Ilona Pacia on transforming a derelict house into an inspiring, art-filled home / Architecture , Design
Ilona Pacia on transforming a derelict house into an inspiring, art-filled home

The restaurateur and collector reveals how she transformed Ravenscourt Road into a gallery of creativity and curiosities.

The restaurateur and collector reveals how she transformed Ravenscourt Road into a gallery of creativity and curiosities.

Lined with mature trees and pristine period façades, and running parallel to its namesake park, it’s hard to imagine a dilapidated building on Ravenscourt Road. However, when Ilona Pacia took on one of the street’s distinctive heritage homes, it was close to being derelict.

Half of the garden was given over to a bomb shelter and between the first and the second viewing, the ceiling in the dining room collapsed. “There were times when I thought, what was I thinking?” Ilona recalls with a smile. Fortunately, as a creative soul, she was able to visualise the property’s potential.

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The resulting renovation comprises a series of striking living spaces, which spotlight the home’s original features, enlivened with a curated collection of artwork. Halfway between a home and a gallery, eye-catching distractions are found at every turn. Yet the interiors are also inviting and familiar. “If I had a budget, I’d probably blow it on art and leave the walls unpainted,” Ilona enthuses. “Surrounding yourself with creativity is better than surrounding yourself with the most beautiful furniture.”

However, at Ravenscourt Road, Ilona has achieved both. A chaise longue stretches underneath the large sash window in the reception room. In the garden, a spun chair by Heatherwick Studio makes for a conversation piece. Joinery has been crafted by British artisan Cléon Daniel, whose banana-shaped pool table made headlines a few years ago.

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“It’s easier to restructure than preserve. But I wanted to keep as many of the original features as possible,” says Ilona, who ensured the functionality of the fireplace and the shutters. The grand proportions of the space were also a key consideration. “The skirtings had to be recreated but we kept the original height,” she explains.

Across both levels, colourful paintings, one-off prints and curious photographs elevate each room. A dramatic Robert Fry piece makes for a bold backdrop to family meals in the dining room. “Robert Fry is probably one of the greatest living British artists,” Ilona declares. “He’s only 42 and has been compared to Sir Francis Bacon. Charles Saatchi is a big collector.”

An abundance of art demands the right lighting, which Ilona has selected with painstaking precision. She spent three days hanging the coloured glass discs that comprise the dining room chandelier, tweaking the composition until it felt right. “This is the heart of the house,” she says of the dining room.


“I’ve always loved art,” Ilona continues. “I once had a Scottish landlady who worked as a scientist for NASA. She told me to buy a piece of art every year.” Channelling her love of collecting into running a gallery, Ilona worked with artists such as Damien Hirst, before establishing Italian restaurant Villa di Geggiano, an outpost of the Tuscan winery and stately home of the same name. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra regularly travels there to play to a gathered crowd in exchange for wine. Aiming to spread this spirit of creativity, Ilona has taken the idea of trading music for wine and scaled it up.

“We sometimes pay for art with Tuscan holidays or pasta for life,” she explains. “It’s the most natural way of supporting people in a tangible way.” This system of symbiosis also plays out across the walls of the restaurant – where artists get to exhibit and sell their work while Villa di Geggiano benefits from an enviable gallery of vibrant and thought-provoking pieces.

The resident artists include painters, photographers, glassblowers and rug makers. “It’s very much about the creative people that we love and support,” Ilona says of the artists, many of whom also have work displayed at Ravenscourt Road. “You have to like the people you work with. This artist was a Member of Parliament,” she states, pointing to a sculpture of a winged Wellington boot in the dining room by Lloyd Hubbard-Mitchell. “He ran a charity, moved to Thailand and has just been ordained as a priest.”


In the kitchen, a gallery wall features work by the likes of Zoobs – a multimedia creator dubbed the next Andy Warhol. “It’s nice to have a space where it doesn’t feel like it’s made for a certain purpose,” Ilona says of her approach, which imbues even the most functional rooms with an aesthetic feel.

Upstairs, a calming colour palette makes for peaceful sleeping spaces. In the principal bedroom suite, a piece by Tide and Jimmie Martin depicts model Kate Moss as Queen Elizabeth II. In the bathroom, Lewis & Wood wallpaper features a dazzling black and gold pattern.

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For those able to take their eyes off the walls, the neighbourhood is a tranquil retreat from the thrum of the city. At the end of the street, The Oak W12 is a buzzy gastropub offering Mediterranean fare – and is one of Ilona’s favourite local spots. “You’ve got the cosmopolitan Kensington on the doorstep, whereas Chiswick is very residential,” she explains. “Hammersmith, and Brackenbury Village, are close by – it’s the best of both worlds.”

There are also several independent galleries within a 10-minute walk, not that you need to leave the house to get your fill of inspiration. “You would run out of walls,” Ilona says of her love of collecting. “The art becomes part of your daily routine – it’s part of who you are,” she muses. “I hope someone enjoys it.”

Ravenscourt Road is available for short stays from £1,000 per night

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