For a renowned designer, the prospect of turning an insipid one-bedroom flat into something special was like being given a blank canvas on which he could do whatever he wished…

In the dining room and kitchen, the iridescent metallic sheen of a blue dog- a ‘piggy bank’ bought in a store in Paris – catches the eye.

When you are a famous furniture designer, known for being eclectic and ‘out there’, and for creating elaborate pieces for clients like Madonna, a home with beige walls and boring decor is one of your biggest turn-offs. So when Jimmie Karlsson moved into this Notting Hill apartment, he made it his mission to change bland to bold.

Jimmie painted most of the apartment walls in a deep, rich grey; a feature that makes his colourful objects stand out. The vintage metal filing cabinet was an eBay find. The white-framed bug was purchased in Paris, the large metal letters atop the cabinet were from Caravan in Shoreditch, London.

The Swedish-born creative director and founder of UK-based furniture and design company Jimmie Martin, Jimmie had been interested in art, fashion and interiors from a young age. After studying art, he began a career as a successful model, working for 10 years for magazines and runway shows predominantly based in London, Paris, Milan and New York.

He started Jimmie Martin “accidentally” with his partner at the time, Martin Nihlmar. “Starting our furniture business was never a plan, but we created some pieces of furniture for our own flat,” says Jimmie. “Someone saw it and it went into a shop window in London’s Soho. Shortly after that we had a call from, back then, the most prestigious design award ceremony in London, the Design & Decoration Awards. We got shortlisted for Furniture Design and got the prize for New Designer In Practice. That’s how it all started with us.”

Naming the business Jimmie Martin, there followed plenty of interest from press and clients, then, years down the line, the founding of an interior design firm Jimmie Martin & McCoy. Strikingly modern, sophisticated, with bold colours and graphic prints, the signature style of Jimmie Martin quickly cemented the business’s place as a label ahead of the curve. “We like to do things people are not used to – mixing different colours, textures and shapes in ways that are normally against the rule books,” says Jimmie. “We want to have fun. Life is too serious as it is.” 

Jimmie and his partner had been on the hunt for an apartment to rent for the time being until they found the perfect property to buy. They came upon this two-storey apartment in Notting Hill with an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area, bedroom, bathroom and dressing room. “It’s a cute one-bedroom apartment but what sold it to me was the 4m ceiling height with the large windows leading out to a terrace,” he says.

“The home’s an old Edwardian building originally built as a one-family home where you had the servants living in the attic space and the kitchen, and other main rooms in the basement,” says Jimmie. “The house was later redeveloped into the two apartments on each floor.”

While the apartment had been fully renovated previously, it lacked the kind of style Jimmie is famous for. “All the walls were painted cream, which is a colour that I personally do not like, as I find it very bland,” he says. “It also had bad lighting and curtains. There were no real design challenges or limitations – it was more of
a blank canvas.”

He set to work painting out the cream walls with a rich charcoal that, in certain lighting, appears almost black. “They are actually not black but a really dark grey,” he says of the walls. “It’s a great backdrop colour. Most people are scared of dark walls, I am the opposite. It brings out pieces of art, furniture and decoration.” He then set to work injecting the interiors with pieces from his own range, treasured antique- and junk-store finds and a couple of elements from IKEA.

The apartment quickly became a personal, unaffected representation of Jimmie – his brand and himself. “This design is very much my own personal style, how I like to live,” he says. “I like a space which is comfortable and feels like home – a place where lots of different items are mixed with textures and explosions of colours. There’s a lot of unexpected elements.”

While he is no longer living there, Jimmie says the open-plan layout and terrace of the apartment lent itself well to entertaining. “It was a great place to entertain and I had many parties with my dearest friends,” says Jimmie. “Put the light on dimmers, light some candles, put the music on and entertain.”

Fearless of taking interior-design plunges, Jimmie is always encouraging to people who would love to be bolder in their own home decor but who lack the confidence. “Don’t be too scared to mix and match – more is better, but there is a fine line of overdoing things,” he says. “Make sure there is ‘breathing space’ around the room. I always look at it like everywhere I look should be a photo opportunity. If you have tall ceilings, play on the height and continue artwork high. Don’t think about rules. Just have fun.” 

Atop the kitchen cabinets is one of Jimmie’s favourite pieces. “I love the big ornate gold frame – it’s a picture of myself and my mother from when I was baptised as a baby,” he says. The kitchen trolley is from IKEA. The bust atop the cabinets is a junkstore find that was painted a vivid purple.


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