Once upon a time, there was a house that had seen better days. Back in the middle of the 19th century, it had been constructed as a private residence in Notting Hill, one of London’s prettiest neighborhoods. By the 1920s, it had come down in the world, reconstituted into a “ladies’ residential club” (read: boarding house for women), and then, after the Second World War, it had become a hotel. The hotel was eventually divided into apartments, one occupied by a young magician advertising for a beautiful assistant. Today, a different type of sorcery—aesthetic, architectural, familial—has brought it to domestic life again, a life ringing with lessons taken on an upright piano in the dining room, board games in the living room, and four lively children dashing in and out of the garden.
“Until this project, I never thought I’d be so invested in bunk beds,” says Los Angeles–based interior decorator Olivia Williams. The parents of the youngsters are Chantal Spanicciati, a former designer herself who now works as a therapist promoting mental well-being, and her husband, Mario Spanicciati, a software entrepreneur. They had met Williams back in California, but the designer’s schedule could not accommodate them as clients. Still, neither Williams nor the Spanicciatis forgot the instant camaraderie.
“I loved her simplicity and aesthetic,” says Chantal, while Williams recalls the couple’s “calm and gentle demeanor,” adding that “in this business, what’s important is to work with people you like.” A house in Montana for the growing family came into Williams’s hands, and then, when the Spanicciatis prepared to relocate to London, they knew precisely whom to call. Even if it meant having to conduct many tasks at long distance, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The couple had only visited the house once or twice before the lockdowns began, and did not set foot inside until everything was complete.