When Jorge Villon, a South American banker, first visited London he fell in love with the city and decided to stay for good. Since taking up residence here Villon has moved 10 times in as many years and, with each move, he has displayed an extraordinary talent for interior decoration. Now, to satisfy his craving, he buys and transforms homes on a regular basis. One recent project is a magnificent house in the West End of London where he lives with his wife, Lindsay.
Not surprisingly, this house is a testament to Villon's versatility and beliefs: comfort, continuity of look and a subtle colour palette designed to complement the style of the house. "We bought this house because it was so incredibly spacious," he explains. When they first saw the house, the couple was dumbstruck. "There was a stunned silence then we both yelled 'Wow' " recalls Villon. "The volume of space was incredible; we couldn't believe our eyes. One look and we knew this was the house for us."
Further inspection revealed that the five-storey house had two large reception rooms, a kitchen, cloakroom and patio on the ground floor; a magnificent drawing room and sitting room on the first floor and three floors dedicated to bedrooms and bathrooms. "The previous owner was an architect who had restored the house beautifully," says Jorge. "Consequently, no structural alterations were necessary and we moved in straight away."
What the house did need, however, was a sense of intimacy. The most important factor, Villon felt, was to unify the rooms in an almost subliminal way and, to this end, he kept the white background, adding 19th-century French oak herringbone flooring in the reception rooms. "We wanted the house to be a real home and to look as if it had evolved over a period of time. We integrated furniture from our previous home with more recent acquisitions. You can't just go out on a Saturday afternoon and furnish an entire house; it would have no soul.
"I instinctively knew I wanted a kind of French apartment look with wooden floorboards and an eclectic mixture of furniture and accessories," Villon adds. Hence, comfortable sofas and chairs are combined with antiques, modern furniture and contemporary paintings. On the walls 1930s, 40s and 50s photographs by Horst and William Klein hang alongside examples of Villon's own work. Huge double doors lead into a smaller sitting room where the Villons spend most of their spare time. "We use the drawing room for entertaining and we have to walk through it to get to the sitting room, which is sheer heaven." Two enormous bookcases, concealing the television and music centre, are crammed with leather-bound books. "This room is the perfect antidote after a busy day at the office." The mezzanine-level study is decorated in rich, warm tones - elegant yet masculine. There are two dining rooms on the ground floor; one is for everyday use while the other is used for parties, exhibitions or for dining on a grander scale. Upstairs, the master bedroom suite is bathed in light, thanks to large windows at either end of the space. "I wanted to create bedroom suites that felt like apartments: self-contained, with seating in the bedroom, a proper dressing room and a luxurious bathroom." Each guest bedroom is a haven of luxury. One has white walls combined with dark wooden furniture and another has a mixture of Scandinavian and French influences, with a painted bed and an Aubusson rug. The Asian bedroom is dominated by a beautiful antique desk and a pair of old Chinese lamps while the fourth bedroom has been transformed into a well-equipped gym. It is all immaculately tidy and pared-down. "People often ask me, 'how can you possibly live in such a perfect and tidy space?' but that's what we like about it," says Villon. "I want to walk into every room and think how wonderful it is and how lucky I am to live here. Above all, I don't want to lose that extraordinary 'wow' factor I felt when we first walked into the house." * Red Cover