Matthew Turnbull's elegant London residence

London based couple Matthew Turnbull, 42 (pictured) and his partner Brandon Marescia 43, welcomed us into their home, to gain insight into how they transformed a tired workers cottage into an elegant space, bursting with original artwork and authentic charm.

How long have you lived in this house?

I had lived one street away in a shared flat when I first moved to London in 1999. Brandon had lived all over. We looked at many areas but just kept coming back here. We moved into the house in 2005.

What was the house like when you moved in?

The previous owner had moved overseas about five years before and had been renting it out. It had had a slap of cheap white paint everywhere and no TLC. We knew it would need a lot of work but it had a large overgrown garden an enormous en suite and huge potential. 

What was the first thing you changed?

We were pretty broke having bought it. Brandon had just retrained as a cabinet maker (he later returned to a corporate life) and it took about two years before we did anything major. Apart from the gas work we did it all ourselves. Brandon taught himself basic plumbing and I learnt how to tile. 

We knew we were in for hard graft when we looked in the loft and discovered that when the house had been re-roofed the builders had just knocked the old slate through so it was sitting on the bedroom ceilings. Previous plumbers had also disconnected two cold water tanks and just left them there. So those had to be cut out and taken down by hand too.

How would you define your style?

For this place it's period elegance. The house was built in 1837 as a workers' cottage so we wanted to create a look that sat with its period: simple lines, nothing too over-sized or fussy. 

That said, we've just sold it and our next place is a 1960's maisonette so I'm looking forward to indulging in some Scandinavian minimalism. 

Do you have any design rules?

Less is more. Get the best quality you can afford. 

What’s your favourite room and why?

The ensuite. It was a labour of love. 

Do you have a favourite memory of your home?

The dinner parties. There have been many.

Where’s your favourite place, store, or city to find interior pieces?

Cape Town for art and fabrics. Much of the period furniture (including some reclaimed Georgian panelling) came from a dirty weekend in Margate. The boot, backseat and roof rack were packed on our return. 

You have a lot of original artwork, what attracts you to a piece and do you have a favourite?

Whereas much of the furniture choices are led by (and made by) Brandon almost all the art I picked. It's just instinctive as to whether i love a piece and want to live with it or not. I just bought a nude oil painting. I went to an exhibition opening and saw it across the room. I set myself a budget and said that if it's less than that I'll buy it. I got a fiver change. 

Brandon saw the painting above our kitchen fireplace in a pile at the end of an exhibition and showed it to me, saying he thought my dad would have liked it. I turned it over to see what it was of and it's where my grandparents went on honeymoon.

But my favourite picture is in the dining area. It's a limited edition print of a shipwreck. I just fell in love with it: the story, the light, the texture. As I was buying it I was told it was by Cecil Skotnes, then the greatest living South African artist. A few weeks later he died. 

What’s your next step?

After the 60s pad possibly a place in Cape Town. I'd love to work with an architect to design a home from scratch. It will be very contemporary with lots of glass to make the most of the light. 

 

SEE MATTHEW'S ANSWER TO 5 QUICK QUESTIONS BELOW..

SHOP THE LOOK

5 QUICK QUESTIONS..

We asked Matthew 5 rapid fire questions to learn a little bit more about his style.

 

Colour or neutral?

Neutral, but with a splash.

Antique or new?

Antique

Early mornings or late nights?

Early mornings. (sometimes these are the remnants of a late night)

Minimal or maximalist?

Minimal

All or nothing?

Nothing. With nothing you can usually see all.

 
LifestyleZak Walton