House tour: opulence and fantasy in a reimagined villa

Leather, lacquer, tile, wood, hand-painted wallpaper, granite and marble are just some of the opulent textural elements that make up the interior of this reimagined villa, transformed by renowned designer and architect Annabel Karim Kassar.

Photography by Paul Raeside

The North London villa renovation project of three floors plus a basement with an amazing swimming pool was led by architect Annabel Karim Kassar and her team. It involved radical spatial restructuring. “Whatever the size of the project, I apply the same rigorous standards, the first being the creation of a functional structure to give the space a structure,” says Karim Kassar. “I am an architect who uses ornamentation with as much fantasy as rigour and I am not afraid to mix the influences I have acquired. I give identity and character to often-neglected spaces and I like to mix things up and push the boundaries.”

The total reorganisation of the layout was supported by the use of bold materials and fine craftsmanship – a case in point, a staircase with built-in bookshelves connecting all three floors, which replaced the original marble staircase. Crafted in padauk wood and assembled onsite, the shelves form the balustrade and act as the core for the dynamic sectional development of the house.

“Handmade craftsmanship is very important to me,” says Karim Kassar. “I am never put off by the amount of time it takes. I developed the idea of it bringing together Modernism and Arts & Crafts, French styles and Middle Eastern notes, industrial materials and refined leatherwork, ceramics and stone.

“Regarding the interior, there are many textures, different types of handmade tiles, textured wood, hand-painted wallpaper and marble. There is also embossed leather on the walls and on sliding doors, giving patina and warmth, contrasting with the glossy lacquered doors.”

Pieces from Annabel Karim Kassar Architects’ custom furniture collection are scattered throughout the house, and lights by Karim Kassar’s lighting company Caï-light have also been included in the interior design scheme.

This creative house has also been a deep source of inspiration for owner/architect Karim Kassar’s new project with Italian furniture design company Moroso, as her collection, Salon Nanà, features pieces like the ones you might expect to find in the literary circles of the late 1900s.

The collection features a flexible modular seating system that can adapt to various situations, and different types of small tables, all of which are inspired by Moroccan traditions. “I began to understand this Victorian house could be a mixture of emotions and nostalgia connected to my personal path and my own experience,” she says.

“I lived in Morocco for three years. I liked the idea of recreating a convivial and comfortable place like a liwan [hall] in a collection using striped fabric, like the djellaba [robe] worn by men in the Medina, mixing the stripes in the classic Victorian house with objects accumulated from many countries, just like British families did in the Victorian era.”

Cult-hit Sarah Ellison furniture collection lands in New Zealand

The cult furniture collection from Sarah Ellison, whose signature ‘Huggy’ chair you’ve probably seen all over social media, has finally arrived on New Zealand shores.

Available exclusively at SLOW, the Australian designer’s eponymous line features a covetable collection of sculptural pieces, with hints of 70’s nostalgia. The Yoko bed is a standout, a Japanese minimalist design with bold spherical feet, while the curvy Muse sofa is a gorgeous vintage-inspired piece.

“I have been following the SLOW journey for a number of years and am delighted to showcase for the first time in New Zealand alongside such a phenomenal collection of creative designers,” says Ellison.

The designer has partnered with family-owned factories in Indonesia that specialise in timber and rattan, and has established an initiative to plant a tree for a farmer in the communities where the collections are produced for each piece purchased.

The Sarah Ellison collection is available online at and in the soon-to-be open SLOW Auckland showroom.