Beata Heuman, the London–based AD100 decorator who has captivated the world with her colorful, chock-full-of-charm homes, has worked with all sorts of clients. But, she admits, she has developed a type: People who have just started their families with one or two young children in tow. So when two just-married (and childless) twenty-somethings hired her to decorate their roomy, two-floor corner apartment (with a private roof terrace!) in London’s trendy Notting Hill neighborhood, the brief was, well, kind of liberating.
“It was quite fun to design for a young couple where it’s more about entertaining friends and making them feel comfortable and relaxed than thinking too much about nappy stations,” Heuman says. For this project, she worked closely with Caroline Barker, her senior designer. Once they got to work, they realized the apartment had a bit of a reputation: “People in the neighborhood knew it as a party flat,” Heuman says. She and her team leaned into the lore, creating elevated entertaining opportunities wherever they could.
The late 19th-century hotel-turned-apartment—tucked discreetly above some shops—had good bones, but some rather unfortunate interventions. So, Heuman and Barker worked their magic. Their biggest architectural tweak was to transform an awkward staircase—one of the first things you see when you enter the house from the street—into what Heuman describes as, “a swoop; something dynamic and circular and a lot more welcoming.” Meanwhile, around the house they made mood-enhancing updates. They removed a ton of bulky built-in storage, opening up space where they could, they installed traditional cabinetry in the kitchen all the way up to the ceiling (more storage that way!), and clad the cozy, second-floor library space with polished French birch plywood panels. Although the dark brown floors on the lower level weren’t really to their taste, they opted for the least invasive option: A coat of not-quite-fuchsia paint, inspired by a floor Heuman clocked in Palermo on her honeymoon. It set the tone for the project.
“The challenge was to celebrate the openness of the space, but not make it feel overwhelmingly big for just the two of them,” Heuman explains. She thinks a lot about floor plans, about how her clients will move through their home in different ways. And, when decorating this roomy apartment for two, she wanted to ensure that spaces wouldn’t sit empty or unused. “We work a lot with contrast, creating different moods in different rooms. You want a reason to go into a different area,” she continues. Hence, the cozy, moody, wood-clad library; the fanciful, terrace-adjacent dressing area; and the cork-covered office.
Although the clients originally asked for a minimalist home, Heuman and Barker happily nudged them into a slightly more fanciful direction when it came to furnishings, fabrics, and, of course, that fuchsia floor. Furnishings are a colorful and casual mix of vintage and antiques, bespoke designs, and pieces from Heuman’s own in-house line Shoppa. And, as in all of Heuman’s projects, one-of-a-kind touches abound. Lamps in the dining area are topped with bespoke shades painted by Lois Bryson-Edmett, a junior designer in Heuman’s office. The fireplace, given a coat of chalkboard paint, bears doodles and messages from friends. A custom headboard was conjured for the petite guest bedroom. And when the client, who has Swedish roots like Heuman, requested some Scandinavian references, the designers infused the space with several bold Josef Frank prints from the Stockholm design mecca Svenskt Tenn.
The heart of the home is the open-plan, second-floor space where two cozy Pinch sofas (a Heuman favorite) face off in the sitting area adjacent to the kitchen and dining spaces. Classic cabinetry stretches to the ceiling (Heuman was inspired by the kitchen at Swan House in Atlanta, Georgia), and a custom butcher block on wheels can be moved around depending on the mood. The early 19th-century French extending dining table—one of their first purchases for the apartment—is the perfect canvas for dinner parties: Its rich, warm walnut wood is worn in just enough that the clients didn’t have to feel precious about it. “This open area here can work as a dance floor, and then there’s a bar here,” Heuman explains, pointing out the custom bar, painted by a specialist. Soon they’ll add a DJ deck to the right of it. You can picture the precise, post-dinner moment when the music gets a little groovier and guests take off their shoes.
“Okay, it might still be a bit of a party flat,” Heuman admits and then laughs. “But it looks better than it ever has.”