Less is more: Fran Hickman on transforming Blenheim Crescent / Architecture , Design
Less is more: Fran Hickman on transforming Blenheim Crescent

Interior design mastermind reveals what goes into creating the perfect short stay home

Interior design mastermind reveals what goes into creating the perfect short stay home

Good design is underpinned by its power to shape how people behave; its ability to bring people together and form spaces that resonate. Human-centric interiors play with the principles of light, materials and form, bringing together the most important elements of a space with the requirements of those that live in them. It’s an ethos that’s deftly put into practice by Fran Hickman, a renowned London-based interior designer, whose past projects include everything from sophisticated townhouses in Notting Hill to pastel-hued retail spaces in central London. The latest addition to her elegant portfolio? Bespoke interiors in Blenheim Crescent, one of our most desirable short stay homes.

In line with her easily recognisable style, Fran renovated the two-bedroom maisonette into a pared-back, minimalist space; one that is both tasteful and practical. “It's the sort of dream maisonette pied-à-terre in Notting Hill. We wanted it to feel calm, spacious and uncluttered,” Fran explains. Joining us after its completion, she talks us through its transformation and what influenced her interior design process. Plus, her favourite London spots for a dose of art and culture.

image_61af9fafa286b8_41202857.jpg?ooMediaId=436 image_61b0c311030b94_71225599.jpg?ooMediaId=445

What was the overall architectural design inspiration for this home and what were your initial considerations when you first walked in?

The neutral palette of the original home design appealed to our client, who’s based in LA but lived in Notting Hill during the 80s. We wanted to bring out that personal connection she had with the city but, at the same time, reflect the elegance of her beautiful home in LA, so that’s why there are quite a few mid-century modern pieces. She felt comfortable with them because she knew they fit her style. We did the redesign over lockdown and so we specified furniture that she could try in Los Angeles. We had all the fabrics sent out to her so she could see and touch everything.

The look is quite minimal and pared-back. How do you balance this with a sense of homeliness and warmth?

We wanted the apartment to have a broad appeal, regardless of demographic so we used colours like blue, green, brown and cheque. To warm it up, we gave greater consideration to how soft the materials felt. Our client was very keen that everything was yummy to touch – that’s the word that she often used so we made sure the carpets were soft underfoot, we chose a chequered blanket lined with cashmere for the master bedroom and velvet upholstery in the guest bedrooms and lounge. Soft lines were important too. We've got circular bedside and coffee tables and the headboard in the master has a gentle curve too.

It’s interesting you mentioned colour and shape. What kind of role do they play in bringing your design scheme together?

The used a reference image of a dark blue velvet sofa given to us by the client as our starting point for the reception room and we went with complementary dark forest green upholstery in the guest bedroom. We picked a warm chestnut brown for the master bedroom but then the overall look of the home felt quite safe, so we added an orange sofa to make it bolder and visually interesting. As the doors to the study are glass, it’s a nice surprise when walking up the stairs.

In contrast, we kept the curtains simple. White curtains draw your eye to the window and soften borders to make a room feel more expansive whereas if you use a patterned curtain, then it can make the room feel quite enclosed.


The shape of the low-hanging orb pendants in the master is particularly elegant. What atmosphere were you trying to achieve?

When they’re dimmed, they reflect in the mirrors and provide double the amount of light. The reflection creates a slightly dreamy effect. When the lights are low and it's dark outside, you have a sense of another space and I wanted this to be the atmosphere that you fall asleep to, especially because the bedroom is the most important room in a short stay home.

There’s also some interesting artwork around the home. How did you source them?

We worked closely with Seth Stein, owner of a London architecture firm and a close friend of our client, and the photography in the home is by his son Caleb Stein. Our client sourced the rest – she’s keen to make her mark on it through accessories and creative, personal touches. The beauty of this home is that it will always evolve as she builds on the design during her trips to London.

Can you tell us a little more about the thought process behind the office space-cum-second guest bedroom?

It was designed with practicality in mind – we added a sofa bed, and the string shelves were chosen because the client could see it in person in LA. While it’ll most often be used as a study, if it needs to be used as a bedroom, the string furniture leaves more room to unpack. It’s a study-slash-wardrobe solution. There's also a Chameleon Cupboard by Font Design at the top of the stairs. It’s a cool piece of furniture that opens on both hinges.

image_61b0c32745f842_85687879.jpg?ooMediaId=446 image_61b0da9e1f7978_02492013.jpg?ooMediaId=450

What are you most happy with in the overall transformation of the home?

Well, I'm glad we got the orange sofa in because I think I think that brings a bit of colour to the apartment. All the rugs in the home are bespoke and I really enjoyed working on them because it's quite nice being able to design at a granular level. The rugs that we crafted for the living room – made from bone-coloured mohair knit – and the master bedroom are going to be part of our product line. They will both be available to buy very shortly.

The furniture in the apartment is refined. What are your go-to furniture brands?

We've been talking about Vincenzo De Cotiis in the studio recently. I think his work is interesting and worth investing in. Studio Drift, Rick Owens and Martino Gamper all have beautiful pieces that bring together art and furniture design. I love Sabine Marcelis’ products and Studio Germans Ermičs’ glasswork – they're incredibly sculptural and are eye-catching in a home.

Where do you like to visit in London for art, culture, food and design inspiration?

There are so many restaurants in London. There's a Japanese that I go to regularly in Notting Hill called Sumi and a great tea house in Chinatown called Xu. The Wolseley in Mayfair is another one for good food and a lovely environment. In terms of art and culture, my top three picks would be the Tate, Portobello Road on a Friday morning and Shapero books, which is a rare bookstore in Soho.

Take a look inside Blenheim Crescent

Fran Hickman


Featured homes

    Stay: Read.