This interior designer’s north London home is a masterclass in modern glamour.
Photography by Mel Yates
“How you feel in your space is crucial to your wellbeing and prosperity: fluid layouts, ample natural and enhanced light, good organisation – and reducing what you have to what you need, enjoy and find valuable, are all key elements,” Shalini tells me. Her holistic approach to design is clear. And it’s apparent in every inch of the magnificent St. John’s Wood abode that she shares with her husband and youngest daughter, alongside the family cat and golden retriever. The detached, five-bed Victorian house is at once grand and cosy, mixing impressive, gallery-like open areas with pockets of private space. With clever use of glass partitions and screens, larger rooms can be opened up or sectioned off to suit the mood and occasion. “From the exterior, the house is smart, elegant, quite uniform and symmetrical – and inside it is full of surprises,” Shalini enthuses.
To fully realise her vision, the designer needed to play around with the floor plan. Structurally, the house has undergone a significant overhaul, taking it from its traditional layout with lots of smaller, separate rooms, to a more contemporary space that celebrates flow. “We opened up the house by removing part of the ground floor so that we have a double height space between the lower ground floor and ground floor,” Shalini explains. “We installed two new staircases as architectural features and extended the lower ground floor at the back. We added glass doors along most of the back of the house on the lower ground floor, bringing in an enormous amount of light and air. We made it more suitable for contemporary living and we connected the house more to the garden.”
Outside space is a must: “I think that is really important, especially in a city – and if you can’t have a garden it’s important to be near a park.” In opening up the property’s interior space and inviting the daylight in, Shalini is able to appreciate the garden from her favourite spot in the family room – whatever the weather. “There are floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, which open out to a terrace and the garden beyond. The natural light in this room is exceptional, it’s so bright and it makes the room feel fresh and airy all the time,” she says. “I can observe the seasons from here.” But as much as this is a place of tranquillity and quiet contemplation, the designer uses it for professional inspiration, too.
“Nature inspires my work”, she explains. “From the colours and patterns to the shapes and textures, so I really enjoy using this room to work in when I work at home. Even if I’m not directly influenced by nature, enjoying it and being close to it invigorates me.”
Describing her style as “richly layered”, Shalini mixes gleaming metallics with earthy materials, while plush velvets are met with cool marble. The look is modern glamour incarnate. What’s particularly impressive – and a common thread throughout the property – is the designer’s meticulous attention to detail. “The interior is created from beautiful materials with many handcrafted elements,” she says. “My team and I did some in-depth research of British crafts and techniques, which you can see through hand-wrapped leather balustrades, marquetry on cupboard doors and bespoke patterned marble flooring. It is a space with countless artistic elements to catch your eye and admire.”
Shalini believes in a sympathetic approach when it comes to period architecture and argues that as an interior designer, it’s her job to respect original features in any property. “I love the historical side of buildings,” she explains. “I often reinstate period features into properties that have had them removed over the years. Changing trends and attitudes have meant that period details were stripped from a lot of houses but I think this is a very important part of our design history and we should respect it. Period details show the craftsmanship of a certain time, and this is an insight into what was important stylistically.” Period fixtures – grand fireplaces, ornate cornicing, and stately ceiling roses – feature heavily here and, in keeping with Shalini’s shrewd eye for detail, the cornicing and roses are hand-painted in gold, echoing the gilded elements in the modern lighting and the designer’s luxurious furniture choices. The mix of old and new is sassy yet seamless.
Citing sustainability as a core concern, Shalini says she aims for every piece, finish and decoration to be something of value, both artistically and emotionally, “So that these pieces of furniture and decorative objects will be passed on to other generations carrying stories with them.” It is no surprise, then, that the designer loves to incorporate pre-loved antique pieces alongside her go-to high-end European brands. “I’m always on the lookout for interesting designs and pieces on my travels,” she says. “In London I love visiting Alfies Antique Market and the surrounding dealers as there are always so many interesting vintage furniture and lighting pieces to discover. 1stDibs is great for vintage and antiques pieces as well,” she reveals. “I love Nilufar Gallery in Milan, which we collaborated with on a Mayfair apartment project. I also love the Italian brands Baxter and Promemoria. Italy has such a strong furniture design industry and the quality of these two brands is excellent.”
Shalini’s home is a showcase for her design prowess, a dream of a property that, like any given one of her projects, expertly combines craft, colour, technique, technology, materials, textures, shapes and volumes to create a harmonious composition. “These are aesthetic, tactile and practical elements all tied together,” she explains. “My home shows these values through the use of intricate craftsmanship, reupholstered furniture pieces that we have loved and continue to use for years, natural materials, beautiful details and a visual and tactile warmth throughout the space. There are so many interesting pieces to look at. Comfort is, of course, key. My interiors are inviting and I want everyone to feel great comfort in them.”