An “Architectural Oddity” in London Gets Infused With Plenty of Light and Energy

Situated along one of the world’s priciest blocks in London, in a Richard Seifert–designed Brutalist building, a worldly collector’s residence by Sally Mackereth is admittedly something of “an architectural oddity,” as the architect puts it. But the peculiarities are, for the principal of Studio Mackereth, part of the charm. “It had good bones. We needed to transform it and adapt it in such a way that would effectively celebrate London in the swinging ’60s. This building has got that swagger and spirit. [But] when we first saw it, it was in a fairly sorry state.”

Over the years, its sprawling 5,000-plus square feet had been parsed into “quite pokey little spaces,” a veritable stagnation of the original midcentury design. “A modernist plan needs to flow. You need to get a sense of space,” Mackereth explains. The project’s nostalgic spirit—with neither camp nor kitsch—was inspired, for Mackereth, by the boundary-breaking female architects who came before her. Fittingly, she placed Charlotte Perriand’s Ventaglio desk in the study and Eileen Gray’s St. Tropez rug in the entrance hall.

Ambitious work began in the entry, with Mackereth removing a portion of the original floor slab to accommodate a double-height entrance hall, including a jaw-dropping staircase that features a recessed handrail carved meticulously from solid travertine. “We made incisions—like architectural surgery,” she says. The apartment’s sheer size and its height are unusual. It’s “very rare in London to have volume,” says the architect, who remains particularly taken with the entry’s “fabulous, rather indulgent sense of volume.”

A meet-cute between form and function, the apartment hosts tactile delights at seemingly every turn. In the primary bath, you’ll spot “a big fluffy mohair window seat—why not?”; in the dressing room, tender leather flooring by Alma Leather lies underfoot; in the reception room, Verne Panton’s shapely Cloverleaf sofa beckons; and, throughout, curved sliding walls of fluted walnut allow the space to transform at will. Views of the garden, with landscaping by Chelsea Gold Award–winning Chris Moss, are rarely more than a sliding wall or moveable screen away. “All the bits you touch are important,” Mackereth says.

The home also possesses a particular “excitement about something that appears to be one thing but turns out to be another.” Shelves and drawers in the study are mitered. “All the tedious stuff,” such as air conditioning, is hidden by artfully aligned wood grain. It takes precision to achieve that, whether performing scrupulous joinery of individual corners or excavating reinforced concrete to craft the staircase of one’s dreams. “Enormous effort goes into making something effortless and right,” Mackereth says. But the results are clearly worth it. “To run your fingers along the staircase is a pleasure. It’s not just functional.”

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