Swimwear designer Melissa Odabash transformed her Georgian house into an opulent home for entertaining.
No matter how many times Melissa Odabash, the swimwear designer whose bikinis and one-pieces are loved by Beyoncé, Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle Macpherson, redecorated her 1750s house, situated 30ft from Regent’s Park in London, she never felt she had got it quite right.
“My husband calculated that I’ve gone through 15 sofas, 4 of which are now in his office and the rest I’ve ended up giving away.” She laughs. “I blame it on the fact I’m a Gemini that I was always re-decorating; I think I crave change.”
But then Odabash, now in her mid-forties, met Kelly Hoppen. The pair became friends and Odabash loved her style so much that Hoppen was asked to redo the kitchen, a paean to white. “Which was great, except once you have had professional help and someone creates an amazing space for you, the rest of the house by contrast looks … not up to scratch.” Hoppen had moved on to other projects by the time Odabash realised she wanted to redo the rest, so she enlisted the help of the interior designer Caroline Legrand.
The brief for the five-bedroom home, which she shares with her husband, Nicolas de Santis, a corporate strategist, and their teenage daughters, was the luxury that she has long admired in the fashion designer and director Tom Ford’s film A Single Man. “I love that Seventies Halston thing, that vintage vibe and then the gold.” The brass screens in her sitting room or the vintage glass that lines her bedroom walls are testament to that style.
Odabash, a former model who grew up in New Jersey, left when she was 19 and has since lived in Paris and Italy, says: “I also wanted a space that felt really bright because I’m a beachy person at heart and I hate how dark it gets here in England.” The result is an opulent symphony of whites, creams and golds – and very, very glamorous. “Caroline and I did a lot of vintage shopping at markets and furniture fairs in Florida, where I have a holiday home. You can pick things up for a quarter of the price that you would find them here.”
Odabash believes that hiring an interior designer is crucial. “I’m a visual person – I am a fashion designer – but I don’t know how to configure a room. I would never have thought to put a gold-weave wallpaper in my house. I would have just painted everything white.”
There is wallpaper in almost every room – in the bathrooms and inside wardrobes too. “They don’t all look like wallpapers – sometimes textured fabrics.” Wall coverings by Phillip Jeffries add texture and warmth to a bedroom. The ceilings of the master bedroom and the snug are lined with paper.
All the better, perhaps, to show off the art. Above the black lacquer cabinet in her entrance hall are pictures by Christopher Wool and Keith Haring. There’s a Banksy too, which sits near Odabash’s photographic collection comprising Slim Aarons, Wim Wenders and Andy Warhol, as well as pictures by Félix González-Torres, Josh Smith and Glenn Ligon. Legrand sourced the work at Art Basel Miami and Frieze London.
What’s the most important thing Odabash has learnt about doing up a house? “Ha – it’s not to be the decorator. There is so much to manage and it’s even more of a nightmare than my business. You’ve got builders in your house, you can definitely add two months on to the deadline and invariably the wallpaper goes on crooked and needs to be redone.”
The room that Odabash gravitates to most, however, is her kitchen. “I love what Hoppen did; she makes everything look so clean, light and fresh.” The focus is a long table with Sixties pendant lights from Alfie’s Antique market in London above it, and a fireplace at one end. The fire is essential for Odabash as she admits she always feels the cold in the UK.
“According to my mother, I will always have one foot in my grave and the other one saying, ‘Wait, wait, I just have to do up one more room.’ We’re now on to the daughters’ bedrooms, because we skipped those and you know they could really look a lot better.”