A GROWN-UP RETREAT IN A HISTORIC TOWN HOUSE
WRITTEN BY JEANINE MATLOW / PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATYA DE GRUNWALD
In theory, the objective to create a magnificent master suite on a light-filled level of a Georgian town house on a classic garden square in a hip London neighborhood seemed plausible. The caveat would be that the updates had to respect and preserve the exquisite original features without diminishing the contemporary and fashion-forward feel of the renovation. Enter interior designer extraordinaire Anna Burles—cofounder of London-based Run For The Hills with her husband, Chris Trotman, a graphic designer and artist—to balance the history of the building with modern-day living.
Mixed metals, warm wood tones, and playful personal artwork work together to create a welcoming, serene space that spans an entire floor of a historic London town house.
While the circa-1800s structure boasted an amazing location in Islington, a stone’s throw from all the bars, shops, and restaurants in the area, it did need some love poured into it, says Burles. When approaching extensive projects like these, sustainability remains a key part of the process. “We use responsible methods and materials where possible,” she adds. “We also encourage clients not to throw things out without good cause. A reupholstered sofa lives to fight another decade and a well-designed kitchen might only need new doors and finishes, rather than ripping everything up and starting again.”
One sustainable move for this design was determining a suite location with staying power. Back in the day, the ground level would have been a more formal social space, while the second floor served as a family-oriented space or a master bedroom. Though the previous owners had it configured as a living room, her clients imagined their master suite.
“Using an entire floor of the building for the master bedroom and en suite created a hugely practical and glamorous space for the owners,” says Burles. The busy working couple, who had a toddler at the time and now have two children, envisioned a clutter-free adult haven in a spacious suite that could also house their extensive wardrobe. An en suite bathroom with enough space for the two of them to get ready without bumping into each other was another priority.
In response to their request for plenty of storage, Burles discreetly incorporated a bespoke paneled feature with hidden cupboards and cabinets galore into the bedroom. As a bonus, the installation also serves as a backdrop for the bed and provides nightstand space. Because existing architectural features could not be altered, the freestanding piece mimics a traditional built-in.
A calming yet rich color palette of urban grays and other neutrals adds warmth and organic touches via the wood floors, live-edge bed-side tables, and the midcentury bench at the end of the bed. “The Georgians loved bold color, so our standout teal headboard plays into their passion for drama,” says Burles.
Other distinctive details include layers of tactile fabrics and patterns that lend texture and visual interest to the super king-size bed. A capiz shell light fixture makes a lovely statement overhead, while brass pendants hung low on either side enhance the ceiling height and save surface space.
Burles infused whimsy into the traditional, grown-up space with unique vintage pieces like the polar bear from an antiques store. “His pop of fresh white color also draws the eye into the niche, which is a great spot for charging phones during the night without cluttering up the small bedside table,” she says.
As for the dramatic master bathroom, Burles says they tried a number of layouts, but kept coming back to a his-and-hers vanity (which is very space hungry) that led them away from the walls. “A bit more work in terms of plumbing, but worth it,” she adds. A vintage rosewood sideboard was repurposed to create the freestanding piece featuring Carrara marble sinks and floating mirrors.
Bespoke tiles and attractive brass accents make the en suite shine. The focal point, a custom steel-framed shower enclosure, was intentionally positioned in a bright area. Floor-to-ceiling windows at the front and rear of the town house introduce ample natural light, framing spectacular garden views and illuminating the homeowners’ personal art.
Reimagined residences like this blend an unpredictable mix of vintage and antique classics with a next-generation aesthetic. “I am also lucky to have a super talented artist-designer husband!” says Burles. “So I get to commission him to create special pieces for our design projects.”
For Burles, who previously worked as an event stylist and a celebrity reporter, interior design came later in life and stayed. “I’ve had lots of creative jobs, but I finally found my calling!” she says. “Designing people’s homes is such an intimate thing and one of your overriding missions is to make it their dream space . . . a space they won’t just be happy in, but productive too, which unlocks things for their passions, their work, their hobbies, their families and the way they live their lives.”
A successful merger of old and new elements turns a master suite into a restful retreat filled with thoughtful design for style, storage, and comfort.