Kate Instone knows a thing or two about working with celebrity clients. After all, the founder and creative director of Blush, a luxury interior design firm, has worked on the homes of Madonna, Sting and Seal, as well as a number of high-profile Dubai properties.
Among these is Caroline Stanbury’s Al Barari penthouse.
The British television personality, 45, is a bona fide fashion maven and loves vibrant colour, says Instone. “We used her eye for style as our main inspiration. Caroline was very involved in the design process and made all of her own final selections,” says Instone, who is known for eschewing the cookie-cutter approach adopted even in luxurious homes.
Here are eight decor items that best encapsulate the sense of passion and fashion — “designed with Caroline, for Caroline” — the duo brought to the table.
Multifunctional marble table
Functioning as part-dining table, part-boardroom table, this sleek piece was designed for Stanbury to take with her from property to property. “This is where Caroline spends most of her time, so she wanted an elegant and timeless piece,” says Instone.
The dining room chairs come with gold-leaved legs, while the backs are upholstered in a leather-woven Dedar fabric, and the fronts of the chairs are in a blush-hued suede.
“The blush pink dining chairs give the space an understated pop of colour and complement the coral pink console that sits behind them.”
Pro tip: “You can make a real statement by upholstering the back of dining chairs in a different fabric,” says the designer. “It allows the use of a more delicate “wow” fabric on the back of the chair and then a more practical, hard-wearing fabric on the seat. If space is tight, use a round marble-topped table.”
Quilted handbags, notably from Stanbury’s favourite brand Chanel, are all the rage — and the texture was the inspiration for the coral pink sideboard that sits next to the dining table and chairs.
“This sideboard is a classic ‘Caroline’ piece. It’s fashion-inspired and finished in a happy yet sophisticated colour. It’s a great backdrop to the XOXO artwork that sits above it,” says Instone. “The piece is in a high-gloss lacquer with a gold leaf plinth that pops next to the coral pink.”
Pro tip: A sideboard is a practical addition to your dining area as this is where all the formal dinnerware, cutlery and glasses can be kept,” says Instone. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with its colour. Even if you have a unit you’ve fallen out of love with, you can always get it refinished. Just pick a daring colour and transform your old furniture into something new without unnecessary waste.”
When Instone met Stanbury for a design briefing in London, the latter was wearing a Chanel jacket and cut-off shorts. “Her outfit inspired the fabric selection for a statement armchair. The back is a textured tweed from Dedar that perfectly matched her jacket,” says Instone.
The chair sits on the first-floor landing next to a large picture window. It is embellished with a Christian Dior-embroidered scatter cushion and oversees a simple white side table. “It’s the perfect chair to curl up in and have a cup of coffee before taking on the day,” says the designer.
Pro tip: “An oversized, eye-catching armchair can fill up an empty corner. This is a piece of furniture you can really experiment with as it is a stand-alone piece, which doesn’t necessarily need to match the rest of your aesthetic,” explains Instone.
Blush designed this bench in-house for Stanbury, and she's ferried it between her homes in London and Dubai. In Al Barari, the piece sits in the entrance hall, and has simple gold legs and pink velvet upholstery.
“It’s a versatile piece of furniture, classic yet modern,” says Instone. “The bench is the first thing you see when the private lift doors open in Caroline’s penthouse, and the pink colour of the silk velvet seat sets the tone for the interior scheme.”
Pro tip: "Entryways are often overlooked, which is shame as this is the room you walk through many times each day and an area that every one of your guests will visit. It’s worth decorating this space, and a hallway bench is always inviting,” says the designer. “It’s somewhere you can sit and change your shoes; an opportunity to add some softness with upholstery, texture and colour; and it can have storage underneath to avoid any clutter that distracts from that all-important arrival experience.”
Stanbury and Instone have placed a large rainbow-inspired artwork by Swiss artist Stefania Nazzal in the double-height space above the penthouse’s private lifts. “It’s impactful and powerful. Without this piece, there is the possibility the area would feel cold and less inviting. It is placed in a location that can be viewed from both the entrance hall and the first-floor landing,” says Instone. “The artwork really pulls all of Caroline’s colours together.”
Pro tip: “Bare walls feel very uninviting, and don’t evoke a sense of cosiness one seeks in a home. Using large-format artwork is a handy tool for solving this problem,” explains Instone. “You can also use art to emphasise a particular colour palette or add a touch of colour if you are working with a neutral scheme.”
Cinar is a family-owned Turkish company that has been creating silk and wood carpets since the 1930s. Stanbury’s penthouse has a number of rugs from the brand, but Instone’s favourite is a monochrome abstract runner placed at the entrance.
“A design in contrasting colours can be very impactful. We love to play with blacks and whites as white reflects light and creates the illusion of space, while black creates depth. Even through monochrome colours are simple, they are dynamic and edgy when combined. This rug sets the tone when you enter the penthouse, and balances out the abundance of colour.”
Pro tip: “A black and white rug can work in any interior colour scheme. Whether you choose a contemporary geometric pattern or a softer abrash, a monochrome rug will uplift any room and bring a sophisticated edge to your home,” says Instone.
Tufted coffee table
Turquoise is Stanbury’s favourite colour, says Instone, and she’s taken this tufted coffee table/foot stool from home to home. It stands out in a seating area that otherwise has sofas and armchairs upholstered in a warm white bouclé.
“The turquoise velvet tufted coffee table provides a pop of colour, which is picked up in the array of brightly coloured scatter cushions and Hermes throws. The vignette is completed by an extra-long turquoise lacquered media unit,” says Instone.
Note also the contrast of textures on the matching-coloured pieces. This was deliberate, says Instone, and the eye transitions from the hard high-gloss turquoise finish to the softer velvety texture, giving the area a sense of balance.
Pro tip: “While I always recommend clients stick to classic, timeless colourways for staple investment pieces, such as sofas and armchairs, one can experiment with on-trend colours in smaller items such as cushions, throws and an upholstered coffee table,” say the designer.
Turquoise side table
Designed to complement the shades of the coffee table and sideboard, a turquoise side table is placed in Stanbury’s living room. The two-tone high-gloss lacquer is finished with a dividing recessed shadow gap of hand-applied gold leaf.
“The versatile little table can be moved around the house. Currently, it sits next to Caroline’s bouclé sofas and serves as a resting place for an oversized Baobab candle,” says Instone.
Pro tip: "An accent table is a great way to introduce some colour, experiment with shape and form, and use materials that you might not otherwise consider as it is small and easily interchangeable,” says Instone. “It’s a piece of furniture you can take a risk with, without staying awake at night worrying you might have made the wrong design decision. Just have fun with it.”