Whoever said grey had to be dull? It’s become rather the neutral design statement du jour, from the go-to colour for pubs wanting to rebrand as Craft and Gastro, to art galleries having a re-hang – the Musée D’Orsay, the Rijksmuseum and most recently Tate Britain have all adopted slatey hues to better show off their masterpieces. Both of which reflect skincare guru Maria Hatzistefanis’ uses for her Notting Hill home – albeit on a more domestic scale: she has a small but personal collection of contemporary art, and she loves to use her swish living space to host drinks parties.
But mostly, the colour just soothes her. “What I always like to do with the décor and the feel of a house is make it quite neutral, quite calm,” Hatzistefanis says, explaining the redecorating that went on after she moved into the four-storey house nearly three years ago. And she’s in need of such a relaxing bolt-hole: since founding Rodial, a skincare range which promotes itself as a hi-tech alternative to cosmetic surgery, in 1999, she’s been k a busy woman; you can buy the celebrity’n’socialite-endorsed cult products in 35 countries around the world now, while for mere mortals it more recently launched an affordable range, Nip + Fab, in regular chemists and supermarkets.
But back to the grey: “There is not a lot of colour, for a couple of reasons: I want it to be calming; when I come back from a busy day at work, I just want to relax. And by keeping the colours similar, you can sort of reuse them, or move things around and they still go well together. So it’s all quite safe, but it’s quite stylish.”
The floors were lime-washed, the walls painted with Sanderson paint in “Peppercorn”. Vintage furniture – she’s a fan of eBay, and antiques auctions at Lots Road, in nearby Chelsea – was purchased or re-upholstered to match.
Upstairs, a built-in bed was put in to make the most of the space, with a shale-coloured headboard and the mattress covered in – you guessed it – dove-grey quilts and stone-hued pillows.
Even the art is neutral: a black-and-white photo series of the Queen by Chris Levine (“He’s kind of the Andy Warhol of our era”) sits over the mantelpiece, while almost an entire wall is taken up with a Hunt Slonem butterfly painting (“I just loved it”).
But it all began with her conservatory, which looks on to the garden where her two sons (who have their own, presumably less-chic, rooms in the basement) love to play. When the Greek-born entrepreneur moved in, it was done out in an old-fashioned country garden style. “I looked at it and I said, ‘This really needs to be a party corner, so what can I do to move away from the traditional English conservatory and make it cool? I wanted to give it a masculine feel, the other end of the scale from twee. This colour is a very masculine colour, this grey, but it works really well with the light. And once I got the grey on this area, it kind of continued with the same tone [in the rest of the house].”
Hatzistefanis had the sofas made, and accessorised the look with a striking fixture of shiny metal baubles, by Tom Ford, to “fun the place up”.
Mirrored metal surfaces are another favourite trick, seen throughout the house, including a canny deployment in the slim kitchen to make it seem a little more spacious.
And for another little kick of personality, the glamourous face of the Rodial brand installed a rhinestone-covered skull phone. Yep, it really makes calls – but mostly she just loves the glitzily macabre motif. “This skull kind of reminds me of a Damien Hirst. I got it from LA; no one needs to know it’s a phone… ever since Alexander McQueen came up with the skulls on scarfs, I think it is such an interesting motif. So every time I find an everyday piece – whether that’s an espresso cup or a glass – with a skull on it, I get it. It’s a collection: something interesting, fun and a bit edgy.”
But largely, the look is coolly pristine – Hatzistefanis even confesses to rarely actually using the long dining table and immaculate pale chairs. “It’s hard to plan a sit-down dinner; a lot of our friends travel or are away. And sit-down – I don’t think I’m that formal. I do drinks parties, which are easier, and I can entertain up to 30 people at a time.”
Lets just hope they’re careful with the vino – red stains really aren’t going to fit it with the colour scheme, darling…
For stockists or to buy online: rodial.co.uk