When the party starts: a home to lift the spirits

Their friends will tell you that Paul Price and Fletcher Cowan know how to throw a good party. In summer it’s not unusual to find at least 100 guests spilling out, brimming margaritas in hand, from the kitchen of their north London home into the garden with its bubbling hot tub. Those previral bashes are, of course, on hold for now. But even without the revellers, here’s an interior to lift the spirits. The tutti-frutti carpets, lagoon-blue cocktail bar and walls bustling with modern art add up to a home that’s sociable – and comfortable.

Price and Cowan are quick to credit the interior designer Peter Mikic with the exuberant effect. They all met, inevitably, at a dinner party. Before founding his business 10 years ago, Mikic used to run a fashion label. Price is the CEO of a luxury fashion brand and Cowan, who presents a fashion show on US channel E!, studied fashion at Central Saint Martins. So the three share a taste for art, colour and unpredictable juxtapositions.

“I don’t do matchy-matchy, I prefer things to be on the more interesting side,” says Mikic, an Australian who has lived in the UK for more than 20 years. “Paul and Fletcher have more parties than anyone I know. This house reflects that. It’s them down to a T.”

Marble surfaces in the kitchen.
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 Island life: marble surfaces in the kitchen. Photograph: Kate Martin/The Observer

In a part of London better known for slender townhouses, the 1870s property is a rarity. Wide and double-fronted, it has a host of unusual features: ornate plasterwork motifs on the walls downstairs and dashing Moorish-style arches upstairs where there are three bedrooms and a walk-in wardrobe.

“I was the first person to see it when it went on the market six years ago,” says Price, an American with strong opinions on how things should look. “I walked in, saw the wonderful, original staircase and made an offer on the spot. It just spoke to me.”

Mikic’s brief was to transform the three-storey interior, which is believed to have operated as a print factory during the Second World War. This may have been when the first two floors were subdivided into a warren of small rooms with disproportionately wide hallways. One of the first things Mikic did was to reorganise the space by opening up the main reception rooms. “The idea was to create relaxed and comfortable spaces for entertaining and living,” he says. Original details were also restored. Layers of paint were scraped off the staircase to reveal the ebonised handrail, and the parquet floors were sanded back to their golden 19th-century colour.

The living area with metal-framed windows.
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 Inside out: the living area with metal-framed windows. Photograph: Kate Martin/The Observer

“The house now has distinct zones; the reception rooms are for living and entertaining, the lower ground floor for cooking, eating, and working,” says Mikic, who added a gym as well as a library for Cowan in the lower-ground floor.

For this sociable couple, a new dining room was a priority. The kitchen has a convivial island for cooking and chatting: “Paul loves to cook and I love to eat: that’s us in a nutshell,” says Cowan.

To bring light to the lower-ground floor, Mikic also installed floor-to-ceiling metal-framed windows that span the back wall. “Before that there was only a small door and two small windows overlooking the garden,” says Price. “Now you feel a real sense of connection between the outside and inside.” By contrast, the upstairs bedrooms, with their layers of muted colours and understated furnishings, were designed as a peaceful retreat.

Apart from a few artworks by friends, such as LA artist Jonas Wood or the photographer Alex Prager, most of the furniture and objects were bought for the house. Parisian flea markets or Alfies antique market in northwest London are their stamping grounds for mid-century design. “A mix, not too 1960s or 1970s, but a bit of every era,” insists Price.

Paul Price and Fletcher Cowan sitting side by side in their living room.
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 ‘I was the first person to see the house when it went on the market and I made an offer on the spot’: Paul Price (right) with Fletcher Cowan. Photograph: Kate Martin/The Observer

In the sitting room, the multicoloured sideboard inlaid with Murano glass is a 1980s prototype by Italian fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro. It was the catalyst for the rug – as colourful as a pointillist painting – which Mikic designed, picking up the icing-sugar colours in the bespoke sofas. The pair of 60s armchairs, with their original fabrics intact, were found online at 1stdibs. The pink walls are one of Mikic’s custom-made colours: “I usually hate pink, too sugary or Barbie,” says Price. “But this won me over.”

From here, you step into the new bar where the aquarium-blue walls are made of polished plaster and the countertop was carved from lava stone.

Nearby, the glossy grand piano is a mechanical one that plays itself. The music is the “only issue in our relationship”, says Price, “I’m fond of a show tune, which Fletcher can’t stand.” But they agree on the classics: “Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Queen, Madonna… Hey, there’s a theme here.”

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