Walpole, the non-profit industry body that promotes, protects and develops British luxury, has brought together Britain’s leading craft- and art-led brands in a one-off residence and event space – called House of Walpole – created by London-based interior design studio Oliver Burns.
The three-bedroom, 4,000 sq ft duplex residence is located within No 1 Palace Street, The St Regis Residences. Its building (one of five in the development), dating back to 1860 and inspired by the villas of Renaissance Italy, was once home to the Palace Hotel – one of Britain’s first five-star establishments, and has now been sensitively restored and refreshed by developer Northacre and architects Squire & Partners.
House of Walpole: ‘a love letter to Buckingham Palace gardens’
The balustraded balconies at House of Walpole overlook the Buckingham Palace gardens, which offer a verdant backdrop as well as design inspiration for Oliver Burns’ interiors. ‘This is a love letter to the gardens’ enduring beauty, transformation and resilience,’ explains Sharon Lillywhite, founding partner at the design studio. ‘Everything in here – designed by us and created by craftspeople, predominantly from Walpole brands – is a modern retelling of the garden’s stories.’
Take, for example, the console in the hallway, one of the first pieces encountered by visitors to House of Walpole. Made by Anka Bespoke, which specialises in liquid metal technology, the serpentine piece pays homage to the lake in the gardens, and combines layers of hand-poured resin and metal for an aqueous effect.
The ode to nature continues in the entertainment space, where a custom, double-sided sofa by Ben Whistler recreates the form of the lake, and a grand piano by Cambridge-based Edelweiss has been given an anemone motif, using mother-of-pearl inlay courtesy of Welsh studio Aryma. A Murano glass chandelier by Rocco Borghese likewise recreates flower petals, while the solid quartz coffee table by Linea Luxe underneath abstracts the silhouette of a tulip.
Taking centre stage within the master bedroom is a feature wall by textile artist Aiveen Daly, carved in silk and faux suede and depicting two plane trees. ‘Over 170 years ago, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert planted two trees in the garden. These now stand tall and proud, and touch in the middle,’ explains Lillywhite. Echoing the same love story, the bed linens by Peter Reed are made in Victoria’s favourite Sea Island cotton, and pillowcases have been embroidered with excerpts of a love letter Albert had written her.
Another royal who sparked Lillywhite’s imagination was Queen Charlotte, consort to George III. ‘She had a menagerie filled with lots of exotic animals, including a zebra that she’d received as a wedding gift. Hilariously, the zebra came to be known as The Queen’s Ass,’ recounts Lillywhite, who commissioned Cole & Son to create a hand-painted wallpaper for the guest toilet, based on a 1763 painting of the animal by George Stubbs. The wallpaper, which additionally features butterflies, monkeys and birds amid lush foliage, is the crowning triumph among many custom pieces in House of Walpole.
What makes House of Walpole stand out from customary showcases of generations-old craft traditions is its deft combination of artisanship and contemporary design. The colour palette – neutral base notes, muted shades of grey and blue, warm earthy tones and soft shades of green – not only evokes the colours of the gardens, but also offers an understated backdrop to the meticulously crafted furniture pieces. The impression of luxury is unquestionable, but nowhere does one feel visually overwhelmed.
Similarly important is the juxtaposition of exquisitely detailed bespoke pieces with fine examples of contemporary British furniture. A pair of Tom Dixon’s ‘Fat’ chairs adorn the informal dining area within the kitchen, facing a weeping willow wall mural by abstract painter Jan Erika, while Bohinc Studio’s ‘Saturn’ chair, which has a semi-circular back and arm rest, brings geometric statement to a dragonfly-themed bedroom. ‘We have taken a thoughtful, multi-sensory approach that mixes both timeless British institutions and the new guard in a thoroughly modern way,’ reflects Lillywhite.
Not forgetting the art, which has been curated by Walpole member Maddox Gallery. The inclusion of royal-themed artworks, such as Chris Levine’s Lightness of Being and the Miaz Brothers’ blurred portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (Royal Blue) is to be expected; as are Damien Hirst’s cherry blossoms and butterflies. More surprising and delightful are a Banksy triptych in the staircase landing, and a series of David Shrigley works in the smallest bedroom (‘Love letter you wrote was gobbledygook,’ reads the one opposite the bed.)
‘House of Walpole showcases British luxury on a scale rarely seen,’ concludes Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of Walpole. ‘It is a beautifully crafted, immersive, and celebratory presentation of the skill and wealth of design this country has to offer.’
thewalpole.co.uk (opens in new tab)
oliverburns.com (opens in new tab)
numberonepalacestreet.com (opens in new tab)