It is not often that designers work from the ceiling down when decorating a house, but when Peter Mikic first set eyes on this late-Victorian villa in west London, he knew that there was the only course of action to take: interior renovation.

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The contemporary house is blessed with spectacular cornicing on the ground and first floors, a Bacchanalian feast of plump grapes and spreading leaves reminiscent of a miniature Roman palazzo.

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When Peter Mikic‘s clients bought the house two years ago, this was mostly obscured under thickly caked paint, but as the layers were painstakingly removed by hand over many months, the extraordinary beauty and exuberance of the designs were revealed. As Peter explains, the last thing to do was repaint them.

We decided that the focus needed to be the cornice itself,Peter Mikic says. ‘Usually, I begin with a floor and work up – but this was a totally reverse process.’

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It also led to other key decisions he made, most notably the stripping back of the magnificent, original floor-to-ceiling shutters, elegantly curved windows and deep skirtings, engendering the house with a completely different feel. When the clients bought it, the interior was slickly designed – but not to their taste. Once the original features of the interior architecture were shown in their full glory, it imbued the house with an atmosphere that was less self-consciously grand and more bohemian. In a household that includes teenagers and a regular roster of their friends, this relaxed, uncomplicated approach made perfect sense. It led to Peter Mikic choosing pine flooring rather than oak, opening up a fireplace in the dining room, and unveiling the natural beauty of the original steel balustrades and Portland stone floor of the stairs. To him, the house is all about texture.

If you stand in the hall,’ he says, ‘you have the raw stone floor, the burnished balustrades, the polished plaster of the walls and the smooth finish of the handrail. Half of the pleasure is in that tactility.’

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In terms of space configuration, very little was changed. Powell Tuck Associates undertook the architectural renovation and together with Peter Mikic, decided to swap the kitchen with the adjacent dining room, in effect making the kitchen the core of the home. Upstairs, the same footprint allows for a spacious, L-shape drawing room and snug. On the second floor is the main bedroom and bathroom. At the top of the house are two further bedrooms and another bathroom. What was important to Peter was ensuring that the spaces flowed easily, with no sudden jolts of colour to jar the senses. The palette is warm, with the drawing-room cocooned in grey silk wallpaper with accents of gold, and the main bedroom decorated in caramel tones and luxuriously padded wardrobe doors. Mid-twentieth-century tables and lamps add an undertone of glamour, while the clients’ eye for powerful art gives the interiors drama and energy.

 

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Peter Mikic enjoyed the project enormously, not least because the clients are also friends, and this was as much a collaboration as a commission.

They have an absolutely clear idea of what they like and what they do not,’ he says, ‘so there were no changes of heart halfway through. It wasn’t a case of producing concept boards and following schemes rigidly, but a far more organic process. We knew from the start how the house would work best in terms of space and flow, but we focused on the architectural features and allowed the materials to flow from that. It was an unorthodox way of designing, but in fact, it worked really well.

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Peter Mikic is passionate about making use of traditional British craft skills. Here, for example, he marshalled ‘wonderful people’ who included blacksmiths, plasterers, joiners, specialist upholsterers, furniture makers, silk dyers and even trompe l’oeil artists – the latter to camouflage damage to exposed timber on the shutters. It is this commitment to craftsmanship and hand skills that has made the house such a visual treat. The care is apparent in every detail, such as the beautifully executed parchment finish of the sideboard that Peter Mikic designed for the drawing-room, or the custom-made bronze curtain rail in the drawing-room that echoes so perfectly the contours of the window.

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For him, the pleasure is as much in the journey as in the result. He prides himself on the excellent relationships he forges with his lucky clients and says, ‘It is such a privilege to be entrusted with other people’s homes.’

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