White spirit: creating a minimalist home in London | Interiors

For couturier Anna Valentine, there is an overwhelming similarity between the principles behind her studio and the way she has designed her London apartment. Yet it is the sense of atmosphere at the core of this home’s refined DNA that leaves the strongest imprint. It is a graceful space, without pretence, where less is definitely more.

The first-floor Georgian apartment, which Anna shares with husband Jonathan Berger, who works in film and TV, had been untouched for 30 years when they moved in: “Despite the yellow Formica kitchen, boxy dark rooms and low false ceilings,” says Anna, “we were immediately drawn to the potential, proportions and location.”

The kitchen overlooks a private garden square, full of plane trees, and in summer the neighbourhood comes alive. Their home is just a short stroll from her studio. Anna’s love of fashion began at a young age, making clothes for her dolls while following her passion for ballet. “My mother is incredibly creative and encouraged me to sew and make – I was the original Blue Peter child,’ she says. In her early 20s, Anna turned her childhood hobby into a sideline that paid for her expensive dance classes. The door to a career in dance closed when she was 23, and fashion took centre stage.

Unfussy, relaxed and inviting, yet sophisticated: the living room. Photograph: Chris Everard

Anna learned on the job, spending hours perfecting her technique, before setting up her own couture and ready-to-wear label. Working with a team of in-house designers, pattern cutters, fitters and seamstresses, she has achieved success over the past three decades, most notably designing the wedding outfit for the Duchess of Cornwall, now Queen.

Throughout the apartment, elegant architectural bones and natural materials are given space to breathe, accentuated by furniture and collections. It is unfussy, relaxed and inviting, yet sophisticated. “We have visited Japan a few times and their wabi-sabi philosophy and view of architecture appeal to us both.” With that in mind, the couple commissioned DRDH Architects to help restore the property. “They presented paintings from the 19th-century home of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi in Copenhagen. His interiors resonated with the calm, sparse style we were keen to achieve.”

alls were removed and spaces reconfigured to allow the natural light to flow through from the original, floor-to-ceiling glazed doors at the front of the apartment to the main bedroom balcony at the back. The entire two-bedroom space is united by custom-made shuttered windows, reclaimed parquet floors and intricate cornicing, commissioned from a tiny fragment of original plasterwork.

‘I move things around until they feel just so’: Anna and Jonathan in the kitchen. Photograph: Chris Everard

The kitchen itself has an ethereal feel, with custom-made cabinetry and marble surfaces that are echoed through similarly stark bathrooms. To balance the minimal aesthetic, an oversized cupboard conceals the more unsightly essentials of daily life. The theme continues with linking hallway cabinets and a main bedroom divide that anchors hidden storage. The tall, minimally decorated walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Strong White and conceal a projector and a state-of-the-art speaker system. “The negative white space encourages a wonderful interplay of light and shadow, which is very calming,” says Anna, who always considers every single detail. “I move things around until they feel just so; and it is the same with cushions, textiles and natural finds. They have to look right – squashed and lived-in, never formal. I prefer simple leaves to flowers and I’m always searching for fallen branches with beautiful shape and form.”

Furniture follows similar sculptural lines: a bespoke sofa from Studio Oliver Gustav and a dining table from Vincent Van Duysen, surrounded by antique chairs discovered in Fayence in France, as well as weathered artisanal Chinese stools from 1819 Antiques, one of the couple’s favourite antique haunts. “I often find inspiring household pieces in the UK store Freight. Usuhari glassware handblown in Tokyo by Shotoku, is also a favourite.”

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Throughout the apartment, scent is ever-present: Japanese oils on wood blocks in wardrobes and Pot Pourri Apothicaire lava rocks in the sitting room. “I don’t like scents to overwhelm, as I do perfume. With restraint, an atmosphere can be savoured and enjoyed. Our home feeds my soul,” says Anna. “It is our sanctuary and we feel blessed to live here.”

Extracted from The Art of Living with White: A Year in Inspiration by Chrissie Rucker & The White Company (Mitchell Beazley, £35; thewhitecompany.com/octopusbooks.co.uk). Buy it for £30.80 at guardianbookshop.com




In the realm of fashion designer Anna Valentine, the principles that govern her studio are mirrored in the design of her London apartment. The essence of this home’s refined DNA lies in its atmosphere, exuding grace and simplicity. Despite the apartment’s initial state of neglect, Anna and her husband Jonathan saw its potential and were captivated by its proportions and location.

The apartment boasts elegant architectural features and natural materials, accentuated by carefully chosen furniture and collections. Inspired by the wabi-sabi philosophy of Japan, the couple enlisted DRDH Architects to help restore the property, drawing on the calm and sparse style of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi’s 19th-century interiors.

The kitchen exudes an ethereal quality with its custom-made cabinetry and marble surfaces, complemented by stark bathrooms. To maintain a minimalist aesthetic, clever storage solutions are seamlessly integrated into the design. The overall atmosphere is enhanced by the interplay of light and shadow, creating a calming effect throughout the space.

Furniture in the apartment follows sculptural lines, with bespoke pieces from Studio Oliver Gustav and Vincent Van Duysen, alongside antique finds from France and artisanal Chinese stools. Scent plays a significant role in the ambiance, with Japanese oils and Pot Pourri Apothicaire lava rocks adding subtle fragrances to different areas of the home.

Anna’s attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the apartment, from the layout to the choice of decor. This sanctuary feeds her soul and provides a sense of blessing to both her and Jonathan. The result is a space that is not only stylish but also deeply personal and inviting.