10 Opulent Pads with Mad Interiors
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It's time to take that Pinterest board up a few notches. These are the most opulent, indulgent and impossibly luxy pads in London with interiors that you can’t help look at and think: who the fuck did they think they were when they put this place together?
Because this is truly big ballin': pads with more velvet, gold and mother of pearl than seems reasonable; the scenes of vast displays of pillaged art, debauched parties and Batman films. And also places with substantial cleaning bills.
1. An art deco palace
Imagine, through some miracle of modern science, that a medieval dwelling, a Tudor palace, and a 1930s millionaire’s mansion had a ménage à trois and managed to procreate. The result would look a bit like Eltham Palace: a decadent, art deco haven in the borough of Greenwich.
This place has been home to royals (Henry VIII went through puberty here), politicians and artists. It’s seen the great, the good and the neither great nor good kick it, likely doing cocaine off the marble bathtub. Now it’s been restored to somewhere close to its 1930s pomp, with underfloor heating, electric fires and a loudspeaker system for music. Doesn't sound that impressive now but back then it really was.
2. An 18th century party house
This is the 18th century's version of a billionaire in Chelsea building an underground cinema, a nine hole rooftop golf course and a wave machine in their mansion. It's a sumptuous, indulgent townhouse conceived by John Spencer in 1756, who employed a Palladian architect to create an homage to the classical architecture and interiors of Greece.
We gather that he basically wanted a dope joint to throw parties in and we don't hate him for it. It still hosts parties, only these are parties of aged tourists being led on a guided tour. Not every room is open here but the ones that are brim full of opulent interiors, classical furniture and dark, expensive art. It's only open on Sundays and by a guided tour, before you have visions of scampering around it like a headless chicken.
3. A logistical and architectural wonder
This place is one of London's great constructions: a sanctuary of Hindu worship that looks like a strange apparition, and yet it's real. Real and glorious. Made in the traditional north Indian style, it was the first of its kind to be built in the Western world and was painstakingly put together. And we really mean that - 5,000 tonnes of stone were hand-carved by more than 1,500 skilled artisans at 14 different sites around India into 26,300 pieces. They were then assembled like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle within two and a half years.
The resulting piece of architecture is a dazzler, with intricate marble and wooden carvings everywhere you look. You can come here for a traditional Hindu prayer ceremony, learn about the world’s oldest living faith from the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition, or just come for a meditative stroll around the grounds.
4. A display case for Middle-Eastern tiles
Imagine being so extra that you commission a cobalt-blue 'Arab Hall' in your massive gaff to show off your extensive collection of Middle Eastern tiles. That's what Lord Frederic Leighton did - and the rest of his pad is just as impressive. The artist and nobleman built this house as a giant display case for all the treasures accumulated from his trips around the world. It's a lavish space, filled with gilded accents, marble pillars, dramatic staircases, and priceless art. The next time someone begins criticising colonial pillaging, take them here.
5. The epitome of home improvement
Beyond an unassuming door down an unassuming street in an unassuming part of town, lies some rare interior magic. Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006) was a Kenyan-born poet, novelist and philosopher of mathematics. He lived in this place from 1981 until his death and, over that period, he decided to embark on a little home improvement.
Initially started as a way of hiding some damp, he began using reclaimed pinewood doors and floorboards to carve out intricate, Moorish-inspired patterns and motifs. And then he went nuts and worked on pretty much every wall, ceiling and door. It kinda puts that picture frame you managed to put up into perspective. The intimate, majestic house stands as he left it.
6. A Neoclassical Georgian pad
Deep in the untamed wilds of Hampstead Heath lies a neoclassical villa that’s a grand slice of splendour. As you’d expect, it’s got a little history but you won’t get any spoilers from us. What we will tell you is that after a big-money revamp, it now reflects the apex of opulence and grandeur of Georgian life.
It houses a vast array of masterpieces from the Old Masters. You can bop through this place for free, ogling that expensive art, the gilded accents and those crystal chandeliers - and watch out for the magnificently grandiose library room. There’s also a pretty nice cafe, the Brew House, which has ample outdoor seating and a tasty, overpriced selection of lunch and cakes.
7. A grand second home
Syon House is the Duke of Northumberland's London home... and it's way, way nicer than our second homes (ok, we don't have second homes). It's a stately, grandiose affair, with neo-classical accents, Roman sculptures, and very very expensive art dotting the black-and-white marble floors and numerous rooms. The house was remodelled by Robert Adam in 1761 - who was the biggest rockstar architect of his time - and retains many of its original features. This is a a place to wander about it with your camera at the ready, in awe at the sheer balls to go this damn luxy.
8. An embodiment of 17th century power
Set back 200 metres from the River Thames - a prime real-estate spot if ever we saw one - Ham House and Garden is a vivid example of British power and pomp in the 17th century. When you could take a teapot from China, put it in your house and nobody would ask any difficult questions. The house itself is home to a vast collection of paintings, furniture and textiles and you can spot these in the rooms open to the public.
The garden is just as impressive, with a meticulously kept maze and plenty of laavly spots for a picnic. And here's a fun fact: this is one of the most haunted homes in all of Britain, with some spooked visitors claiming to be able to smell the ghostly aroma of the sweet Virginia pipe tobacco that the old Duke smoked after meals in the dining room! Eeek!
9. A wildly ambitious Neo-Palladian vision
Chiswick House is quite the sight. Harking back to 1729, it was conceived by Lord Burlington - a dude with a real thing for the Neo-Palladian architecture he'd spotted on his trips to Italy. And thus, he commissioned this amazing house with accompanying gardens (one of the first examples of an English landscape garden) that take in some 65 acres. He had a big vision, and you can't say he didn't commit.
Inside the house you'll find all the velvet wallpaper, ornate ceilings, rare artwork and flourishes of gold you could ask for, as you wonder from room to room. Over the years it's been an asylum, a fire station, been hit during the wars a few times, and housed concerts from music icons such as The Beatles and Sophie Ellis Bextor.
10. A house to make the neighbours jealous
Osterley Park and House was put together by a super wealthy family back in the late 18th century as a way of making the neighbours jealous, as far as we can tell. Since then it’s been kept faithful to that Georgian splendour: a neo-classical palace with nods to Asian and Venetian influences. Highlights inside include the Long Gallery full of moody, broody classical art, the Tapestry Room and an eight-poster bed where we like to imagine many an extravagant romp was enjoyed.
Arguably the nicest part of this place is outside though - 350 acres of landscaped gardens featuring a summer house full of lemon trees, ornamental vegetable beds and a meadow full of butterflies and wild flowers. There's a woodland walk, and even a huge lake to spot some wildlife. Oh and it was Wayne Manor in 2012 Batman film The Dark Night Rises.