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Redesigning a Gothic Church in Kenmont Gardens

16th Sep 2020

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It is incredibly rare for us to struggle for words when trying to introduce and perfectly describe a property, but every so often, a certain property comes along and we are left evidently dumbstruck. Words can only go so far when trying to encapsulate the ethereal majesty of this residence. This astonishing labour of love speaks volumes simply in the imagery itself, but when presented with the real life evidence of what is actually architecturally possible when redeveloping a certain 6000sq ft space into a living home, this converted Gothic church on Kenmont Gardens leaves all comparables standing on the starting line. Simply put, it is one of the most inspired projects we have seen for quite some time.

Interior Designer, Harriet Holgate took on the 6,000 square feet of space to create a spectacular home that beautifully marries the history and traditional features of the framework with contemporary and bespoke internal finishes. The four-bedroom home values the undeniably rare and grand sense of volume and light found within through a clever interiors scheme which always complements that which the architectural framework carries with it. Grand, elegant and one of a kind, original details of incredible stained glass windows and a seemingly endless array of arches paired together with a bespoke bronze staircase and custom-made kitchen by Rupert Bevan, the central reception room sets the scene for the rest of the home. Complete with a herringbone-brick and marble fireplace, patterned brass detailing and polished concrete worktops, the definition of luxury living reaches new heights in this space. The bedrooms evoke a rather different environment, providing that peace and escape that every home needs. In particular, it was the master bedroom which had us impressed upon first sight. Harriet utilised the extensive volume throughout to add an additional level to the home, where the master bedroom now rests. Equipped with vaulted ceilings, several skylights and a bespoke bathroom that feels more like a luxurious sanctuary, there’s nothing about this home not to love.

We took the opportunity to ask the interiors expert behind the redesign, Harriet, about her initial approach with the project, how the building inspired her design direction and how the two-year long process resulted in timeless interiors that sit within a piece of history.

Harriet, how did you initially approach redesigning the interiors of this phenomenal converted Gothic church on Kenmont Gardens?

I was in a great position because I had lived in the building myself for a number of years before it was then bought. The individual who bought it then became a client of mine so I understood the building from its initial brief. The preliminary approach was to really consider and understand how such a space could become a family home. So, in essence, it was to consider how to make the space work for quite a few different uses, because it’s a great space for entertaining but at the same time you need to have a cosiness to it due of its size. We really looked at how the space could be broken up and not be spoiled, meaning we had to make sure to keep the architecture intact but make the idea of living in this type of property a reality.

Spanning over 6,000 square feet, you had an abundance of space to work with – how was this both a reward and a challenge?

It really was an absolute dream space to work with! Mostly because of the light entering through the windows and the height of the building which are two of my favourite features of the home. The space allowed us to increase the bedrooms, so we decided to put in another floor where the master bedroom now rests. It was a challenge to make it feel, because of its size and historical structure, like a real home and the entire process was definitely a labour of love.

Were you inspired by the building’s impressive history in your redesign?

Yes, absolutely. I did not want to take away the features that were already there - the stained glass windows were quite central to the design of the helical staircase that allows for the original features to be displayed in all its glory. We also kept the small original church windows on the Kenmont Gardens side of the home.

Can you tell us more about that one of a kind kitchen designed by Rupert Bevan?

I actually knew very much the sort of kitchen that I wanted to create when the design process began. It had to be as much of an entertainment space (it sits within the large reception space) as possible. I wanted to create this illusion of the kitchen looking like furniture that is part of the room rather than standing out as a kitchen. The client and I had a very clear vision of the materials that were going to be used since the beginning of the project, and I knew of Rupert Bevan and of his talent to work with different types of materials. Polished concrete worktops, patterned brass panels; I was certain Rupert could execute the vision I had in the kitchen space. Perhaps one of the best details of the kitchen is that the materials we were drawn to are still very much desired in interiors –  the timeless aspect that I wanted translated in the final design beautifully.

Perhaps one of the most spectacular features of the home is the central open-plan reception and kitchen pocket – how did you play with volume and light in this space?

The importance of that space is that I wanted it to flow and carry a timeless quality with it. The building has such a special feel when you walk in it because the architecture had to speak for itself, so creating the sitting room meant that everything placed inside had to flow within the framework. It’s almost like a juxtaposition between the massiveness and volume of the ceilings and the softness found in the materials. The piece that, I believe, completed the space are the very large sculpture wall hangings placed on either side of the fireplace. They’re made from metal and introduce a spectacular ethereal presence. That in combination with other materials that come across as harsh, such as the concrete, dark wood and steel creates a sense of floating, largely due to the light entering through the windows

Describe the home in one sentence.

The space is so incredibly diverse – on the one hand it’s a great party venue, but on the other hand, it’s also the most beautiful, healing space. It’s so calming, so light and peaceful despite its intimidating size. You simply can’t put into words the feeling that that home provides.

Did colour come into play in the furnishings and fittings?

Yes it absolutely did. In the main sitting room, my focus was to make the space flow, hence the white sofas and gentle uses of colours found throughout. I really wanted the materials to speak in this pocket. By the kitchen area, we introduced more colour in order to ground the space and evoke that feeling of a relaxed, family area. The great thing about that space is that you can change is so freely – you can change the mood so readily with lighting and colour. My main reason in going in the gentle and neutral direction was to create a sense of calm throughout. I really wanted the architecture to sing.

At the same time, I wanted and almost had to use very strong materials to combat the volume of the framework – without doing so, those features would have simply drowned in the architecture and I aimed to achieve a home in which both were complementing each other. 

A beautiful marriage between a traditional framework with modern interiors, how did you make sure to retain the originality of the structure?

It was about marrying whatever you put inside with the historical significance of the framework. The interiors that were being placed within could not detract from the architectural space that it’s sat within, so the interiors had to seamlessly complement what was already there. There had to be a relationship between the two.

What was most important in your approach when designing the bedrooms?

We wanted the bedrooms to be approached in a largely discreet manner, again, showcasing the beauty of the structure in the arched windows and in the case of the master bedroom, the vaulted ceiling and skylights. The goal at all times was to also utilise creating storage so to not draw away from the building itself.

The master bedroom is unlike anything else we’ve seen: a vaulted ceiling, various skylights and occupying the entire second floor. How did you approach the design of this space?

We took the opportunity, with the amount of space we were given to work with, to create an additional floor where the master bedroom would reside. Getting the height up there and creating the master bedroom was a really proud moment in that it creates the ultimate hideaway within the home. It is so peaceful, elevated to further evoke a sense of tranquillity, so light, and together with the bespoke bathroom, creates the ideal luxurious sanctuary. Again, the space was all about materials; so, you have the tadelakt plaster which creates a very tactile space. The starkness, minimalism and manliness evoked in the colour and materials align with the vision I had with this space.

What do you want anyone entering this home to take away from the one of a kind space that is one of the most impressive residences in the area?

I would want anyone stepping into the home to take away a sense of peace and to be inspired. Having lived in this space myself, it’s quite difficult to put into words just how incredible and rare this home is. You can’t be anything but inspired when setting foot in this space. Everything within the home is entirely bespoke and many features, such as the helical staircase, are made by hand so you truly feel the dedication, labour and level of craftsmanship that has gone into creating this one of a kind space.

Kenmont Gardens is now for sale, view the property here.