Ex-pat Kiwi's bold, bright and botanical living room

The wall of reproduction John Rocque mid 18th century map prints in the dining room of Charlie McCormick and Ben ...
CATHERINE GRATWICKE

The wall of reproduction John Rocque mid 18th century map prints in the dining room of Charlie McCormick and Ben Pentreath's London flat looks designed for the space but in fact it came from Ben's previous flat and is a perfect fit by pure luck.

On the fourth floor of this 300-year-old London townhouse,  a white front door opens onto a green striped stair runner and a set of tipsy stairs. It is a path into a colourful world.

It's a million miles from the Canterbury farm where floral designer Charlie McCormick grew up but, along with his partner, English architectural and interior designer Ben Pentreath (whose clients include the Prince of Wales' Duchy of Cornwall), he now calls this slice of British history home.

Since 1914, the Art Workers' Guild, a networking society founded in 1884, with former members including designer William Morris and architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, has owned the building.

Ben, a guild member, moved into the two-bedroom flat in 2012. He put in central heating, replaced the kitchen and bathroom, and then painted every wall white. Bold colours crept in over the years, but often Ben was too busy designing for clients.

READ MORE:
*See the rest of Charlie McCormick and Ben Pentreath's London home
*Inside the home of a Kiwi designer making her mark in London
*My favourite space: Anna Begg's Wanaka living room 

 
Charlie McCormick and Ben Pentreath with Mavis the five-month-old black Labrador puppy in their sitting room.
CATHERINE GRATWICKE

Charlie McCormick and Ben Pentreath with Mavis the five-month-old black Labrador puppy in their sitting room.

"The last thing you have time to do is your own place," he says. "It's true what they say about cobblers' daughters not having shoes."

Charlie's arrival in the flat two years ago heralded an even more colourful era.

Nature is everywhere: blowzy flowers spill from vases and the sitting room wall wears a collection of pressed fern prints.

Framed ferns printed from copper plates fill the wall behind the grey sitting room sofa from Crate & Barrel in New York, ...
CATHERINE GRATWICKE

Framed ferns printed from copper plates fill the wall behind the grey sitting room sofa from Crate & Barrel in New York, re-covered in Ian Mankin’s Union linen; the lamp and shade are from Pentreath & Hall.

On the two-storey roof terrace, large pots and slate grey planters line the edges. Charlie coaxes a surprising number of flowers and vegetables to flourish in them.

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Ben and Charlie talked to NZ House & Garden about creating their colourful sitting room.

Silver Wheat grasscloth wallpaper by Urbane Living and a rough jute carpet anchor the vibrant sitting room furniture and ...
CATHERINE GRATWICKE

Silver Wheat grasscloth wallpaper by Urbane Living and a rough jute carpet anchor the vibrant sitting room furniture and accessories.

What are some of the key decor features of your sitting room? Silver Wheat grasscloth wallpaper by Urbane Living and a rough jute carpet anchor the vibrant sitting room furniture and accessories, which includes a spectacular reproduction Fornasetti Palladiana chest from Themes and Variations. A collection of framed ferns, printed from copper plates, fill the wall behind the sofa. - Charlie McCormack and Ben Pentreath

What about the fireplace? We suspect the black stone fireplace was made in around 1916 for a much grander house by one of the members of the Art Workers' Guild. When the client rejected it, it ended up here, which is obviously a wonderful result for us. - Ben Pentreath

Did you have a particular vision for this space? I didn't design the whole scheme in one sitting - and I'm glad; you can end up over-thinking things. Take the sitting room curtains - I probably would have gone for slubby olive green ones. As it is I love the floral striped Madeleine Castaing fabric. I took my time and bought a metre first. I needed to live with it for a while before committing to entire curtains. The whole place has evolved like that. - Ben Pentreath

A Marianna Kennedy lamp sits on a reproduction Fornasetti Palladiana chest from Themes & Variations.
CATHERINE GRATWICKE

A Marianna Kennedy lamp sits on a reproduction Fornasetti Palladiana chest from Themes & Variations.

What's the most recent addition to your home? A large collection of 19th century pressed seaweeds - the colours are still amazing. And a herbarium, a small box of 19th century pressed plant specimens. You can still smell the herbs when you open the lid. - Charlie McCormick

Do you have a tip for decorating with flowers? You can never have too many, inside and out - the more overblown the better. - Charlie McCormick

 

 - NZ House & Garden

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