “Nobody is worth your tears and the one who is won’t make you cry”.
To top it all off, a stainless steel slide runs down from the games room on the first floor into the open-plan living area.
The most luxurious of all the entries was the £10 million renovation of a 5,000 sq ft, four-bedroom duplex penthouse on the 22nd floor of the Neo Bankside complex on London’s South Bank. The clients – described as “a professional couple with global business interests” – wanted the interiors to reflect their love of red and tigers.
The designers, Hill House Interiors, installed a baby grand piano in red lacquer, a 300-bottle wine cellar under the stairs, and a super-sized dining table that has been crafted out of recycled sugar wood.
It is accompanied by 12 red velvet dining chairs, and above it hangs a Sharon Marston coral and silver chandelier. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a life-size tiger pictured on the couture rug in the living room.
The most successful projects at this year’s awards – which also celebrate the best hotel, restaurant and bar transformations of 2018 – were more palatial than playful. Entrants came from all over the world.
The winner of the award for the best residential house under £1 million was the Irrawady House in Georgetown, Malaysia, by the design firm Nevermore. Lavish and contemporary, it boasts a floating black staircase, an Italian marble counter in the kitchen, and gold finishes throughout the house. It’s described as having old-school opulence and contemporary cosiness mixed under the same roof.
The judging panel – which included Sir Michael Dixon, the director of the Natural History Museum, and Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of luxury trade body Walpole – named a family home in Mississauga, Canada, as the winner of the award for the best residential design over £1 million.
This waterfront property took two and a half years to renovate, and has been designed to emulate a manor house with classical lines and a double-height hall. The serenity of the subtle colour scheme, of greys and blues with veined marble feature walls, reflects the sparkling waters of the lake.
An international design firm also scooped the third residential category, the award for the best residential apartment under £1 million. It went to Elliot James, an Asian consultancy, which created a party pad in Singapore that was elegant yet edgy, with graffiti-backed dining chairs sitting on polished marble flooring and specially commissioned artwork.
The list of nominees for the awards was dominated by stylish British entries, most of whom created real, liveable spaces, rather than show-off designs. It included Peter Staunton’s Flint Hall – a 15,000 sq ft rural mansion in Warwickshire, which the designer describes as “classic country style with a modern twist”.
“We chose natural materials that age well and add warmth and character, such as the sweeping staircase made from wrought-iron spindles,” says Staunton. “But rather than featuring a crystal chandelier above it, we hung glass pendants at different heights to add a talking point.”
Staunton used lighting to differentiate each space, with Venetian-style chandeliers in the dining room and Flos pendants in the kitchen.
He is scathing about the interiors in new developments in London where he believes the design palette is becoming “ubiquitous”.
He aims to be more eclectic, mixing style, character and colour. An example of this is his use of inventive, modern materials to highlight certain aspects of the rooms, such as a silk wall covering by Phillip Jeffries that looks like brushed brass from a distance, and accents a shallow chimney breast.
Another nominee at the awards was Lucinda Sanford, who, with her one-stop renovation shop in Bermondsey, will tackle everything in a build, from the local planning authority to choosing soft furnishings. She shares his contempt for the default “greige” colour schemes of new homes.
Her entry, a Victorian terrace in Fulham, bucks this trend, with Cole & Son forest wallpaper running up the stairs and a black limestone parquet flooring throughout the hall. The utilitarian feel of the home’s Crittall-style windows is softened by her choice of greys, creams and floral prints.
“People have got braver,” she says, citing the tie-up between heritage brand William Morris (famous for his prints) and high-street retailer H&M.
“Five years ago they would experiment with a feature wall, and now they’ll paint all four. Not enough is made of the link between fashion and the home; if you’re bold about what you wear, you’re more likely to be bold indoors, too.”
Another look that was nominated for an award was designed by Clare Gaskin, who transformed a 10,000 sq ft outdated property into a sleek family home. Her brief was to create a country house set against a very British backdrop – bucolic Hertfordshire – but with a hint of Miami.
The outside was as important as the inside in the design of the home, Gaskin explains. “Consideration of the exterior is often overlooked, but on this project, the star of the main living area is the floor-to-ceiling window with views of the garden beyond.”
She created a large entertaining space on the patio outside with voluptuous sofas, which give the place a pool-party vibe. Stretching out from the living room are landscaped flower beds set around mature trees, which step up to statues of stags standing proud on the horizon.
Inside, practical meets pageantry: there’s a plush cinema and snooker room, and an illuminated wine vault built into the wall by the dining table. Storage was also a key part of the brief, with the provision of clever bespoke solutions to discreetly hold the family’s belongings.
“The eaves in the master bedroom were built out behind the bed to store luggage and sports equipment. In the daughter’s bedroom, made challenging with low ceilings and shallow eaves, we installed joinery into the perimeter to make the space usable, with a daybed-style social area – perfect for sleepovers – and which has deep drawers,” says Gaskin.
She used pops of colour throughout, such as hints of fuchsia pink, giving a slice of fun to the property, and echoing the style and attitude of her peers Sanford and Staunton – and their backlash against “greige”.