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Evening Standard Article

Lucia Silver and The L Atelier as modern day alchemist.

Spanning the centuries, Lucia Silver’s home is as exotic as her Notting Hill boutique

Lucia Silver is a modern-day alchemist who transforms both women’s wardrobes and their homes into idiosyncratic expressions of the “irresistibly superfluous” with a few enchanting touches. Step into The L Boutique, her lavish emporium off Westbourne Grove, and you are surrounded by the secret ingredients of the magical process: vintage jewellery, semi-precious stones, exotic feathers, extravagant beading, romantic flowers and a wealth of textiles.

Favoured fabrics include handmade devoré silk satins, Chinese silk, organza, chiffon and brocade, mixed with antique Gujarat and Damascan garments and luscious apparel from the 1920s,1930s and 1940s.

The boutiques young proprietor (Lucia has just turned 30) has seen it swiftly become the place where time starved corporate types and celebrity clients, from Jerry Hall to All Saints, discover an exclusive look, woven from cunningly sourced old and new, custom-designed pieces.

Lucia has an equal interest in interior decoration, which has led to a number of commissions. She says: “Once you are designing a women’s wardrobe it’s quite natural to start talking about her home.”

Her own home is a two-bedroom maisonette in a white stucco house in a terraced square in W2. Lucia and husband Hugo moved into the first-floor apartment in January 2000 and set about transforming it into a distinctive stage set of sumptuous luxury.

“Home is a fantastic concoction,” says Lucia. “We’ve so enjoyed putting everything together, from a 15th century Renaissance painting to cupboards that we’ve built new. There’s a classic Georgian partner’s desk, 1920s Venetian lamps on Edwardian side tables and a late 20th century sculpture in the Deco fireplace. The overall impression is something of a Moroccan, earthy feel. Ethnic, but not grungy ethnic. It says, there are no restraints and no rules.”

Lucia Silver in her living room, the focal point of which is a coffee table made out of a
huge iron-slatted and metal-studded Rajasthani ox cart with the legs taken from sections of the original wheels

In the living and dining room, a high-ceilinged space with tall, shuttered windows, centre stage goes to a massive Rajasthani ox cart, iron-slatted and metal-studded, which has been converted into a coffee table using sections from the original wheels as legs. Sofas and chairs are smothered in bejewelled shawls (dupatas) from India, and one is adorned with a black velvet Ottoman coat and cap, intricately patterned with metal thread embroidery (zardosi work).The theatrical feel of the decor stems from a couple of influences in Lucia’s past: early dance lessons at the Ballet Rambert and a passion for acting and producing plays, discovered while studying English and French literature at Oxford. Despite the richness of the fabrics, and the exotic nature of some of the furnishings, every piece has room to breathe and the “good bones” of the flat are beautifully but intelligently dressed.

Lucia was married to Hugo in Morocco last year and admits to being “a complete travel freak”. She says: “The places I’ve enjoyed the most recently are Morocco and India and I’m about to explore Vietnam.” It was in Gujarat, in Northern India, that she found the dupatas, made to be part of the dowries of Gujurat brides. These textiles are worn by a bride only on her wedding day, when she might put on up to eight.

Lucia says: “The dupatas are wonderful because you can wear them and then sling them on the foot of the bed or over the back of a chair, and they really enrich a room.”

She bought 40 on a recent trip to Indian, after discovering a tiny stall in a local market that sold textiles.

Lucia got talking to the owner and spent a few days in the company of her family, learning more about the skills and traditions that underpinned the garments, eventually making them an offer for a number of dupatas, from the late 1800s to the early 20th century.

Touches such as candles and fresh flowers enhance the rich, warm look of the room. Lucia describes regular fixes from her florist Katie Webb, as: “a necessary extravagance”.

The bedroom incorporates all Lucia’s loves in one room of stylish decadence that precisely fits The L Boutique ethos. The bed is a symphony of gorgeously coloured fabrics: an antique sari is wound around the base and the plum-coloured quilt (by Wigwam) heaped with cushions, some silk sari-fronted and others plain, most from Portobello market. Having spent a couple of years in Paris, Lucia is addicted to the Cligancourt flea market and makes frequent visits to buy “furniture, jewellery, hats and brollies – anything I can use at home or in the shop”.

Here every item can be custom made from hand embroidered boots and silk separates through to ‘vintage rassamblage’ jewellery. Lucia also makes home visits, a great boon for her time-pressured clients who range from busy mothers and high powered executives to celebrities such as Jerry Hall and Anne Widdecombe. So, if you’re wondering whether it’s time to review your ‘look’ and define a new style or you’re exasperated at the ‘samey’ selection of items and looking like everyone else, then The L Boutique is a great place to start afresh for 2003.

An eclectic mix combines old and new. The exotic dining table and chairs sit happily beneath a 15th Century Renaissance painting, while brightly coloured cushions from Portobello Market add to the bedroom’s decadence.

A timeless concoction – by Katrina Burroughs

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