Dominic Bradbury, Journalist & Writer


There is a cinematic, picture postcard quality to the crisp John Nash houses of Regent’s Park. The neat rows of stucco-coated, terraced houses are so perfect and pristine, complemented by clipped bay trees and potted yew hedges carefully arranged around the front doors. This is one of the most delightful and desirable parts of London to make a home, with the central location on the one hand and the views across the parkland and boating lake on the other, lending an almost rural edge to the experience of living here.

Regency architect John Nash laid out the grand terraces around the edge of the park in the early 19th century, with a procession of houses sitting within each one and an imposing classical portico at the centre of the run. Many famous names have lived here over the intervening years, including writer H.G. Wells and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, while the American ambassador’s residence – Winfield House – also stands nearby. Interior designer Veere Grenney knows the Nash houses well and is a great admirer of their sense of scale, proportion and their classical pedigree. His latest project in the park marked a return to a ‘keystone’ house – one of the residences that sits behind the grand portico right at the heart of the terrace – that he first worked on around fifteen years ago for the same clients.   

‘We originally did the house in a more traditional genre and a more decorated style,’ says Grenney. ‘It’s very different now and has a more contemporary edge to it. In a way it was like starting again but it helped that we were already familiar with the house and more importantly that we were already familiar with the clients and understood what they needed.’

Grenney and his clients are firm friends with a long standing connection. The designer has just completed an apartment in Tel Aviv for the same couple, who are philanthropists and art collectors with three teenage children. They bought their five storey home in Regent’s Park just before the children were born and the needs of the family have changed and evolved over the years since Grenney first worked on the house, along with their tastes and their art collection, which was in itself a key factor in the redesign of the interiors.

‘Since I have known them the clients have become major art collectors,’ says Grenney. ‘So the decoration has become more and more pared down, the house has become more important architecturally and the quality of the finishes have become more important. All of those things allow the art collection to shine.’

The collection is certainly an important one, including pieces by Damien Hirst, Bridget Riley and David Hockney. The entrance hall of the house – with its Tracey Emin neon artwork set against at silver leafed wall and new black and white granite floors – hints at the eclectic character of the reinvented interiors, combined with the many original period features throughout. These include fireplaces, cornicing and the soaring stairway, all protected and preserved by a Grade I heritage listing that recognizes the architectural provenance of the property. The only element of the fixed fabric of the building that Grenney sought permission to alter was the doors, which were not original to the house in any case and were replaced with designs better suited to the early 19th century period.  

The ground floor has space enough for a dining room, study and a modestly scaled kitchen, with its Boffi kitchen units and a breakfast bar in arabescato marble lit by a striking 1950s ceiling light designed by Gio Ponti. The study is a more feminine space, with pale pink cotton coated walls, a desk by Jacques Adnet and artworks by Philip Guston. The walls of the generously proportioned dining room are also lined with fabric, helping the acoustics of the space and lending a softer texture. The furniture here mixes Art Deco influences and mid-century touches, such as the Gaetano Sciolari chandelier.
The blend of pieces sits well within the classical proportions of the space.

[‘What’s so lovely about Nash and this period is that it relates so well to contemporary design,’ says Grenney. ‘I love the period because it’s so elegant, it’s understated and its classically based. The clients’ taste has also become more refined and that’s why it’s such a sophisticated house now in terms of what it look likes and what’s in it.’]

The main drawing room is on the floor above, overlooking the park. This piano nobile features a free flowing L-shaped space with windows front and back and a library to the rear. Here the artwork takes a prominent role, with work by Bridget Riley and Damien Hirst singing out. The seating and upholstery is largely bespoke, with the exception of a vintage armchair designed by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. The lighting, in the form of a 1960s chandelier, is particularly striking and forms a dramatic focal point, while the colour tones throughout are soothing and subtle.

‘Maybe what I’m doing is actually putting a piece of sculpture on the ceiling with this great 1960s spider, which probably belonged in a palazzo in Italy,’ says Grenney, who launched his eponymous design studio eighteen years ago after time working with Mary Fox Linton, David Hicks and Colefax & Fowler. ‘If you put an 18th century crystal chandelier there instead then think how differently it would look. [The client loves everything to be very clean and tidy and everything is in shades of white and grey, or pale pink, somehow anchored here by the black and white pictures. It does almost have a ‘60s black and white feeling to it.’]

The adjoining library, with a Sean Scully painting hanging over the sofa, is used by the clients as a working space on many occasions, with a desk positioned at the window. The master suite on the third floor [NB IN THE UK WE WOULD SAY SECOND FLOOR] also carries echoes of the Deco period, particularly in the bathroom, where the lacquered walls and chrome fittings suggest the tailored cabin of a 1930s ocean liner, further enriched by the two Matisse pictures on the walls. The children have a triptych of rooms right at the top of the house, where the sharp angle of the exterior portico can be glimpsed through some of the windows, while the stairway is graced by three Venetian lights from the 1920s by Venini, made with evocative amethyst coloured glass.

Despite the eclectic nature of the interiors with their blend of original classical features, mid-century pieces and Deco influences – as well as the art collection – the effect is always harmonious.

‘If you work for a client for a long time, as I have in this case, then you evolve things together – it almost becomes a collaboration,’ says Grenney. ‘With these particular clients we would only need a couple of meetings to decide a room. And as the house has a harmony and tranquility to it I think it must say something about the relationship between us and the clients. What pleases me most is the way that it all hangs together very well. You walk from floor to floor and room to room and there’s a harmony about it all, of it all linking together, which I think is vital in any project.’

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