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Andrew Fossey - Fossey Arora

1st Sep 2014

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When it started its life, the mews house was an underdog, a place for staff, for secret liaisons with the mistress, for storing cars and accessing the larger house behind. It has been two flats, commercial premises and most recently years the ‘super mews’: a deceptive home with a big basement and an extra floor. Effectively a family-sized house on a modest plot.

So, it’s hugely refreshing to see a lovely mews house that’s….well a lovely mews house. Located on St Luke’s Mews, one of the most captivating streets in London that has played host to THAT stolen kiss in Richard Curtis’ Love Actually and home to Paula Yates. This particular property has been beautifully executed by design and development group, Fossey Arora, into the kind of property that we all secretly yearn - just for ourselves. Over three floors it has two or three bedrooms and two living areas [depending on how you use it], including a lovely open-plan reception set on the top floor with access to an incredible roof terrace. The apportion of space is clever and finishes and detailing are exemplary.

Head of design, Andrew Fossey, learned his craft as a four-year old, ‘helping’ his uncle on his building sites. At school his career path wavered between graphic design and architecture, so interior design was somewhere in the middle. By 19 he was working in the industry and designing the Virgin Megastore in Paris. Since then, beautiful residential homes, such as this stunning St Luke’s Mews home, have been his mainstay although there is a hotel in planning just now. Andrew Fossey tells us about its creation…

Andrew, tell us about how you first became involved with this property?

In Notting Hill everyone knows St Luke’s Mews. It has managed to retain this wonderful character that can only come from a community that’s proud of where it lives. We had our eye on the mews for years and when this property, which was being used as an old garage and car repair workshop came up for sale, we were delighted. Part of our practice is to search and find properties for our clients and this was one building that we knew could be something special.

Was there a defined brief for the design and development of St Luke’s Mews?
The property and its location very much dictated the feel, style and plan. This part of Notting Hill is still very bohemian and quite arty and so the feel needed to reflect this. We also thought about the kind of person that would make this their home, which played a hand in the design and decoration. We’ve created the kind of hip-yet-relaxed feel that drives people to this part of London.

You chose to remain true to the style of a mews house and eschew the addition of a basement? Why was this?
Properties have a language of their own and I think a mews is very much about a kind of hidden bolthole in a noisy and crowded, fast-paced city. I think if you want to live in a mews you want a mews feel. I don't see the point in trying to make it something it isn't. Building a basement would have added commercial value but the space that you create is often a compromise and you generally have to loose a third of the ground floor to allow light into the basement. By staying true to its origins, this is an adaptable city home with good bones and great space.

What was the most challenging aspect of its development?
The neighbours! Whenever you undertake a complete development project there is a huge impact on the people around you, which has to be managed. In a mews the properties are tight together and so this has a greater effect. It was when we were mid ‘discussion’ with the neighbours, that we breathed a sigh of relief at having decided to not develop a basement.

Were you influenced by any external inspirations at the time this property was created?
We have a great relationship with Domus Nova and they helped us to image the ‘client’, the person that would buy this house. That was our foundation and dictated some of the elevations. I am also a fan of Jonathan Reed’s work, so you’ll definitely see influences there.

There is a striking use of colour and texture combined with new and antique pieces of furniture. Is this a house style?
It all feels very ‘right’ for now. All white spaces are great for increasing mass but have never struck me as welcoming when it’s howling a gale outside. We wanted a series of social spaces that were united in relaying an invitation to sit and relax. The idea of mixing up periods, styles, colurs and textures is to intentionally display a feel of progressive development, although everything has been collected over a lifetime.

What elements of this project are you most proud of?
I think the flexibility of space works very well. You could be two friends sharing this house, a couple with a need for home/work space, a new family or a downsizer taking on the next phase of life in London. I’m also very happy about the lack of recessed down lights. We wanted the house to have a soft glow that would welcome you back at the end of the day and we’ve achieved that.

Is there anything you would now do differently?
We looked at the possibility of installing an illuminated wall in the master bedroom, but didn’t do it in the end. Now it’s haunting me and I think I will definitely find a way into the next project.

What’s next in store for Fossey Arora?
We are working on a hotel project in Essex, it's very exciting as Essex lacks a decent 'boutique' hotel. Not that we will be taking the boutique route, it's an Elizabethan manor house so we'll be staying true to the building and will create something beautiful, relaxed and homely. We're also working on a Georgian manor house which is our biggest domestic project to date, we're a year in with another to go. The clients have a fantastic photography collection so that has to take centre stage. It's a clear, crisp, understated interior fitting a beautiful building and setting. We also have a new-build house in Chelsea while researching an small apartment complex in Kensington.

Who makes up the Fossey Arora team?
Andrew Fossey, myself, and Chotip Arora. We also have a small freelance team we call on when needed.

What or who inspired you to start a career in design?
John Pawson - I remember a 1980s World of Interiors showing his work for the first time, was breathtaking. In the early days I was mostly inspired by fashion design rather than interior design which was pretty grim in the late 80s.

Where are you based?
Kensington. Our office is on one of the most beautiful Georgian streets in the area.

Has your work ever taken you abroad?
We worked on a large villa in Cannes a few years back, we'd work in the morning and sunbathe in the afternoon. Also a ski chalet in Switzerland many years ago.

Describe St Luke’s Mews in three words.
Relaxed, sociable and witty.

What inspires you daily?
Inspiration is everywhere, a camera phone is a designers greatest tool. Travel is also pretty helpful, with loads of ideas from a recent trip to Helsinki.

What’s been your biggest career challenge?
We've just started on a new build house in Chelsea, it's early days but already a challenge. The project is a very long narrow plot and our early ideas have already been rejected by the planners. We were also once asked to design in 'thai style' for a Grade II-Listed Georgian house - that was hard. However the greatest challenge is to design for yourself, I've realised I'd be an impossible client.

View St Luke's Mews currently for sale with Domus Nova

Discover Fossey Arora on the Domus Nova Design Guide

Fossey Arora, 8 Holland Street, London W8;