Daniel Hopwood, star of The Great Interior Design Challenge on BBC Two and past-president of the British Institute of Interior Design, is the king of seasonal dressing, changing the mood of a room from winter to spring.
His small Marylebone flat is designed like a stage set where, magician-like, he creates different scenes with the tweak of a cushion, a new sofa cover, or even placing a screen behind the sofa.
For spring he’s conjuring up a new “landscape” for the feature wall behind the sofa.
MDF panels are covered in Shinrin Mono, a paper mural from Tektura by artist Kata Lips, in a grey-stained frame.
Wall coverings: Daniel had some MDF panels covered in a stylish Tektura print, with a grey-stained frame to protect the edges (Juliet Murphy)
“Kata takes inspiration from Japanese art,” Hopwood explains. “She pours oils, water and paints on to her canvases, then tilts and lifts the screens allowing the colours to flow.
“Zen-like landscapes emerge. Structural shapes are then painted by hand, creating abstract silhouettes, branches and trees.”
In winter he’ll change things again, bringing out a feature wall of handmade Japanese paper in black, gold and bronze that mimics stone panels.
“It’s very wintry and clubby.” When not in use, the panels stack neatly behind each other.
He has treated his 16-year-old B&B Italia sofa to new covers of Lelièvre Cosmos velvet in Pollen, a bright yellow.
Transformed: a big-investment B&B Italia sofa Daniel bought over a decade ago looks like new with some bespoke chartreuse yellow covers (Juliet Murphy)
The look is Fifties New York. The new cushions are made from Cosma fabric from Pierre Frey’s Maharani collection, in linen and metal yarn. They replace winter’s geometric-pattern cushions from Dedar Milano.
Hopwood has just had powered louvre blinds from Thomas Sanderson installed that have transformed the old Crittall bay window.
Set with a grey velvet semicircular banquette and table, the curved window space has dazzling skyline views.
“The new blinds are fabric but work like plantation shutters in that they are louvre but less harsh and flexible, more suitable for a modern room,” he says.
“The beauty is that I can push a button and they disappear so that I’ve got a clear view of Marylebone, especially at night. I spend a lot of time in the banquette at the weekend and the sun can be strong, so back down they go.”
Maximising views and light: powered Silhouette blinds by Thomas Sanderson can be angled to protect furniture from sun damage but still allow Daniel his Marylebone views (Juliet Murphy)
To mark the new season, oversized cushions on the banquette have been changed to a Fifties revival fabric — Tropical Jungle from Lelièvre. “Make sure they’re 50cm or larger. And one cushion per seat, so you get a single tableau.”
He advises switching artworks around to create a new look without too much expense.
One trick is to choose a length of wallpaper or fabric and frame it like a modern painting.
In the master bedroom, a mural, Mind The Gap’s Indigo Marvel wallpaper, gives a painterly feel.
Arty feel: Mind The Gap’s Indigo wallpaper adds texture and colour to the wall behind the bed (Juliet Murphy)
Different bedding and cushions update the room — red and navy for winter, and now teal and grey for spring.
Hopwood has designed everything from grand homes for Saudi princesses to celebrity mansions, but small spaces are his speciality, not least because he lives in one himself. And London is full of challenging small spaces.
A family of home improvers
His Yorkshire parents were keen home improvers and he caught the bug. He started out as an assistant to a furniture buyer, learning about stone and wood carving, gilding and restoration, before embarking on an architecture degree in his twenties.
He trained at the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture, then at the age of 30, founded his own design practice, Studio Hopwood.
He bought his present flat 15 years ago. It is on the top floor of a Georgian terrace that had been rebuilt after the war.
The cheapest flat on the grandest street
It was all about the location, close to Regent’s Park, Marylebone High Street and the West End. “I bought the cheapest flat on a posh street.”
The flat was still in its 1958 state: a dark, two-bedroom jungle. The layout spanned a floor, with windows front and back.
There were two halls, while the small kitchen had a larder carved out of it and a serving hatch to the sitting room. Bathroom and loo were separate.
“I first had to break the back of an expensive mortgage. Instead of heating I wore an extra sweater in winter and put some money in the bank instead.”
When he finally came to remodel the flat, Hopwood wanted a flexible space where he could change things without spending huge amounts.
“All the furniture is top-notch and long lasting, but I can re-cover pieces and switch panels, so you can change the feel without chucking everything out.”
Zoning: Daniel studied small space-living for inspiration. The sliding panel-door between his living room and kitchen is a sleek example (Juliet Murphy)
To use every square inch, he studied how the Japanese live in small spaces. “I liked how they can make each room multipurpose by using sliding doors that can be opened to create open-plan living or closed to create an intimate space.”
He and his German partner Wolfram, a banker, moved out for eight months while the flat was gutted.
Today the open-plan living/dining space has “a sort of modern gentlemen’s club style”.
The floor is oak parquet in a border of ceramic stone. It’s open to the kitchen, though it can be shut off by sandblasted reeded-glass sliding doors in an oak frame.
There’s just one chic hall, with a mirrored wall to double the space. “I used oak stained in grey, offset with either shiny or white surfaces, that pull light right into the heart of the flat.”
In the super-slim bathroom the self-cleaning and flushing loo, a top-of-the-range Toto Neorest AC, sits beside a walk-in shower enlivened by Fifties-inspired tiles by Barber & Osgerby for Mutina.
The slip kitchen is done in porcelain, with pendant cord ceiling light over the counter from Buster + Punch.
All cabinets were made by a joiner. Hopwood prefers drawers to cupboards, so there’s no kneeling.
He has turned the second bedroom into a dressing room and library. Far better to put guests up at the Premier Inn, he jokes. At £1,500 a square foot, why have a spare bedroom?
In his work he loves playing with contrasts, such as a 19th-century Venetian Bombé commode in a specially designed niche of his bedroom.
But he has a soft spot for Ikea and high street stores West Elm and Zara Home. The trick is customising pieces.
“Repurpose it, hack it about and make it your own,” is his mantra. Or get someone else to hack it, more likely.
He says it’s easy to take your home’s interior for granted. “You stop looking at it. When you start refreshing and adding, you fall back in love.”