Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London

Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London

London was a new blank page for Gwendoline Porte. The page on which this French citizen from the West Indies set down the beginnings of her new story. A second stage in her life began ten years ago when she wanted to offer her daughters the chance to experience a second culture. As luck would have it, things began to happen when she bought a victorian house untouched for 50 years. At the time, Gwendoline had just graduated from Chelsea College of Arts. Thanks to her training in interior design and with the invaluable help of her family of architects, she began the total renovation of this Victorian building. Bow windows, little balconies and generous spaces were to bear witness to a massive project where Gwendoline stripped out all the later additions to the property that detracted from its original features. Gradually, her dream began to take shape. With no compromises. She added 40 extra square metres to the existing 120. The sunlight was once again free to flood the rooms from East to West, on every floor The transformation is total. As for Gwendoline, she couldn’t be happier. She is very sensitive to the role of light and knows the importance that it has in creating an atmosphere in a room and the way it enhances the pure lines that she loves so much. In London, surrounded by souvenirs from her travels, she can now devote herself fully to her passion. Her projects are many – production of modular furniture designed in her student days, creation of spaces, various exhibitions – and her style with its eclectic notes is gently asserting itself.

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Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London
Cuisine ouverte Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
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Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London

Gwendoline, would you like to introduce yourself?

Gwendoline

I feel like I’m 23, because I recently went back to university in London. Whether it’s a mid-life crisis or an unfulfilled dream, with the London mentality of “anything is possible” I started this challenge two years ago. I just finished my Interior Design course at the Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, graduating with the Dean’s Award.

Can you describe your life story so far?

Gwendoline

I was born in the Antilles and I spent a golden childhood in the sun before finishing high school in France. I then studied marketing and communications and started my career as a press attaché in Paris, working in the fields of fashion and sportswear, before focusing on advertising and digital marketing. In the meantime, I spent a year working in restaurants and catering in St Barthélémy. I needed a break from Paris, from all the greyness, and wanted to get closer to my family as well. Once I was back in Paris, I met my husband, who is my guardian angel.

How long have you lived in London? What led you to make that choice?

Gwendoline

We arrived in London for my husband’s work eight years ago when our two daughters were young enough to pick up English and be bilingual and bicultural.

How would you define your style in terms of decoration?

Gwendoline

Eclectic, chic, and simple. Undoubtedly, I have some exotic inspirations that come from my travels and my roots. I am attracted by clean lines, natural, raw and artisanal materials that have a patina and that tell a story. Above all, I’m sensitive to light. Light is vital in creating the atmosphere in a room. I like to mix different elements to add contrast and create a balance of styles, between male and female, traditional and contemporary, rustic and luxurious. The aim of each project is to build a conversation between each element, and to create atmosphere and emotion.

Cuisine ouverte Plan de travail Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London
Cuisine ouverte Théière Tom Dixon Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London
Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London

Could you tell us the story of this house in London?

Gwendoline

Just after graduating from the Chelsea College of Arts, more or less by chance I came across an advert for this pink house, which had not been redecorated for over 50 years – and with decoration that looked its age. The photos promised a complete renovation project. I had been staking out this tree-lined street, with its charming Victorian houses, for a long time: with bow windows, little balconies, pretty entrances and, above all, interesting spaces. It needed gutting throughout, with all the frames that had changed the shape of the house having to be replaced. I had to start from scratch to create the house we had dreamed of without any compromises. The “bonus” was obviously the potential for extensions to the kitchen and in the attic. We were able to add over 40 square metres to the house’s existing 120 square metres. It was a fantastic experience, managed with passion and the ambition of a young graduate who had to prove herself. My brother-in-law and my sister-in-law, who are both architects in London, helped me get the building permits. In terms of interior architecture, project management and the final decoration, I knew what I wanted. The result is a total metamorphosis. The light flows through the house from east to west on each floor, the space is distributed evenly throughout, and the internal doors and windows add a taste of tradition with a highly Parisian, contemporary twist. Our greatest joy is to see the house always full of friends and family.

Where do you go to find furniture? Could you also share some online addresses for us?

Gwendoline

I look everywhere I go, wherever and whenever, especially when I’m travelling. London, obviously, but also Brussels, Berlin, Dakar, Marrakesh, Lisbon, and more. I love getting a bargain and finding objects for lasting memories – rare jewels or items I’ve fallen for. The latest example, at the moment, is a period wall lamp inspired by Serge Mouille, which I found in a vintage lighting store in Rome. There were two identical pieces as well as an original stem by Jean Prouvé. We took all three lamps! Apart from that, here are some places to look in London: Ardingly International Antiques & Collectors Fair, Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park Racecourse, the Portobello Road, Lots Road auctions and the stores on Lillie Road in Fulham, Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane in Shoreditch. You can also make some great finds in charity shops. I have a few online favourites, too, such as Vinterior, Gumtree and My Little Atelier.

Salon Lampadaire Noguchi Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Chambre Fauteuil en rotin vintage Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Cheminée en marbre Salon Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Salle de bain Carrelage bleu Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Chambre Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London

Which item features in your wildest dreams?

Gwendoline

Currently, I’m looking for armchairs for the living room. Comfortable, timeless designs like the 637 Utrecht by Gerrit Rietveld have been a dream for me for a long time. I’m also a fan of an Eduardo Hoffman painting in the Pepper Gallery!

Could you recommend a good restaurant to us, either in London or somewhere else?

Gwendoline

In London, I’m a fan of the River Cafe, Yotam Ottolenghi as a caterer, and Martin Morales’ restaurants such as Andina in Shoreditch. I also recommend that you take a look at Kaia near Bank Station, the Japanese-Hawaiian fusion restaurant by Ned. Elsewhere, there is the Barrio do Avillez in Lisbon, La Terrasse des Épices in Marrakesh for its magnificent location in the heart of the Medina, Le Jardin des Douars in Essaouira, where we ate recently, as well as CookiesCream in Berlin.

What are your plans for the future?

Gwendoline

I’m going to start producing Rails. It’s a range of modular furniture that I designed two years ago at the Chelsea College of Arts. The prototypes, which were made by L’Atelier Maury using toiles de laque, were so well received that they were exhibited at the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts. Rails were inspired by a section of railway track for a project to regenerate an old Underground station for use as a co-working space in London. The idea was to work on the concept of furnitecture, a new approach to furniture that can be incorporated into the architecture of a building and that responds to a need at a given point in time: converting from a bench into a console, a coffee table, a seat, or an upright. They make it possible to create a lecture in a minute, after which you can pile them up to free up the space. I’d also like to organise an exhibition with Chantal Maury and her incredible toiles de laque. An alternative original to traditional canvasses or wallpaper that can decorate a wall with personalised colours and stunning effects. I also do consulting work in London to renovate offices and create exhibition booths for Merci Maman (bespoke, hand-engraved jewellery) and private individuals.

Chambre Fauteuil en rotin Emmanuelle Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Gwendoline Porte, Dreams of London
Entrée Porte coulissante en verre Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Miroir Entrée Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres
Salon Cheminée Gwendoline Porte Maison Londres

Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily

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