Beyond the navy blue exterior, Serena Mackesy enters a fantasy living space where high-tech meets Out of Africa. Photographs by Sandro Sodano
When Amanda Freedman moved into her house in Notting Hill in west London, it was a pleasant if commonplace three- storey Victorian terrace with too many small rooms. Six months later, she had a high-tech fun palace and a whole new career in interior design stretching out before her.

"Originally," she says, "the builders came in to paint the outside of the house and put a lick of paint around the interiors. Then I took out a wall in the kitchen and that was it, we went for it."

On a fretfully hot Saturday afternoon, the shuttered dining room - once the main living room - behind the house's navy facade is welcomingly cool and airy. Seventies funk pumps from hidden speakers, brightly striped tropical fish laze in a turquoise silk-backed aquarium set into the wall and rich yellow light filters in from the kitchen. Everything is tranquil and uncluttered, and gives little clue as to the quirkiness beyond.

Amanda opens the door to the understairs cupboard. "This is Pilot's loo," she says. "My boyfriend's called Pilot, and every man needs a throne, so I had this made for him." Step inside, and suddenly you're in the most luxurious aeroplane in the world. Where your average charter flight has plastic panels, the walls here are polished stainless steel with a loo and sink sunk into the wall to match. One wall and the ceiling are covered with a mural of sky dotted with aeroplanes. Weird.

The kitchen is done to match. One wall is lined with massive steel cupboards, another with a curved shelf like the overhang of a swimming pool. "It's the width of a packet of Weetabix," she says. "That was the spec."

Amanda is a rather compelling combination of New Age vagueness and absolute determination. She doesn't deal in things like drawings, finds it difficult to put into words what she wants, and, although she had a very clear vision of what she wanted, had a good deal of trouble finding a kitchen company who would come up with the goods. But her background is in catering so she "started with the catering people and drove them mad... I drove the entire kitchen world mad. They all know me. Whether they like me is another matter."

Eventually, she tracked down a firm called Anchor Food Equipment Services. They were somewhat surprised to be approached for a domestic contract as they specialise in providing equipment for the prison service. But they agreed to give it a go. Few people can have reason to be grateful for the unrest in Her Majesty's prisons, but Amanda is one of them. The years of thought that have gone in to creating catering and sanitary equipment that are riot proof have resulted in sleek, space-saving lines. And Anchor were so delighted by the results that they displayed the kitchen at the Hotel and Catering Exhibition at Earl's Court last year and have since decided to branch out into the domestic market, selling through Alternative Plans in Battersea, south London. Amanda's wall of stainless steel cupboards cost pounds 3,750, and the sink unit was pounds 4,300.

The other spectacular feature of the kitchen isn't actually inside though. A 12-foot square walled yard has been covered with a conservatory skylight that looks up to a tiny patch of azure sky two storeys beyond. Two of the walls are painted canary yellow, the other two free-range-egg-yolk orange. "The builders thought I was mad. 'You're mad, Amanda,' they said. But at night it's wonderful, the sky turns blue, blue, blue." The room, as a result, is bathed in golden light even on the dullest day.

A narrow staircase leads from the corner of the dining room. It is covered in leopardskin carpet. This sounds quite upsetting, but the effect is very sexy. That was the idea. "This is where the bedroom starts." says Amanda.

Every room in the house seems to have a name. The first-floor bathroom, for instance, is known as "the mud hut". This is because, instead of the usual boxing over the pipework, each corner of the room has a rounded pillar covered with the sand, terracotta and turquoise mural work found in African houses. "I hate boxing. The plasterer worked like crazy with chicken wire and plaster, and even moulded these balls for me." Each pillar is topped and tailed with a perfect sphere.

Large spheres are something of a trademark for Amanda. There are 60 doorknobs in the house, each one about four inches across. "I needed so many, and the only ones I liked were about pounds 300 each. Then one day we were in the builder's merchants and I found this whole box of balls, used for putting on the ends of staircases. So we drilled screws into the backs, put on washers and I had a whole houseful of door handles for less than pounds 1 each."

Even the living-room sofa has balls rather than legs. "Sofas always have such naff, naff legs. But the man who sold me the sofa said 'Oh, yes, we've got balls. We'll fit you balls, darling.'"

Besides the huge white sofa, the living room is cluttered with the products of Amanda's import-export business: pieces of ethnic art and statuary bought on trips to Africa and other parts of the world. The immense human figure, 12-foot high, by the window is from Papua New Guinea. The two smaller figures, by the cupboard, are Kenyan grave markers. Doesn't it feel a bit odd to have someone's gravestones in your drawing-room? "Well, yes, it does a bit. But they're so beautiful..."

Further up the leopardskin trail, you come at last to the bedroom, perched in the sky and filled with light. Here the leopard motif spreads to cover the whole floor, washing up against the kind of perfect white bed you can only have if you don't write under the covers. Otherwise, the room is virtually empty: clothes live in the cupboards in the living room.

Shuttered off against the sun is a row of French windows, which lead to a generous roof terrace. Amanda dons her Ray-bans and sits back on a white sun lounger. She is justifiably smug about what she has done, and has already taken a handful of commissions to do more.

How did she get on with the builders? "They were great," she says. "They thought I was crazy at first, but now they love it." She smiles up at the sun. "The thing about builders," she says, "is that when they start you buy a pack of 250 Tetley tea bags, a couple of pints of milk and a catering pack of digestive biscuits and you say, 'you guys have a good time. But you damn well do it.'"

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