Antonia and Cinzia's Calming Casa in Notting Hill

House Tour

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Name: Antonia and Cinzia Nespoli
Location: Notting Hill; London, United Kingdom
Size: 1,115 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years; owned

For Antonia and Cinzia, sisters and Italian transplants to London, the concept of home is an important one. Both have busy careers and hectic social lives, despite being self-described homebodies. When they decided to invest in a home in their adopted town, they were looking for a space where they could relax and regroup, not an easy thing to find in central London.

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Between them, the sisters have more than 20 years of experience living in London, so they've seen it all, flat-wise. Four years ago, the pair walked into this one and saw its potential, despite the filthy green carpet, flaking plaster, claustrophobic layout and even the lack of a proper kitchen. "An old woman had been living here alone," Cinzia tells me, "and she must not have changed a thing since 1960."

However, the location couldn't be more perfect: on the top floor of a terrace nestled between the shops of Notting Hill and Paddington train station (important for quick access to Heathrow airport, as both sisters travel frequently for work and play.) The two-bedroom flat even looks out onto a private square, a rare and sought-after luxury in the area. Buoyed by these assets, Antonia and Cinzia bought the flat and began transforming it into their own slice of la dolce vita in London.

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The space was more or less gutted, and rebuilt with new floors, plastering, fixtures and fittings. With no interior design experience, Antonia and Cinzia took it upon themselves to design the built-in bookcases in the living room, the joinery in the bathroom, even the wiring and lighting plans. Their hard work has left them with a home both pretty and practical, with details like a lowered ceiling in the hallway and bathroom, which cleverly conceals storage for luggage and bulky items.

Once the building works were finished, Antonia and Cinzia began the formidable-but-fun task of melding their personal styles to create a home that represents both of them. Inspired by their family home and upbringing in Rome, the sisters have a love of history and art that's immediately apparent. Modern pieces are mixed with antique and vintage finds, many from London's famous markets, and others from their travels around the world.

My eye is drawn immediately to the black-and-white photos of Hollywood stars mounted behind the dining table. Turns out, they're some of the only prints in existence of these shots, made from the photographer's negatives for Cinzia, after her old company in Rome organized an exhibition of La Dolce Vita-era photography of the city and its stars. To me, these shots seem to sum up Antonia and Cinzia's London flat perfectly: glamorous, contemporary, and with a nod to home.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Chic, clean and casual.

Inspiration: Classic American style, the 1950’s, La Dolce Vita.

Favorite Element: Definitely the windows overlooking the garden, and all the light the flat gets because of them. Inside, it's the calming combination of green and white, and the antique wooden pieces.

Biggest Challenge: Mixing Antonia's classic American style with Cinzia's more eclectic ideas.

What Friends Say: I love it, it’s so homely… I want you to decorate my flat when I buy it!

Biggest Embarrassment: Our DVD collection… too much pink! There's also a youth hostel across the street, which doesn't exactly add to the flat's curb appeal.

Proudest DIY: We designed everything ourselves, from the walls to the wiring scheme, the bookcases and wardrobes, the hidden storage in the hallway ceiling, and the joinery in the bathroom. We spent three solid months bossing around the building company!

Biggest Indulgence: Our biggest indulgence is our love of art, and two pieces in particular. Henderson Cisz’s painting of Times Square was bought on the day our offer on the flat was accepted, though it is still in need of a frame! The second is a painting of Little Italy in San Diego by Michael Flohr – we bought it on a visit to the city in a local gallery and had it shipped all the way to London.

Best Advice: Visualize the space, and try to picture it how it will look when it’s finished. Even a shack can become a castle. Be patient and don’t rush it; wait for the perfect piece.

Dream Sources: Definitely antique shops – we're dreaming of adding an original Art Deco piece one day. We once saw an American radio/bar cabinet from the 1920’s in an antique shop in Carmel, CA. It was four years ago, and we're still thinking about it!

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

  • Dulux Frosted Dawn for walls (throughout)
  • Dulux Timeless for Living Room bookcases

LIVING ROOM

  • Cabinet - Chinese, circa 1900, bought at Orchid Furniture on the King's Road
  • Sofa - the Sofa Workshop
  • Armchairs - second-hand, Portobello Road Market
  • Coffee tables - Vintage, from Spitalfields Market
  • Luba side table - The Conran Shop
  • Yellow wood/ceramic table lamps - from the 1970's, bought from St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Canada
  • Turquoise Japanese table lamps- bought in Camden Passage, London
  • Chandelier - bought in a chandelier shop near Church Street Market
  • Indian Rug - Harrods
  • Geometric Multi Mirror - Heal’s
  • Times Square by Henderson Cisz - Whitewall Galleries London
  • Painting of the Woman with Grapes - just stole it from my parents' home in Rome and brought it here ;)
  • Cushions and curtains - John Lewis

DINING ROOM

  • deco table and chairs
  • Pakistani rug - Harrods
  • Paparazzi photos of Sofia Lauren, Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn - a gift from Cinzia's former employer in Rome
  • Lamp- second hand, bought at Portobello Road Market

KITCHEN

  • Kitchen units and countertop - Magnet
  • Strawberry Tart Print – Andrew Holmes “Sweet Talk 1” 10/195 prints

CINZIA'S BEDROOM

  • Bed - John Lewis
  • French chest of drawers - Art Deco, bought at Church Street Antique Market
  • Orla Bentwood Chair - The Conran Shop Us
  • Bedside table - Kartell Componibili White 3 Element Cabinet
  • Painting above bed – 10/20 print of Pearl of Truth by Danielle O'Connor Akiyama, Whitewall Galleries London
  • Round flower brass mirror - Graham & Green
  • Jewelry boxes - street market in Il Cairo
  • Chandelier - antique shop on Westbourne Grove, now closed

ANTONIA'S BEDROOM

  • Bed - John Lewis
  • English Antique chest of drawers - Church Street Antique Market
  • Mirror - Graham & Green
  • White straw chair - IKEA
  • Handcrafted Afghan Wooden Box, used as bed side table - bought at Portobello Road Market
  • Painting opposite bed - a copy of Yesterday's Dreams by Jack Vettriano, given to Antonia as a gift by family
  • Painting abouve bed - original Aboriginal painting from Australia, bought in Alice Springs
  • Jewelry boxes - street market in Il Cairo
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Thanks, Antonia and Cinzia!

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(Image credits: Eleanor Busing)