x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Art and car motifs rev up the home of a family with four boys

Dazzling colours, contemporary design and an ever-changing collection of creative objects make for a playful, family-friendly house.

A red Marc Newson chair and the soft-toy Banquete Chair by Fernando and Humberto Campana are among the artistic treasures in a bedroom. Graham Atkins-Hughes / Gap Interiors
A red Marc Newson chair and the soft-toy Banquete Chair by Fernando and Humberto Campana are among the artistic treasures in a bedroom. Graham Atkins-Hughes / Gap Interiors

To describe the American art dealer Kenny Schachter's house requires a few disclaimers. Though it is indisputably full of great contemporary art and design - with works by artists ranging from Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin to Vito Acconci and designers such as Zaha Hadid, the Campana brothers and Marc Newson - it also serves as a giant canvas for the four Schachter boys, ranging from ages eight to 14, to express themselves.

Art is what the family talks about, looks at all over the world and had been working on the night before we arrived to shoot. The boys' feet were still black from the day's energetic painting session.

Kenny, who originally hails from Long Island, says he came from a background of "zero" art. His children, by contrast, not only get to breakfast in full view of an abstract painting by Brendan Cass, which casually hangs in the kitchen (Kenny is planning a show of the New York artist in June), but also get to meet and mingle with the artists themselves.

The passion for creation is also shared by Kenny's wife, the artist Ilona Malka. She designed the curtains and carpets throughout the house using funky, retro images of cars and cowboys sourced from classic books.

There is no style to speak of in their large West London home. It is more like an amalgamation of art objects the family loves. "I love change in art and life (except with my wife)," Kenny jokes. In fact, he has recently begun selling Impressionist art in order "to find a way not to have to sell what I love. I feel privileged to be in a position where I am always required to ferret things out and accumulate new knowledge so regularly. Also I am not vested in these works, so not attached".

A regular columnist for GQ magazine, Kenny, who owns London's Rove Gallery, is also working on a building project with the Sheikh Zayed Bridge architect Zaha Hadid (due to open in 2013).

Kenny started out buying up young artists and mounting guerrilla shows in empty spaces, working with unrepresented artists and displaying them in unofficial locations. By cutting out the middleman, he established himself as a true art entrepreneur.

Though he now conducts multi-million-pound deals, Kenny still nurtures young talent, including Cass, whose canvases are casually strewn throughout the house. Kenny is also planning a show with the Ghanaian artist Joseph Tetteh Ashong (aka Paa Joe, the designer of exotic coffins), whose models are propped on a table in the living room.

It's as much an amusement centre as a house. Kenny enlisted the designer Ab Rogers (the son of Lord Rogers) to help create a Disneyland-style atmosphere for the boys (who occupy the two top floors) that includes a giant shoot/tunnel. Rogers also designed the office at the bottom of the garden where Kenny works, and that he shares with his beloved Porsches (including a 1969 911E Coupe and a 1973 911S Coupe), which he drives regularly. One of them is displayed behind a large sheet of glass.

The contemporary furniture - sofas by B&B Italia and tables by Edra - forms a perfect backdrop for the collection of one-off objects. This includes prototypes of cars, the most notable of which is by Hadid, with whom Kenny has also collaborated on a concept car, and whose green fibreglass Kloris coffee tables occupy centre space in the Kenny's living room.

It is a well-loved, relaxed house in which much entertaining takes place for all age groups. The hidden gem is the enormous basement where hundreds of photographs and paintings (some by the children) cover the walls, and where even the floor, designed by the artist Richard Woods (with whom Kenny is planning several shows) is a conversation piece. At least, that's what it looked like upon this visit. It could all change again next month.