When a Spanish financier and his wife acquired an 1820 London townhouse that had once belonged to the playwright W. Somerset Maugham, they wanted to infuse it with the energy and colors of their native country. So they called Barcelona-based interior designer Patricia Sanchiz, who—along with decorating King Felipe VI's palace in Madrid—had overseen the design of the couple's homes in Barcelona and the Pyrenees. For their London home, the wife, who is a jewelry designer, told Sanchiz: "Use color, and don't be shy. I don't want a neutral house." Because of this bold mandate, Sanchiz says, "we were able to use interesting colors and mix them in unusual ways."
Since the original floor plan for the six-floor mansion was perfectly proportioned and still intact, little structural work was needed. Sanchiz kept all the noble period elements, including the Georgian cornices and flourishes and the entrance hall's light fixture and black-and-white marble flooring. For the palette, she went with such jewel tones as ruby, sapphire, and topaz as a nod to the wife's profession. "We wanted to embrace her work and personality and show it," Sanchiz says. "When I have a client who accepts color, I'm thrilled, because it really gives the space character."
Custom designs include a sofa covered in a Donghia patterned velvet, another upholstered in a Le Manach silk velvet, and a round banquette, which is topped with a 1940s French bronze sculpture. The console is by Alexandre Logé, the curtains are of a Jim Thompson silk, and the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball's Cornforth White; the photograph is by Marc Quinn, and the small artworks are by Salvador Dalí.
The custom chairs in the living room are covered in a Dedar wool, the cocktail table and wool-and-silk rug are custom designs, and the circa-1950 consoles are Italian; the side table is by Piero Fornasetti, and the wall sculptures above the mantel are by C. Jeré.
To make it that much more modern, Sanchiz brought on her 28-year-old daughter, the interior designer Blanca Fabré, as a collaborator. "Blanca gave the decor freshness and a young spirit," she says. "You can see it and feel it."
The home's biggest —its generous size—was also one of its challenges. To make the 1,000-square-foot living room seem more intimate, Sanchiz carved out two distinct seating areas anchored by bold teal sofas of her own design. Underfoot, a pale gray rug featuring a graphic pattern of lines acts to unify the space. Indeed, much of the decor and art in the home is based on geometric shapes. "Geometry helps to create a sense of order in design," she says. "I love it and use it often."
At one end of the room, Sanchiz added two side tables as yet another homage to the wife's jewelry business: one in the shape and color of a diamond, the other taking the form of a sapphire. Upon each sits a delicate turquoise Venetian glass lamp by Barovier&Toso. At the other end, she added a dash of shine with brass-framed fuchsia chairs, a pair of 1950s Italian-glass consoles, and a custom M-shaped brass-and–black lacquer cocktail table. The windows are hung with lustrous gold silk curtains, giving the room a visual jolt.
The dining room's Victorian table is surrounded by custom chairs upholstered in eel skin, the chande- lier is 19th-century, and the curtains are of a Jim Thompson silk; the rug was designed by Sanchiz, the photographs are by Pablo López Luz, and the flooring is original.
For the dining room, Sanchiz says, "I thought of the Mediterranean." That led her to paint the walls in a rich azure trimmed in black and set off by watery-blue curtains. She designed the dining chairs, covering each in eel skin in shades of blue, green, gold, and eggplant—a choice she feels is in keeping with the times. "I believe the world of decor is turning more toward color," she says.
In the master bedroom, the walls are sheathed in an ivory Jim Thompson silk that Sanchiz had hand-sewn with red silk stripes to give the effect of moldings. They add a sense of warmth: "England is cold, and red is full of life," she notes. Set among the contemporary furnishings is a handsome Louis XVI marquetry desk. "The owner wanted a mix of old and new," Sanchiz explains. "There's not a lot of old in this house, but I did try to add touches here and there."
The bed in the master bedroom is dressed in a custom duvet made from a Dedar fabric, the letter-shaped stools are from Andrew Martin, and the walls are sheathed in a Jim Thompson silk with hand-sewn red silk borders; the drawing over the mantel is by Lluis Lleo, and the work over the bed, which is inscribed with Buddhist phrases, was purchased in Singapore.
In the master bath, the tub is by Villeroy & Boch, the steel vanity is a custom design, the closet doors have black-lacquered frames inset with red silk upholstery, and the photograph is by Pablo López Luz.
The owners have an important art collection, much of it by Spanish artists, and Sanchiz made excellent use of it. The living room is embellished with a group of eye-popping Salvador Dalí works. The entrance hall is framed by dozens of lithographs by Francisco Goya depicting "disasters," Sanchiz says, adding, "It was a time in Spain that was not easy, with Napoleon invading."
There are contemporary artworks too, such as the pair of Michel Martens wall sculptures that hang above the living room consoles. In the center of the room, Sanchiz surrounded a 1940s French sculpture of bronze owers with an Empire-style round banquette. Next to it sits an Alexandre Logé–designed console with a plaster-tree base, made to order for the owners. "It's a marvel, that table," she says.
The entry hall is painted in Farrow & Ball's Borrowed Light and Elephant's Breath; the bronze lantern and marble floor are both original to the house.
In the library, the chair is covered in a Pierre Frey fabric, the cocktail table and stool were found in Singapore, and the rug is a custom design.
Given that the house once belonged to one of the 20th century's most esteemed authors, it's not surprising that it has a library. Sanchiz found the room's midcentury-era shelving a little too spare, so she added cube-shaped bookends in black leather to continue the geometry theme as well as give the room some extra air.
The owners are thrilled with how it turned out. "Patricia managed to make a large house feel like home," the wife says. "She did a great job of giving a modern twist to a traditional English residence."
This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of ELLE DECOR.