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Interior designer Suzy Hoodless worked with the owners of this west-London townhouse to create a glamorous effect, using mid-century pieces and a dark colour palette with the occasional splash of brightness
If Suzy Hoodless wanders off upstairs during a first meeting with clients, they shouldn’t be alarmed. She’s only going to have a quick riffle through their wardrobe. This is not in the spirit of covetousness or idle curiosity: it’s one of the ways in which she sizes up a client’s taste. A less obviously intrusive way is a quick up-and-down of what they are wearing. According to Suzy Hoodless, generally people feel more confident in their fashion choices and it’s easy to translate their taste in clothes into interiors.
On that basis, the owner of this six-storey west London house must have a pretty fabulous wardrobe. But it’s not something Suzy Hoodless needed to delve into, as the client came armed with tear sheets and mood boards.
‘What I notice from looking back at them,’ says the owner, ‘is that she has included all the elements I wanted but in a far less obvious way than was shown in the cuttings. Suzy Hoodless has the ability to mix things up while keeping a contemporary design and avoiding clichés.’
The bones of the house, including a glass extension at the back and the obligatory west-London Townhouse basement extending under the garden to house the children’s playroom and media room, had been set by local architecture practice Michaelis Boyd, so Suzy Hoodless started out with a very elegant, clean slate.
Most of the highly glamorous furniture and twentieth-century antiques were bought in Milan. Suzy Hoodless has a good knowledge of where to source pieces, thanks to her former career as a magazine stylist. Having had a very brief fling with art as a penniless student in Manchester, she headed to London and got a job working for Tricia Guild. She then did stints of styling work at various magazines, including House & Garden.
As with most projects, the owners of this house started off believing that they had plenty of good furniture that they could reuse in the new house. Suzy, who is not one to impose her will in a draconian fashion, has a diplomatic way of dealing with this. ‘I say, “Let’s see how we go and whatever works, let’s use it.”
Fortunately in this case, the clients had bought a house in Wales at the same time, so much of their old furniture got diverted there. ‘I’m not against using existing pieces but ultimately, as the project evolves, you find it doesn’t work either in terms of scale or because the owners move on in their taste,’ says Suzy Hoodless. ‘Sometimes the old furniture is delivered and then it’s clear that it doesn’t fit.’
In this house, there is now a mix of mid-twentieth-century Scandinavian and European pieces together with a layering of contemporary design and that all-important bit of Seventies glamour. This has helped to avoid the sort of interiors where it looks as if the furniture all arrived on the same day in a job lot. ‘I like things to look a bit mismatched and not as if it was all too perfectly planned – even though it was,’ she explains.
Suzy Hoodless is the first to admit that spatial planning is not her area of expertise, so her best projects are those where she has been teamed up with architects, as here. Complementing the work done to reconfigure the space by Michaelis Boyd, Suzy has used a judicious sprinkling of furniture to bring the architecture to life.
The house, points out the owner, had very few original features left: ‘Suzy rightly pushed against trying to recreate them and instead moved forward with new materials that still feel elegant and timeless.’
Perhaps the most glamorous room of all is the first one you see on entering the house: large, Crittall-style windows and doors open on to a stunning black, book-lined study, where the elegance of the original period shutters and the industrial toughness of the architectural shelving, complete with visible nuts and bolts, is an unexpected pairing. Suzy Hoodless says she likes the idea of a house having a kind of rhythm, where you can have ‘quite challenging extremes but then other areas where the style is reined-in’.
Upstairs, the first-floor sitting room might fit the description of more ‘reined-in’ were it not for the eye- popping yellow Warren Platner chairs and the huge marble chimneypiece that replaced a rather dated Nineties one. ‘I wanted to give some shape and scale to the very large rect-angular room, but also to keep it simple and modernist,’ explains Suzy Hoodless, who added to the monumental scale with a fabulous Seguso Vetri d’Arte Seventies chandelier bought in Milan. Other Seventies touches include the low, lacquered, off-white coffee table that Suzy Hoodless bought from Caira Mandaglio.
Children’s rooms were kept fairly graphic and simple; Suzy Hoodless hates ‘cute’ decoration that they just grow out of – she has used a Børge Mogensen cabinet as a changing table in her own home. So the only concession she made to the children’s ages was bright primary colour, in contrast to the subdued luxury of their parents’ room.
The prize find for the main bedroom was the pair of very purist Scandinavian rosewood chests used beside the bed. ‘I slightly wish that I’d kept those for myself,’ she says wistfully before reminding herself that although this might be a Suzy Hoodless project, the beauty of it for her is extracting the character and personality of the clients and the process of evolving what they wanted into something that they could never have imagined.