Perched atop Hampstead Heath overlooking the city of London and its constant flow of rushing inhabitants, sits the residence of interior architect and creative director Tatjana von Stein and her wife Gayle Noonan. Describing the top floor apartment’s warm glowy interiors as a mix between a villa and a 1970s cocktail bar, von Stein reveals their design choices were driven by an organic approach to collecting and cherishing furniture, objects and art. “As this is our home rather than a project it was far more of an organic approach,” says von Stein. “We responded to the nature surrounding us while still creating an indulgent feel throughout.”
The couple are the founders and creative directors of Sella Concept, a London-based interior architecture studio founded in 2016 with a focus on hospitality and high-end residential projects globally. Von Stein manages the interior architecture and furniture design side of the business while Noonan handles the branding and identity, their combined skills lending to an agency imbued with movement, warmth and versatility. Yet when it came to their own home, von Stein and Noonan let instinct do the talking.
Creating an eclectic feel throughout the home was paramount, as was ensuring the apartment had a variety of spaces and moods suitable for different times of the day. Beneath an artwork by Noonan sits a couch that appears almost to sink into the warm yellowy-peach tones of the carpet, furniture, art and walls melting into one another. From there, one can peer toward a vintage bar accompanied by artwork by Ais, or over to the dance area with a record player overlooking the city through angled floor to ceiling windows. While all in the same room, the couple have given importance to each corner of the space, demarcating distinct moments through expert design choices. In every room are carefully curated displays of art and objects, many of which are wooden or ceramic, lending to an organic feel throughout the home.
“There really isn’t a formula,” says von Stein. “Some art was painted by my wife Gayle and my mother, others are collected from antiques markets and others again purchased from young and up-and-coming artists I admire. Art and design objects should feel like they are part of you, each weaving the story or tapestry of your life. At least I can attach a memory to most things.”
These memories come in the form of the people who have made, gifted or left their mark on the objects that now surround von Stein and Noonan. Take the blue stool in the bar – the first furniture piece von Stein designed. Its curves and hue are inspired by the ladies’ pond in Hampstead Heath – the bather’s shapes and forms remembered in the undulating edges of the stool. The Biedermeier secretarie in the living room von Stein inherited from her grandmother, which sits beside a painting by Noonan and the first and only sculpture von Stein ever made herself. The dining room table is another of von Stein’s designs, while the black marble plinth in the corner she inherited from her uncle and the Victor Pasmore print hanging above the bed was a surprise gift from von Stein to Noonan. Even their plants have their own personalities: José the cactus presides over the living room next to Hervé who has apparently outgrown its pot.
When I ask if she has any favourite pieces in her collection, von Stein points out a wooden sculpture in the lounge area: “It’s tall and looks like a person full of stories — sadly I don’t know who the maker is as it’s a vintage piece. I also adore my grandmother’s secretaire, it sings the tale of age, wisdom and quality craftsmanship and lastly the Willy Rizzo coffee table — a huge inspiration to my designs now.”
It’s hard to imagine that in 2020, when the couple first bought the apartment, it was nothing more than a run-down white box, devoid of life or any connection to the natural world of the heath just beyond its walls. “We both love the idea of being close to nature and in the city at the same time,” says von Stein. “I just love the wall-to-wall windows, it means we’re surrounded by birds and leaves all the time. I don’t care how many steps there are, I just want to be at the top. We clad the stairs in yellow velvet, there’s the gold bedroom, and we created the bespoke Sella colour on the wall in the living area in collaboration with Mylands. The space feels like a 1970s cocktail bar – which we love. I just love the 1970s vibes.”
Characterised by warmth, and the play of natural light falling upon the old and new within the home, the Hampstead apartment of von Stein and Noonan sings with all the makings of a treasured home – one brimming with artworks and objects telling the story of these two creative and vibrant women.