When interior designer Gianna Camilotti set eyes on this converted historic church in Chingford, Essex, near London, it was love at first sight. It had undergone a thoughtful transformation in 2005, leaving her with a gleaming white space in which she could create a spacious home and office for her interiors business.
“The architecture is so beautiful; I loved everything about it,” she says. “High ceilings were a must, and this building has those and everything else — lots of character and history.” Camilotti’s main challenge was to fill the generous space of the church conversion without having her furniture get lost in it.
It was such an amazing project. I had no limitations,
The converted church, a National Heritage List property dating to 1890, seduced her with its arching ceilings and timber beams. “When it came to a base color, I decided to keep it neutral in order to accentuate the original beams,” she says.
“I needed lots of courage when it came to decorating,” she says.
The living area is a huge, open space, and a normal-sized sofa would have disappeared, so I supersized!
She has always had a passion for oversize furniture, and the generous proportions of her new home allowed her to indulge her whim for extravagance. “The upholsterer thought I was crazy when I gave him the measurements for the sofa,” she says with a laugh.
She was drawn to a monochrome palette and is happy the colors worked to the building’s advantage. “I just couldn’t imagine this place in another palette — I think it works perfectly,” she says. The gleaming surface of the glossy white Koishi coffee table reflects light from the large windows.
A self-playing piano tucked under the staircase is a decadent touch and keeps Camilotti and her staff entertained during working hours. “I always wanted to integrate the office and living areas, and I think it works very well. This whole house is very me and reflects my style and personality perfectly,” she says.
An elegant Nur pendant from Artemide pools light on the kitchen island to highlight the black granite surface. The extractor fan is integrated into the ceiling, folding down only when it’s needed. The bar stools introduce a touch of brown, linking with the wooden beams. “The stools are my own design and made in Milan from cowhide and chrome,” Camilotti says.
With so much space at her disposal, Camilotti was able to zone off different areas. This comfortable corner is next to the entrance and her workstation and acts as a waiting area for visitors. The chrome and walnut table is a vintage find.
During the day the grand dining table is filled with brochures and pattern books, but in the evening, it’s transformed into a glamorous dining area for up to 12 people. “I designed the table myself,” Camilotti says. “It’s a sheet of glass resting on two enormous wooden blocks.”
Camilotti’s home is filled with expressions of her personality, such as these lily-print cushions and the Gherkin canvas, both of which she designed herself. “The Gherkin is my creation,” she says. “My degree is in fine art, and I love playing around on Photoshop. It was difficult to find something that fitted this space, so I just created an artwork myself.”
The large master bedroom has an accompanying dressing room, negating the need for bulky wardrobes that would inhibit the view of the arched ceiling. “I decided to put mirrors in the niche here to reflect the beams, which I love,” she says.
Camilotti chose a palette of gold and earthy tones for the guest bedroom, which has a slightly baroque flavor. “I took some baroque images of angels and put them on a black background for the decor in this room,” she explains. “It’s glamorous, but with the white floorboards it still feels very contemporary, which I love.”
“The window here is so beautiful, I didn’t want anything to block it,” Camilotti says. “It has wonderful colors and shapes, and is such a gorgeous composition. It’s lovely to gaze on this from the living room below.”
The master bathroom is relatively compact compared with the rest of the house, so Camilotti wanted to open up the space as much as possible. The rustic brick floor is light, and the mirrored panel around the walls makes the room appear larger.
“I absolutely love the garden,” Camilotti says. The scent from the lemon trees evokes memories of holidays in Sorrento, Italy. Though fairly small, the garden is set up for dining and relaxing. “It’s a wonderful space in which to spend time,” she says. “This and the piano are my favorite parts of the house.”