A graceful London apartment has been converted into an exhibition space – and a place to think – for this creative couple
This Notting Hill apartment is where it all began for designer Anna Burles and her husband Christopher Trotman. It is where they launched their design studio, Run for the Hills, sitting at their dining table in the front room. Over the years, as their company has grown and expanded to include branding, they gradually moved to a workshop nearby and bought a cottage, where they live with their two young children, Margot and Frank. But they have always had a soft spot for the apartment, even after renting it out for many years, and recently decided to redesign it as a showcase and gallery.
“I lived here for 10 years, even before we started Run for the Hills together, so it is an important part of my life,” says Burles. “We thought it was looking rather tired, so we decided to refurbish and update – and then decided what we were going to do with it next. Since then we have been using it for friends, family, occasional rental, but it’s also a gallery for our furniture and a place where we can invite people round, host events and talk about new plans. So, like the studio itself, it’s multi-purpose.”
Run for the Hills combines the couple’s different talents in a particular way. Burles tends to look after the interior design side of things, which includes residential projects both in the UK and abroad. Trotman specialises in graphic design and visual art and looks after the branding side of their company. Increasingly, the two sides of the business work together on projects, particularly with restaurants, where their skills embraces everything from the design of the space itself through to the logo, menus and drinks mats. Working together, Burles and Trotman have designed three restaurants, a cookbook, and a bar and cinema in Bath.Advertisement
“It’s part of the new world that we live in, with design firms like ours diversifying into different disciplines,” says Burles. “We tend to think creatively and laterally, so why be constrained by one way of doing things?”
“It’s the whole combination,” adds Trotman. “We work simultaneously and one side of the studio informs the other.”
The apartment itself embodies this kind of eclectic approach. It’s decorated with art by Trotman, some of which might end up being bought by clients, either for their homes or their work spaces. Here in the apartment they are presented in a “home gallery” setting, along with a collection of furniture, lighting and other elements.
Sitting on the raised ground floor of a terraced Victorian house not far from Portobello Road, the spacious front living room features a fresh palette of soothing chalky tones. There’s a backdrop of Pebble Grey paint from Dulux Heritage that works well with the concrete-effect vinyl floor covering, while a salvaged fireplace provides a focal point. Burles’ love of vintage furniture is evident in the Ercol sofa, with its newly upholstered cushions in an Arley House foliage print.
There’s a dining table in the bay window and an elegant, galley-style kitchen at the back. Burles rejuvinated the existing units with new doors and detailing, using a subtle shade of pink, along with brass touches and trims.
“One of our missions is to be less wasteful,” says Burles. “When we work with clients, if we can’t find a use for old fixtures and fittings we will see if we can find a home for them rather than throwing them away. Here in the apartment, we refurbished the kitchen, but in the bathroom we had to strip everything out and start again.”
The new bathroom design features graphic black and white wall and floor tiles with a splash of colour from rose pink tiles cascading down one wall. Burles and Trotman’s love of colour can be seen in the hallway with vibrant palm jungle wallpaper from Cole & Son and in the two bedrooms, with the master painted in Waxed Khaki from Dulux Heritage.
The second bedroom was once a tiny kitchen that Burles decided to convert. She designed a bespoke bed and used a combination of dark blue tones with an “ink drops” wallpaper from Feathr. “It’s quite a full-on blue,” she says.
As well as a gallery and showroom, the apartment has become a satellite studio for Burles and Trotman – a place where they can escape and focus on fresh ideas. “It’s so nice to have a bolthole that doesn’t look like a baby bombsite,” says Burles. “We can get some serious work done here. It’s like having our own design laboratory.”