Everyone and their brother has written about designer and antiquarian Rose Uniacke’s London townhouse. And for good reason. Last year her house starred in its own moody short film, which I had planned to screencap at the time. I finally did just that this weekend after I was reminded of it when seeing a bench of Uniacke’s on M. Naeve’s instagram:
Rose who owns the eponymous shop in Pimlico where she deals in the finest one of a kind pieces – new and old – is probably one of the hottest names in the London design scene.
Besides running her exclusive shop, she also designs furniture and lighting, fabrics and accessories, along with the odd thing such as playing cards.
Rose is also a much sought out interior designer, but the names of her clients are kept close to the vest. We do know of a few: the Beckhams hired her to finish their new London townhouse after they moved on from Kelly Hoppen. Rose designed the Jo Malone London offices in an 18th century townhouse that is more like a home than a corporate space. And, there is the Marquess of Bute’s remarkable Gothic house, Mount Stuart which Uniacke also worked on.
Rose is as quietly chic as her famously sparse interiors. Her second marriage did bring a bit of publicity – her husband is the well-known Harry Potter producer David J. Heyman.
It is their family house that is much photographed. The house is a large, 14,000 sq ft, Grade II Listed building built in 1860 with a very interesting history. Rose and her husband had seen the property a few years before they bought it. When they became serious about it, they thought they might turn the vast space into two houses, instead of one. But ultimately, with four older children and one who was very young, the couple decided to make the house theirs alone.
The brick house was the brainchild of the Victorian society portrait painter James Rannie Swinton, seen above. It was the first space built in London to combine a studio, gallery and a residence. It included a grand staircase with a domed ceiling, an octagonal ballroom and studio, along with a large conservatory with a glass roof.
Swinton, a Scotsman, built the house in 1860 to impress his wealthy clients. Costing 6,610 pounds, its exterior featured a tartan brick scheme, vast windows and an unconventional form that was said to upset his more conservative minded neighbors. As a frequent traveler, Swinton had taken the Grand Tour of Europe and he wished to have a Renaissance styled Roman villa of his own, which explains the exotic facade. When Swinton died in 1888, the dancer Isadora Duncan moved in for a while. Later, Sir Charles Ross lived there. The house was used by the Grosvenor School of Art, a dancing school, and even a Roman Catholic Church.
A famous student of the Grosvenor School of Art, William Kermode, also lived there and he created this woodcut in 1930 of a vignette in the house.
Most recently Milton Grundy set up the Warwick Arts Trust in the house for young artists to live there. Grundy’s own art collection was housed in the galleries.
General Sir Dighton MacNaughton painted by James Rannie Swinton. Gorgeous.
By the time Rose and her husband bought the house – it had been turned into five flats. The original staircase had been replaced with a faux Tudor one. There was a series of fireproof doors installed for safety purposes, and the impressive millwork was hidden under layers upon layers of commercial paint. Rose spent three long years renovating it – turning it back into a single family residence.
Here, is the original architectural rendering for Swinton’s Roman style villa that is now Rose Uniacke’s house. It looks remarkably the same today, except for the front porch and the size of the first floor corner window. You can see the distinctive tartan brick pattern on this drawing.
Here is what the house looks like today – almost 160 years later. It looks basically the same, down to its distinctive striped brick pattern. The two impressive octagonal rooms, up and down stairs, are seen on the far right. The interior courtyard, or Winter Garden, is located in the area to the right of the front door – behind the windowless stucco facade.
A view of the two corner octagonal rooms. Today, the former ballroom is upstairs, while the Painting Room or as it is today, the movie theatre, is located in the ground floor room, where the large side window is.
Here is the original 1860 floor plan for the studio/home. The Winter Garden today is labeled “Picture Gallery” – this is where Swinton show prospective clients his finished canvases. The octagonal “Painting Room” is where Swinton worked on his portraits – today this is the movie theatre. The floor plan remains very much the same today, although the house was added onto. The stair hall retains its shape today with its semi circle which is repeated on the upstairs landing. The bay window in the “Library” remains today in what is now used as the living/dining room. Above this room is the master bedroom. The kitchen is located in the small square room “Paint Room” between the movie theatre and the living/dining room. What is labeled the “Dining Room” is now the sitting room with large windows that open to a brick courtyard.
Rose and her husband bought the house in 2007 and the extensive renovations took three years. An article about the long process was written up in the London papers. The famed minimalist Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen was hired for the job. Today, the restored Winter Garden adds much romance to the house and is a focal point. The other additions of the movie theatre, wine cellar, swimming pool and spa make it a family home.
The side with the stucco wall. The bay windows of the master above and the living/dining room below can be barely seen here through the beautiful climbing ivy.
One large aspect of the renovation was replacing the stairs which had been rebuilt after they were bombed in the war. Today, there is now a gorgeous cantilevered staircase with stone steps. Also salvaged was the intricate plasterwork and moldings. The floors are Rose’s trademark of untreated wooden boards from France. Signs of the 21st century are not seen: hidden I-pad panels control the AC and sound.
The interiors, of course, are all Rose: large comfy sofas mixed with antique furniture. There is no printed fabric, only her own plain wool cashmere and linens.
Rose says of her design philosophy:
“I don’t over-furnish, I like there to be a feeling of light and space.”
“I would prefer to have one fabulous piece of furniture rather than walls covered in something highly decorative.”
The front door towards the left, opens to a long hall with arched paneling and moldings, which wraps around the Winter Garden. Notice how the floorboards were laid around the corner.
The front door leads down this hall with a wall of arched French doors that were added to open up to the Winter Garden. This brick space was once the painter’s gallery where Swinton would show his clients his work. The ceiling was lower and the walls were stucco – during the renovation, the new skylight was installed and the rafters were exposed making the room much higher. The stucco was removed and the brick walls was exposed – what was once a Gallery became a Winter Garden and the heart of the house.
The entry hall to the left wraps around the Winter Garden to the stair hall seen at the door on the right.
The walls were once covered in stucco. During the renovation, it was scraped off to reveal the brick. Do you see the hidden jib door?
These doors open to the front door’s entry hall where an antique bench sits.
A Screencap from the short movie about the house shows Rose walking through a jib door that is disguised by faux bricks!! This door leads to the octagonal movie theatre.
Here she goes through the hidden jib door. Notice the fountain in the corner which Rose purposefully put off-centered in the room.
This French door leads to the stair hall. This antique planter was once actually a fountain.
Above is the new conservatory light – which replaced the old inferior one that was installed in 1970. The rafters were left exposed.
An instagram photo of the Winter Garden set for a romantic night meal.
The stair hall shows the newly built cantilevered stone steps. There is a cozy fireplace. The door on the left leads to the Winter Garden. Through the other door is the entry hall.
In this view – notice how tall the ceilings are.
And an even taller view of the stair hall.
Looking the other direction with the arches that leads to the movie theatre, kitchen, and living/dining room. The stair hall with its tall ceiling must be so impressive.
Notice the round pattern in the wood floor.
A screencap from the short movie, with a glimpse to the kitchen. To the left is the living/dining room – with its small lobby.
The small lobby to the living/dining room marked by two tall fluted columns.
The living/dining room with the bay windows that overlooks the back gardens. Off the entrance to the room is a pair of columns. Rose’s trademark antique chandelier hangs above, unlit – as she likes it.
A view of her Draper Table. Notice the beyond gorgeous chandelier.
Here, you can see the x-base of the table Rose designed.
From the movie – a view of the sofa that faces the fireplace. A pair of mirrors rest above a pair of marble consoles.
The window above the fireplace becomes a mirror at night. Antique textiles flank the mantel.
From the movie – the jib door opens to the kitchen, in what was once Swinton’s square Paint Storeroom.
Another view of the living/dining room with the sofa removed for a dinner party. This photo shows off the beautiful moldings and paneling.
Outside the Living/dining room is a courtyard garden.
Farther down from the living/dining room is the library – furnished with Rose’s own oversized sofas and chairs. The French door leads to the courtyard behind the house. The piano is from Rose’s childhood.
When Rose couldn’t find the right sofa size for the room, she designed them herself.
A screencap from the movie – Rose collects antique textiles and antique Fortuny fabrics, seen here made up as pillows.
A large antique console holds photo frames.
The view outside the library – to the courtyard.
Rose stands outside the Living/dining room with its tall French doors that leads out to the back courtyard. The tartan brick detail is very obviously seen here.
The kitchen. Next to the living/dining room, it features Rose’s stucco light fixtures. Beautiful antique table and chairs. The big surprise is that apparently, it was recently redone at some point as it is quite different than it was once photographed. Notice there is no longer an island and the cabinetry has been changed.
Before, the kitchen had an island with a sink. Perhaps, they wanted a table and chair to eat at instead of the island? Notice how tall the ceilings are in this square shaped room. The floor has antique flags from France.
In the first version of the kitchen, the tall window looks out on the side street at the neighboring church. The bar stools are sold at Rose Uniacke.
This door leads into the living/dining room.
The movie theatre – located in the ground floor octagonal room that leads off both the Winter Garden and Stair hall. More antique Fortuny pillows. This room was once the Painting Room where Swinton worked. Rose hung canvas on the walls in his honor. Look carefully – you can see the movie projector’s lens through the hole in the canvas.
Screencapped from the movie – the large window is on the corner of the house’s facade. The chandelier raises up out of the way when a movie is playing. Before the renovation, mezzanine levels were added on each side of the room, reached by spiral stairs – this was all removed by Rose.
The bar has a marble countertop and sink.
The stone steps leading upstairs.
The landing leads to a set of steps up to the former ballroom. Notice the beautiful ceiling.
Up the set of stairs, as on the ground floor, are similar arches in an identical semi circle.
Rose on the set of steps leading to the ballroom/study.
Up the landing at the arched half circle is the double door that leads into the octagonal ballroom, now used as a study.
This view shows the incredibly beautiful octagonal shape of the ballroom/study. Columns carved into the molding encircle the room, which is so exquisite. Be sure to notice the moldings, paneling and ceiling. The double doors lead back onto the second floor landing.
Another view. Notice the mantel.
The uber chic English Rose seen in the octagonal room taken at dusk. The partners antique desk has a rare octagonal shape.
A partial view of the gorgeous ceiling and gold curtains.
Here, decorated with a 17th century rug. As in each room – another absolutely gorgeous antique chandelier.
Set up for a private dinner.
The 17th century Mogul rug sits underneath the antique partner’s desk. I don’t think you can see enough photographs of this gorgeous room.
Next to the ballroom is the master bedroom, the room above living/dining room with the bay window. Two silk skirted tables flank the bed. Gorgeous pair of antique mirrors.
Gorgeous crystal chandelier, spoon chair, and a pair of antique mirrors.
Screencapped from the movie – a view of the bay window in the master bedroom.
The master bathroom was probably once another bedroom – it is so large. Two chairs sits in front of the fireplace. Be sure to notice the sinks on the left, and the beautiful ceiling. Sconces by Uniacke.
The pretty view from the second floor is of the old church across the street.
These photos of the following bedrooms aren’t shown on the magazine articles or the movie, but they are seen on the web site. This bedroom has an en-suite located down a few steps through the beige curtains, instead of a door. An unusual bit of pattern seen in the drapery fabric. The mirror is incredible – and is on the web site for sale. “If you have to ask….”
The small bathroom has a hanging marble sink and tub. That antique chair is beautiful!!! To the right is the shower, seen below:
The stucco shower with marble floor.
This guest bedroom overlooks the roof garden.
And its en suite with an adorably tiny fireplace, this Roman marble tub took a team of men to lift it up to the top of the house.
The roof garden off the guest bedroom with the plants in wooden tubs. You can see the church’s spire – which looks so romantic.
This large bedroom has a canopy bed with a rare patterned fabric. Green blankets and navy curtains.
The desk and antique sofa across from the bed.
The canopy bed with Rose’s green cashmere blanket – which is gorgeous.
Its paneled bathroom has another hanging marble sink.
Towel warmer is a must in England! So nice. In the mirror, notice the Uniacke designed light fixture.
A rather plain hallway is made so much more interesting with a barrel roof and lanterns.
The basement level which was broken up into five flats, was given a new contemporary look with the addition of the spa, pool, wine cellar, and other spaces. Uniacke tried to tie the basement level in with the more dressy upper levels with the flooring and fixtures.
The wine cellar was added in the renovation.
The swimming pool made of lava stone was added along with a spa in the basement level.
The pool with the doors closed.
Sitting area off the pool.
…and with the door closed. Wish these pictures were better, but so many of these photos are such great quality, I hate to complain!
At the landing, flowers – from Instagram.
From a drawing in 1860, a dream of an artist to build a Roman styled villa, where his clients could come and view his work and then sit in his “Painting Room,” flooded with northern light from its large side picture window, to be painted by James Rannie Swinton.
The architectural plans for the ground floor – drawn by the architect George Morgan.
Get it right the first time – and it will last forever.
Rose Uniacke HERE.
Huge sale below on these things and many many more.