The Pantone playground home of Olivia von Halle
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To step inside the Ladbroke Grove home of fashion designer Olivia von Halle is to be bathed in a sunbeam glow. Behind the traditional stucco façade of this five‑storey neoclassical townhouse, built in the 1890s, lies a Pantone playground. Testament to the transportive power of tonal decorating, the interior is an assortment of intensely saturated shades that starts with a sherbet-yellow hallway – complete with asymmetric ’70s furnishings by American designer Ron Seff and a muted lemon-coloured carpet.
Von Halle, 40, has never done things by halves. The daughter of an architect and a biochemist, she met her husband Hugo at the age of 23 on the dancefloor of a psychedelic trance rave and they married the following year. As London was engulfed by the financial crisis of 2008, they were living in Shanghai, where von Halle, who started her career as a trend forecaster, had a local tailor whip her up a pair of luxuriant, loose-fitting silk pyjamas, to wear with masses of costume jewellery (gin and tonic in hand) while entertaining at home after nights out. A breath of fresh air in an early-2010s era of bodycon and towering heels, that original Lila design launched her eponymous nightwear brand – which now has an annual £7mn turnover – and remains a bestseller.
Much has changed for the von Halles in the intervening years. The couple now have three children, Hieronymus (seven), Dionysus (four) and Triptych (two) – also known as Hiero, Chaos and Trip (their birth announcements sparked their own Twitter storm) – and Hugo serves as the company’s chief operating officer. Yet the same sense of unadulterated, youthful exuberance lives on in their recently renovated family home.
They bought the property in 2017, having been drawn to its abundance of light and the thriving local community. But the interior was much in need of modernisation. “The roof insulation consisted of scrunched-up Tesco bags,” she says of the 3,500sq ft space, which had once been converted into a quartet of flats. Von Halle, who describes her aesthetic as daring and elegant but with a sense of silliness, is best-known for the larger-than-life prints – portraying everything from magic mushrooms and zebras to cigarettes – that populate her thrice-yearly collections.
Unexpectedly, the house is relatively pattern free. In contrast with the frenetic pace and ever-shifting styles of fashion, when it came to cementing the decor of their new home, von Halle felt somewhat stymied by the permanence of interiors. For guidance, the couple turned to Golden Design, a London studio founded by Ellen Cumber, whose ethos is gently teasing out a client’s individual tastes in a slow, deliberate and highly collaborative way. Von Halle first met Cumber at her sister’s hen party (their younger siblings are best mates) and they instantly connected. “I have such a strong style,” says von Halle. “But I needed someone who could help me to articulate that, and to nail our shared look. People always think I’m the wild one, but Hugo also loves to shock and surprise.”
What followed was a two-stage transformation enacted over five years. It began with the remodelling of the lower-ground floor, working on the flow of the space to carve out a generous zebra marble-topped and stone-floored kitchen, the minutiae of which was carefully overseen by Hugo, the self-appointed house cook. This segment of the house gives way to a playroom, overlooking the wildflower-filled front garden conceived by Garden Club London, a boot room, a cloakroom clad in House of Hackney’s Amaranth pink Artemis wallpaper (a rare blast of print) and, to the rear, a jungly conservatory, where a long wooden Neptune dining table is dominated by giant potted palm, fig leaf and rubber plants, which von Halle annually drags into the shaded back garden to hose down as part of her systematic spring clean.
After an extended hiatus, the project’s focus shifted to the decorative schemes of the remaining floors – and so began a wild, chromatic trip to conjure what is essentially a grown-up fun house. The couple’s flamboyant array of ’70s and ’80s American decorative objects and furniture sourced from dealer Ken Bolan – including Rougier Tulip lamps, a creamy lacquered Willy Rizzo desk and a lucite plinth-mounted coffee table – set the tone for the adults-only zones that encompass a spectacular L-shaped upper-ground-floor drawing room, and the first floor’s juicy peach-hued main bedroom, complete with his-and-hers dressing rooms, and a Rosa Aurora pink marble bathroom.
“It’s like walking into a dream world,” says designer Cumber, of the experience of entering the golden atrium, where the stairwell walls are decked with original Cecil Beaton sketches, and into the rosy pink of the drawing room. It’s a room where, thanks to the gigantic sash windows, everything shimmers by day, and, says von Halle, “glows like a womb” by night.
It’s shrimp and banana foam sweets,” adds von Halle, of the tonal transition. Her horrified mother calls the drawing room “Mr Blobby” (to von Halle’s delight), and it’s a space designed for both socialising and working from home. “I wanted it to feel as though you walk in the front door and get sucked in,” says von Halle, dressed in seafoam-green silk twill Wolfe pyjamas of her own design, named after the late American actress and designer Elsie de Wolfe.
This bespoke blast of shrimp is colour-matched to the lacquer side tables that the couple inherited from Hugo’s grandmother, Marion Sassoon, a onetime decorator at Fortnum’s. The tables originally sat in Sassoon’s own personal – and entirely pink – private sitting room in Belgravia. Borrowing from the opulence of that interior there are rich textiles and polished brass finishes. “We have the best time in this room. It’s so brilliant to party in,” says von Halle, gesturing to the champagne-filled “Bolly” fridge in the corner – an unabashed statement of intent.
On the mantel of one of a duo of marble Jamb fireplaces – with alcoves flanked by floor-to-ceiling mirrors – hangs a textural acrylic oil panel painting by artist Nicolas Holiber, which their son Hiero dubbed “beautiful and terrifying”. Even on spring days, von Halle lights the fires, illuminating the displays of Murano glass boxes and modern art by David Hockney and Jason Shulman, and amplifying the space’s glossy decadence.
Come nightfall, once the children are safely in bedrooms of their own design, von Halle escapes to her dressing room. This scallion-green room, with a matching Westex carpet, features an entire wall of built-in wardrobes upholstered in Whisper, a silk twill equine print from von Halle’s AW20 collection, which depicts her horse, Herman, at a gallop. Von Halle spends hours in the cast-iron roll-top Aston Matthews bath, reading, watching films and phoning friends. Melding the theatricality of David Hicks with a Wes Anderson palette, this chromatic approach, she says, makes for brilliantly effortless accessorising. “Put any green object in that dressing room, regardless of the tone, and it just works,” she says. And the overall effect is surprisingly soothing. A palate cleanser from the pattern-filled world of her clothing collections, it is nonetheless a no-holds-barred aesthetic. Much like the celebratory spirit of the Notting Hill carnival that parades just around the corner, this home is a jolt of joy, even on the dreariest London day.