Designer-owner Misha Stefan picks a handful of violets for his London hideaway
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 7/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
The color mauve is notoriously hard to pin down. "It's underground and a bit naughty," explains London designer Misha Stefan, who is also an owner of the private Notting Hill bar-lounge that takes its name and theme from the risqué and elusive hue. Stefan splashed eight distinct shades in the mauve family onto walls and upholstery, from strong purple to violet and palest lilac. Such "old-school glamour," as he describes it, is especially complementary to bold, retro-modern elements. Spiky custom halogen Sputnik ceiling fixtures, for example, are made with ivory-painted metal and polished-brass details. "They're electric, with a kind of Rat Pack feel," Stefan says.
The space—right next door to the designer's vintage and contemporary furniture gallery and bookshop, Mission—was previously a casual organic restaurant with bamboo furniture, white walls, and a few palm trees. "Burma meets provincial England," Stefan remembers. It took a week of demolition and six weeks of construction to ensure that virtually nothing of the old interior remained. The building's facade, however, posed a more serious problem, as the Grade II listed Victorian storefront could not legally be altered. Instead, Stefan encased it in a sand-textured painted plywood box and applied large laser-cut polystyrene letters spelling the word Mauve.
Throughout Mauve's interior, rough original wood floors are painted a soft French gray, and singular design elements exhibit the soft geometry Stefan prefers. In the ground-floor cocktail lounge, walls are upholstered in the snaking ringlets of a purple faux astrakhan. Seating here is sexy and low, with cubes upholstered in black or brown patent leather. The bar top is painted and lacquered an especially vibrant mauve shade. A spiral stairway leads upstairs.
Here, a curving wall wraps halfway onto the ceiling. At eye level, showcases poke through the limpid, pale mauve suface to display dishes, books, candlesticks, ashtrays, and other merchandise from Mission. Across the narrow room, a photo of David Bowie hangs between Stefan-designed sconces, their wiggly black brass tentacles sprouting from wooden plaques. "I'm quite a modernist, but a line should have a curve in it also, as in nature," he says. Stools at the black-lacquered bar counter are upholstered in gray suede. Other seating includes several sofas and a vintage velvet-covered armless chair, plus a lone Eero Saarinen Tulip chair in black. Stefan designed laminated-wood bases for three tabletops fabricated in varying combinations of glass mosaic tiles, brass, teak, and rubber.
A digital photomontage reproducing 16 recolored Marsha Hunt images from the musical Hair wallpapers the dining alcove at the rear of the upstairs. (They're by Swinging '60s photographer Justin de Villeneuve, Twiggy's boyfriend.) Surprisingly, there are only four tables for dining at Mauve. Stefan champions the return of small, exclusive neighborhood clubs. He dreams of "lots of little mauve rooms all over town, so you can pop into whatever one you're near." In fact, a second location is already in the planning stages. "I've become a bit of a developer," he says. "I can't always sit around waiting for clients to come to me. "