Decorating & Design

May 14, 2015

London Calling: Part 2

Another stop on my recent London trip was Maison Assouline on Piccadilly. Opened in October 2014, it is the brainchild of Martine and Prosper Assouline of the eponymous publishing house and is situated on one of London’s busiest streets.

Inside, however, is an oasis of calm. Originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1922, designer Guy Oliver re-imagined the building into a 360-degree bibliophile experience. The first floor features a bar on one side, towering bookshelves on the other, and a lounge in between. The aerial view from the catwalk is amazing.

Here is a view to the bar where you can see the sheer height of the building’s first floor. What you can’t see is the intoxicating scent of Assouline’s signature library candles. I picked up one called Culture Lounge and its rich, woody scent always takes me back there.

The space feels like an invitation to linger, enjoy a glass of wine or a meal, and flip through the pages of some of the most beautiful books in the world. It is light years beyond the usual harried shopping experience!

This wall of books is so perfectly considered with more covers on display than spines — a brilliant idea for anyone who collects books as beautiful as these. Within the books are a few offset sections back-painted in a rich orange-red (another Assouline signature) and illuminated to create dramatic display areas.

The upper level is set up like an apartment and loaded with an array of curiosities from Prosper’s travels. Everything is for sale as part of Assouline’s fully bespoke library service. They can outfit a client’s home with everything from bookshelves, artwork and game boards to desks, carpets and reading chairs. And they will also custom-curate book collections, of course.

Here is Calgary’s Paul Lavoie and Toronto’s Elizabeth Metcalfe (who were with me on the Kravet Canada London educational trip) checking out a striking red and black shelving unit with a rolling ladder. I was a bit obsessed with the raw wood panelling and the unbelievable brass-wrapped furniture.

Not to mention the alphabet carpet and the brass rhino.

This shelving unit has an almost Mondrian effect with its black face trim and intersecting box pattern. It looks like it belongs in a Parisian apartment.

The coordinating desk is a work of art in itself, combining open and closed storage in a totally unique way.

And the X-shaped book stand in the same black and white finishes puts a standout book on display.

I was totally coveting the backgammon set with brass pieces and handles that paired so beautifully with the astrology print tabletop.

After visiting the Assouline store, we popped down the street to The Wolseley for dinner — one of the interiors that designer David Collins is best known for. It’s a grand brasserie-style restaurant with black and gold accents, soaring ceilings, serpentine banquettes and a massive brass clock. They have a no-photo policy, but I managed to sneak one from our seat in the balcony.

London is full of beautiful spots like this — Jessica McCormack’s townhouse and Assouline were just a snippet of all the enviable interiors I came across. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I did!

For more from my travels, check out my blog post about France.

Photo credits:
1-13. Suzanne Dimma