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London Interior Designers Say Light is Key to Creating Calming Spaces

This year marks the 10th anniversary of London-based design and architecture firm Millier. The company’s founders, Alexandra Nord and Helen Westlake, have worked on a number of impressive projects, including London’s only Grade-I listed new-build Regent’s Crescent; the superprime development The Bryanston in London’s Marble Arch neighborhood; and Islay House, […]

This year marks the 10th anniversary of London-based design and architecture firm Millier. The company’s founders, Alexandra Nord and Helen Westlake, have worked on a number of impressive projects, including London’s only Grade-I listed new-build Regent’s Crescent; the superprime development The Bryanston in London’s Marble Arch neighborhood; and Islay House, one of Scotland’s grandest country homes. They’ve also worked on private residences in Scandinavia and Sydney.

With an all-female management team at the helm, Millier has 16 architects and designers.

And this year, their work will include one of the world’s grandest country estates, a world-class equestrian and event space, and new West London residences with a strong focus on wellness.

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In response to the Covid-19 situation, Millier is now offering clients a virtual interior design service, providing advice and a full interior design scheme for their current or future homes via virtual tours and CGI rendering.

We caught up with Ms. Nord, 36, and Ms. Westlake, 40, to discuss what makes a home classically British, the importance of proportions over size, and more.

Mansion Global: How would you describe British style?

Helen Westlake: British style to Millier is a classic mix of styles, a combination of classic pieces collected over time and modern pieces. It’s about practical fabrics and cozy lighting. I would say we have this timeless aesthetic that feels British. Things like reading nooks, areas where you can sit by the fire. We consider how people are living. We don’t have the best weather and the best light, so that’s something that we need to contend with.

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Alexandra Nord: We started our business in London; that’s where our headquarters are. And the majority of our work has been around there. The projects are contextual. London has a long history of elegant design, and we build on that heritage. We worked on a number of Grade-listed properties in and around London. Clients, whether they’re British or not, want to have this British style that feels sophisticated and refined.

MG: Even international buyers want that British feel when they’re in England, don’t they?

HW: We find even with our new-builds, that’s true. They want high ceilings, townhouse style doors. They love the tradition and the heritage.

MG: In these difficult times, so many of us are at home. How can people create a more calming atmosphere in their homes?

AN: It’s a good time to rethink the orientation of furniture, formation of furniture. Study/work spaces should have good access to natural light. Where possible, try to orientate furniture so you’re able to have a good view of the outside and the sky.

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HW: It is a really good time to decide if our homes reflect who we are and what we love. It’s not a great time to bring new things into the home, but it is a good time to move things around and take things away to create more calm.

It’s also creating more time to tidy up. That’s hard but it’s important. Also, keep some windows open to let some air in.

In the evening, low light and candles are a good way to tell your mind and body that it’s time to relax. Ambient, calming lighting is more important than ever.

AN: Candles, lighting and lamps are really important to create day rituals. We need to create these rituals within the house to break up the day, and tell the body how it should be feeling.

MG: Have you been able to create a calming space in your home? How did you pull that off?

AN: It’s about focusing on objects that give you a good feeling. It’s also about having daily rituals. Going outside in the morning, having your favorite tea cup in the morning, your favorite candle in the afternoon.

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MG: Describe your dream property.

HW: Somewhere with a true connection to nature. Something with tall ceilings, large windows, a large kitchen, a large dining area and places outside to have lunches in the shade.

AN: We made the move to Sweden not long ago, so I live in quite a large house just north of Stockholm right on the Baltic Sea. We have a great connection to nature where we are at the moment. I’ve always wanted to be connected to water, and most of the spaces in the house embrace the views of the Baltic Sea.

MG: What does the word luxury mean to you?

HW: Access to nature, having large spaces that you can move around in comfortably. Also beautiful soft, tactile materials. Going off to bed in a big bed with gorgeous linens. And all the things we took for granted before coronavirus—traveling and seeing people too.

AN: Good, quality space. Volume is important. It’s not just about how big something is on plan—high ceilings and proportions are really important. We’re working on a John Nash Regency scheme at the moment and the proportions are just stunning, 4.2-meter ceilings on the main floor, tall windows.

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MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?

HW: My bath, it’s right by the window, and I can open the window slightly. I can lock the door.

AN: My dining room. It’s a mix of modernity and heritage. It has a paneled ceiling and antique style stone. And it’s a place where we’ve made good memories and had lots of parties.

MG: What describes the theme of your home?

AN: We both have Scandinavian influence in our homes. We both, when purchasing our properties, wanted heritage properties.

HW: We like clean lines with character. Nothing too minimalist, but not too fussy either.

MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?

AN: The best bit of advice is to look past the cosmetic design, which is where we can be brought in. Volume is key; it’s not just about looking at the floor area. Considering the orientation of the windows, their proportion, et cetera.

Click to Read More Luxury Real Estate Professionals Share Their Insights

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