Tour a Charmingly Colorful and Totally British Notting Hill Home

When a young family decided to move back to England after living for a period in Miami, they realized it was time to give their London flat a proper refresh. At a quick glance, the pied-à-terre overlooking an idyllic square in London’s Notting Hill had all the trappings of a charming Victorian terraced house, at least from the outside. Inside, however, presented a very different story. “It was in really bad nick, and all the original features had been taken out,” says interior designer Sarah Vanrenen, who was tapped by the clients to reimagine the apartment’s dark warren of rooms into a sumptuous abode for the couple and their two young daughters.

The clients were eager to breathe new life into the space. “We wanted there to be a grand atmosphere, and this meant reinstating its former character with cornicing, bookshelves, and even a fireplace, which it didn’t have,” they add via email. “We wanted [the space] to be impactful but needed a bit of hand-holding with introducing color.”

Vanrenen was more than up to the task. Mixing and matching color and pattern is second nature to her, if not in her genes. The brilliantly hued collection of wallpaper and fabrics she designs is a mainstay for Penny Morrison, the textile and home-accessories company founded by Vanrenen’s mother, who is also a well-known interior designer. (Quite a few of these products can be found gracing the furnishings and walls of the Notting Hill apartment, including her Lilac Fabric in the sitting room and her Daisy Chain wallpaper in the master bedroom.)

The clients were admittedly a bit nervous when it came to color but put their trust in Vanrenen’s expertise. “I tend to only choose blue and white but was told by Sarah it may end up being a little cold in London,” the client recalls.

Taking the client’s feedback into consideration, Vanrenen deployed color judiciously: boldly when needed, such as in the windowless bathrooms and cozy bedrooms in the basement, and then more sparingly in the main living area on the first floor, where neutral walls and the Sisal Bengal flooring are offset by pops of pinks and reds from the fireplace’s club fender and an ottoman upholstered in Le Manach’s Tombouctou fabric.

The project also called for more substantive interventions, from opening up the cramped interior to fabricating architectural details, including cornices and moldings, that were lost in previous renovations. To create a “more fluid and cohesive” space, Vanrenen and her team ripped out all the existing flooring, which was at different levels, and put in parquet and wood floors in the entrance and living area. The result is one capacious open area that allows for seamless movement from one room to the next.

From the get-go, the goal, Vanrenen says, was always to make the interiors “glamorous but functional.” There’s no doubt that by the end of the nine-month renovation, she had checked both those boxes. The open-plan kitchen, for instance, is a nod to neoclassicism, with its pediment and green marble backsplash. Across the way, the sitting room features a new, elegant fireplace. The basement level, with its scant natural light, presented one of the more formidable challenges for the design team. But thanks to some “re-jigging of the layout,” as the designer puts it, they were able to turn these rooms into airy, inviting spaces. And the clients have taken note.

“We were particularly pleased with the transformation of the two bathrooms, which were horrible, cluttered, windowless caverns,” the clients say. “They managed to extend them by gaining space within the walls and reconfiguring the layout, and adding huge warmth and character.”

The family is settling into their newly renovated home and they couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “We were so thrilled when we came back [to London] to see the project as it was just completed. They curated all the art and framed it, and their attention to detail was amazing.”