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Property News,


Interior design


Property News,


Interior design

In memory of Melissa Wyndham


Words by Jake Russell

We speak to Vanessa Macdonald about keeping alive the legacy of celebrated designer Melissa Wyndham

80 Elm Park Road is an Edwardian house in Chelsea, whose interior was designed and decorated by Melissa Wyndham and Vanessa Macdonald. In the second of a series of three articles, Vanessa speaks to Russell Simpson about this unique property.

An Interior Design Legend

Melissa Wyndham was a legend of the interior design world, working on rooms in many of this country’s most beautiful stately homes. Her celebrated interiors included Petworth House in Sussex, Lismore Castle in Ireland, and Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire. Melissa’s great aunt was Nancy Lancaster, founder of the firm Colefax and Fowler. That firm was perhaps the most influential post-war designer of country house interiors, and Melissa even spent some time living in their showrooms.

By the 1970s she had started working on interiors, and in 1985 founded her own company. Though she never advertised, she was often in high demand, creating designs that were appropriate to his historic settings, while also introducing more colour and character to traditional interiors.

Melissa's Effortless Style

Sadly, Melissa died in 2015 and left the company she founded to Vanessa Macdonald. When I asked her to describe Melissa’s aesthetic, Vanessa replies that the rooms were always beautifully done.

‘She really cared, and she had great taste. She also had this innate ability to walk into a room and know exactly what needed to be done, whether it was fundamental to the room itself or decorative. And she knew how to combine different periods of furniture, so that it never looked contrived or decorated, always looked considered, but also relaxed and easy to live in. So, I suppose I learnt that from her. At least, I hope I did.’

Vanessa was born in Canada, and after working for Sotheby’s in New York, she was transferred to London. She had always loved decorating, and knew that she would not remain at the auction house forever, so left to take a course at KLC School of Design. In 2002, at the end of the course, she applied for a job at Melissa Wyndham, working with the celebrated designer for the next fourteen years.

Focus On Family

The company was commissioned to work on the interiors for 80 Elm Park Road towards the end of Melissa’s life. The property was not designed with specific owners in mind, but in a tasteful way that would appeal to whoever might live there. ‘The decision was made to really focus on the family nature of the house,’ Vanessa explains, ‘and to make it liveable by creating good bathrooms, great storage, a laundry room downstairs with enough space to iron.’

Everyone collaborating on 80 Elm Park Road worked to ensure it was an effortless place to live. But that does not mean the aesthetics were neglected, and the property is filled with thoughtful details, such as the textured fabric on the wall of the principal bedroom, or the wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom showing a map of London from before the house was built, when Chelsea was just a village.

‘I remember thinking this would be the most wonderful house to raise a family in London.’

Vanessa Macdonald

Bridging The Gap

Perhaps the most dramatic feature is the atrium extension. On the ground floor, the space is lit by a beautiful pair of dandelion chandeliers from an American company called Remains. Below, on the lower ground floor, a dining table is laid out with green-painted wishbone chairs designed by Hans Wegner.

One of the challenges of 80 Elm Park Road was balancing the features of the original house with the need to make it comfortable for a young family. ‘It was decorated with a nod to both traditional and modern styles,’ Vanessa explains.

The doors, the skirting, the fireplaces and the handles were all chosen to bridge the gap between periods, so that nothing looked out of place. There is elegance, but there is also restraint, and though Vanessa decided against putting antiques in the house, ‘I think the company that owned the property bought really good things that stood the test of time – they really cared about every item – it really mattered to them what was in the house.’

As a result, of all properties that Vanessa has worked on with this client, 80 Elm Park Road was the best house for family living. ‘I remember thinking this would be the most wonderful house to raise a family in London.’


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