It was like someone had done a really cheap makeover in the Eighties,’ laughs Anthony Kendal.
It’s a crisp autumn morning and the 41-year-old founder of brand agency Kendal and Partners is showing me around the Bloomsbury apartment he shares with his husband, Rossa Prendergast, an architect.
In contrast to the property’s historic exterior (a mansion block that dates back to the late 1800s), the interior is all new. ‘It wasn’t in the best condition when we bought it five years ago,’ explains Kendal. ‘It was a whole series of interconnecting rooms, so we knocked through them to make it open-plan. There’s not a surface or wall that is original. Everything, apart from the front door, has been stripped back. I think Rossa has done an amazing job.’
The couple drew their inspiration for the eight-month renovation from the architect John Pawson and his signature style of minimalism. First they knocked out the restrictive walls to create a free-flowing, open-plan kitchen, dining and living space. As the home also doubles up as a slick HQ for Kendal and Partners (the agency’s client roster includes fashion megabrands such as MyTheresa, Acne Studios and Prada), one of the bedrooms was transformed into a workspace, furnished with the occasional accent pieces (‘We like modernist Italian furniture and there is a lot of German, Bauhaus stuff here, too’).
In an age of Pinterest-worthy maximalist interiors, creating a space that is minimal without feeling devoid of character is a skill in itself. The couple has a strict ‘one-in, one-out rule’ when it comes to belongings and they’ve installed floor-to-ceiling cupboards to maximise storage. There are no personal family pictures on the walls: ‘You spend so much time on social media that actually we don’t need photographs of our closest friends and family. They’re there on a constant instant basis and it almost feels more poignant to keep up on that than to have photographs everywhere.’
Instead, the clean, white-painted walls (an arctic Dulux White Mist) provides the perfect canvas to offset Kendal’s impressive collection of artwork, which runs the gamut from a drawing of Kate Moss by Tracey Emin to a bronze water feature by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. ‘I’m quite in love with it but my husband thinks it looks like something from a Seventies Chinese restaurant,’ he giggles.
The couple’s hero piece, however, is a large black-and-white photograph of Isabella Blow taken by Lucy Ferry shot through a stocking, giving the image a beautiful mottled effect. ‘I met Isabella at a party when I was 20. I remember going back to her hotel suite, [where] she decided she was going to take all her clothes off, get in the bath and clean her teeth. It was an interesting experience.’ Years later Kendal spotted the photograph at one of Ferry’s exhibitions and he had to have it.
Elsewhere in the all-white space is a corner-sized shrine to colour. ‘It’s a celebration of primaries. We call it the Memphis room.’ There are also other meaningful objects that punctuate the space. Take the handwritten poem, for example, given pride of place in a living room cabinet, suspended in a clear glass frame. Written for the couple by a close friend, it was read at their wedding last year at Lismore Castle in Ireland. The friend later had it framed as a gift. ‘We asked our friend Justin to do a reading but I had no idea that he would write the prose himself nor how beautiful it would be.’
Kendal was born and brought up in Perth, Australia, and fashion has always been a central part of his life. His mother was an ex-model turned finance director and many of his early memories include her ‘wearing YSL and Giorgio Armani on the school run. I suppose fashion was always something my sister and I were exposed to and loved.’ He also did his homework, first studying business and marketing at Murdoch University in Perth (it was there that he first met Prendergast ‘drunk in a nightclub’) followed by fashion design at Sydney’s prestigious National Art School.
His first big break in London, having moved here in 2004, was working for Anya Hindmarch, packing boxes. He took the position with a pinch of salt: ‘It’s about positive energy and working hard and not being afraid to get your hands dirty.’
The rest is history, but the frenetic pace of fashion makes coming back to a temple of serenity all the more comforting. ‘There is so much noise that goes on in the world; it’s nice to have something calm to come home to.’