Rare is the central London townhouse that hasn’t been done up. Rarer still is one that has a ballroom. But there was such a place steps away from the Wallace Collection in Marylebone: a former old-school men’s club that had been divided into apartments. The main floor—a three-bedroom space with a sweep of regal reception rooms—was the most magnificent.
爱博体育下载An Italian from the fashion industry bought it as his new London home. And then he called Laura Sartori Rimini and Roberto Peregalli of Studio Peregalli in Milan to return it to its 18th-century grandeur. “We knew they’d be able to understand the atmosphere of this place,” the owner says. “We were also very fond of their master, the legendary Italian designer Renzo Mongiardino, who had done a project for our house in Italy more than 20 years ago.”
爱博体育下载When the owner brought the designers to see the apartment, “There was immediate agreement about what had to be done to give a homey feeling to those big salons,” he says.
For Sartori Rimini and Peregalli, it was imperative to retain the home’s absolute Englishness. “We are totally against the globalization of taste,” says Sartori Rimini, who trained as an architect. “We always emphasize the relationship that exists between the place and the project—that you know you are in London, not in Paris or Italy or somewhere else.”
爱博体育下载They began by stripping back two centuries’ worth of paint, plaster, and wallpaper to find the architectural bones. “It was like an archaeological excavation,” Sartori Rimini says of their process.
Curiously, the building had been advertised as a 19th-century construction. “But when we hit the bas-relief,” Peregalli says, “we realized it was from the Adam period,” referring to the 18th-century neoclassical style made fashionable by the Scottish brothers Robert and James Adam. “We don’t know if it is by Robert Adam,” Peregalli says.
“But it could be,” Sartori Rimini interjects. “Because the proportions of the plasterworks are very Adam-like.”
The duo found traces of color that steered them toward a palette of pale blues, chalky greens, and dusky peaches. “We are not fond of typical restorations of Adam houses, when everything becomes very bright and new,” Peregalli says. “We decided to keep a patina, a faded color. So you could call it an homage to Adam.”
Imagining what a historic setting would have looked like is Studio Peregalli’s forte—an approach learned from their mentor, Mongiardino, and honed since they opened their own studio in the 1990s. “Not a replica of a historic room,” Sartori Rimini says. “Something more.”
爱博体育下载“With an Italian twist,” Peregalli adds.
They worked with artisans skilled in traditional crafts to produce much of the decor and furnishings. Take the master bedroom: For the wallpaper, the designers drew the pattern, then had their team hand-paint it.
Same for the frieze in the salon: They deduced that the Regency-style fireplaces were from the turn of the 18th century and would have been designed in the style of “the architects of the era—people like Thomas Hope and John Soane,” Peregalli says. To honor this detail, the designers invented a neo-Grec trompe l’oeil, which the Milanese artisans reproduced by hand.
As the building’s developers had already put in a kitchen and baths, there was little structural work to be done. To create a formal dining room, Sartori Rimini and Peregalli simply set a Coromandel screen in the sprawling kitchen, dividing the room in two. (The screen, which they purchased in Paris and restored, is a discreet nod to the owner’s exceptional collection of Orientalist art.) To place the chandelier over the off-center dining table, they added a chain and draped it across the ceiling. “Luckily, we found a beam upon which to hang it,” Peregalli says with a laugh.
The most notable detail was what the duo didn’t do: weigh down the rooms with heavy fabrics. “The home has big windows, which is unusual in London, with its gloomy weather,” Sartori Rimini says. They chose transparent linen to dress them “to let in as much light as possible.”
“Excellent!” is how the owner describes the result. He especially appreciates Studio Peregalli’s work to “find again the might of the stuccos, paired with the delicacy of the colors—mixing invention and discovery.”
What’s more, he says, “The harmony created between the original architecture, which had almost been erased from a previous bad restoration, and the furniture, much of which was custom made for the home, makes it all seem as if it has always been there.”
This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of ELLE Decor.