The last few years have seen the emergence of a notably more contemporary London interior design style. Riding in tandem with the city’s grand historical style of marble fireplaces hung with oversized gilded mirrors, chintz upholstery and imposing breakfronts by master cabinet makers, the new rendition is London for a modern design mind.
Showcasing this alternative design identity, Twenty Grosvenor Square—the world’s first standalone Four Seasons private residences—opened last year, heralding not only a new age in luxury property development for the capital but completely epitomising the quintessentially modern look.
“It is often said that true style is timeless, while fashions come and go… One of our main design principles for the apartments is to create spaces that are enduringly elegant and which remain relevant and as enjoyable to live in in 10 years’ time as they are today,” explains Jiin Kim-Inoue, Design Director at Finchatton who is responsible for the schemes, in a statement which perfectly sums up the London interior design aesthetic. Timeless, elegant, relevant, enduring.
Here are six times Twenty Grosvenor Square mastered those key London design elements.
1. A sophisticated, neutral colour palette
If you want to master the London look, you have to understand the London colour palette. For as long as can be remembered, the city’s palette of choice has undoubtedly been blue-focused with “it” neutrals being redefined by the greys found so often in London spaces. From powder blue to deep navy, air blue to denim, the colour scheme swings heavily to the cooler and subdued side of the wheel. (It’s rare to see lots of vibrant, pure colours used as in sunny locales.) This characteristically London aesthetic reads as calming but tailored—two of the city’s most sought-after vibes.
With an established blue and cool neutral base, the addition of warmer neutrals (and, of course, on-trend additions like 2017’s millennial pink) round off London’s favoured look.
“Think neutral tones, various accents of blues and greens,” explains Jiin, “But then we do use hues of more lively colours to bring warmth, such as dusky pinks. These colour tones and combinations help create the London aesthetic, as they are those that are typically associated with classical British style that remains popular choices for modern design. Where we do use deeper and richer tones, they are often colours that have been popular in the past in grand London homes, and we use them in a modern setting for a few focal pieces, such as a pair of deep green armchairs in a reception, to add balance against the lighter tones and to inject some stronger colour.”
2. Refined, modern furniture with an international appeal
Sculptural and, some might even say, understated is modern London’s preferred style of furniture. The aesthetic strikes a note between Parisian minimalism, rethought Art Deco and avant garde contemporary. Curved sofas wrap around circular contemporary coffee tables, shaped marble side tables flank tailored accent chairs and commanding artwork hovers over simply adorned sideboards.
Modern London furniture is perhaps the most notable divergence from its traditional aesthetic for which it has been so renowned. In the place of decorative carvings, heavy casegoods and rich fabrics, the exquisite craftsmanship of modern London design is showcased in its considered lines, finely finished pieces and lack of overdesign. Where traditional elements (nail-head trim, piping, et al) are used, the application is simplified and doesn’t detract from the crispness of the piece.
Of Twenty Grosvenor Square’s perfectly London chic furniture choices, Jiin recognises, “It’s certainly not a ‘cookie cutter’ approach and, as a result, the styles and themes are varied which appeals to a wider and international audience.”
3. Updated architectural features
It wouldn’t be a London interior without some to-die-for architectural features. Bay windows, panelling, fireplaces, staircases and cornicing all make up the fabric of the quintessential London home. In modern London interiors, these features are equally important (nay, staples) but they take on a fresher character, at times fading into the background to create expansive gallery-like spaces.
Fireplaces take inspiration from the stepped lines of 1920s designs, straddling timeless and contemporary styles. Cornicing, if simple, is often used to hide window treatment mechanisms (another modern move) and, if decorative, is blended into the ceiling with an overall paint. No accent colours or unnecessary ornamentation here.
Twenty Grosvenor Square’s use of fully upholstered panelled walls, trimmed with brass detailing, harks back to traditional techniques Its ceiling trim is traditional in its inspirations but feels brilliantly relevant, simply adding sophistication to a new setting. Jiin reveals some of its architectural elements: “Many apartments have chamfered window reveals, while some feature floor-to-ceiling sash windows with cornice detailing on the ceiling and mouldings on the walls—all classical architectural details that provide a refined setting for the interior design. By doing so, we are striving to appeal to an audience which appreciates understated luxury and sophistication rather than design trends; an aesthetic which we believe is inherent in the makeup of modern London style.”
4. Art gallery-like accessorising
London is a city driven by creativity, and its reputation and history of being an art and design mecca informs much of its interior design style. Designers’ accessorising leans towards the gallery-like with meticulously curated collections of abstract art (a London favourite), dynamic sculptures and textural sculptural objets.
Monolithic sculptures (often large scale) which focus on texture interplay or curving and swooping ones which excitingly lead the eye dominate vestibules and window niches, wall-hung artworks are given capacious or even custom-built display walls and mirrors (like in the TGS reception) become art pieces. Tabletops are smartly accessorised with neatly piled coffee table books, hand-finished vases and trayfuls of lacquered boxes, heady candles and elegant bowls.
Importantly, there is no one method for collecting accessories for your home or an example of a décor capsule collection which are very subjective processes. Jiin recognises this about artwork: “[It] is generally a very personal decision, but we have selected pieces that mix a contemporary London style with the traditional, again trying to add modern elements to an otherwise historic location. To avoid a manicured appearance, artwork looks best when it gives the impression of it having been collected over time, with each piece finding its natural place in the home.”
5. Glossy, silken flooring
A modern London interior can be recognised from its ceiling to its floor and a luxury project in the capital isn’t without its silken floor treatment, whether a permanent carpet or a rug.
“We typically prefer silk or silk/wool-mix rugs with a subtle pattern or texture to them, but new modern techniques allow for various materials to be introduced to them with great effect—looping in metallic threads and sisal, or mixed and hand-tufted silks and cashmere create amazing textural landscapes. Natural looking patterns, such as a mottled effect, are more subtle than a modern abstract design, although the colour is also important here!”
6. A composed balance
We know that London’s grand townhouses offer much by way of wonderfully symmetrical architectural features but even its styling portrays its characteristically careful balance. A London interior is not so rigid as its predecessors (where the invisible centre line of formal spaces acted as a mirror without a millimetre of difference) but certainly more composed that the free spirit nature of bohemian and eclectic spaces. Mastering the London look is more about balance and harmony rather than exact mirror imaging.