Combining Traditional and Modern in a Cohesive Luxury London Design

Combining Traditional and Modern in a Cohesive Luxury London Design

Few realise the breadth of design possibilities with stone; however, the owners of a traditional property on Palace Garden Terrace in London’s district of Kensington – wanted to explore how far they could take it.

The owners of the traditional London townhouse sought to keep the original design features of the building that they loved while adding a modern twist.

The property’s original stone staircase had experienced some movement over time. Therefore the decision was made to renew both the old staircase and continue down into a new contemporary basement.

The vision
The client wanted to use the same stone running down through the building – keeping the traditional design above ground while adding a new contemporary stair design heading down into the ultra-modern new basement conversion below.

The vision was clear – to bring a traditional and modern design together using one continuous stone, creating a cohesive design that contrasts between the two styles.

“We were given a really clear vision for this project – yet they wanted us to deliver the full end-to-end service – from design to installation.”

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The all-important design bringing modern and traditional together
This was very much a design of two halves. One modern and the other in-keeping with the classic features of the London townhouse.

The skill with this project was to bring both aesthetics together into one seamless concept.

For the upper floors, the traditional design was re-created with a classic, smooth soffit, a bullnose, fillet and cavetto on the tread profile. Re-installing the original cast iron balustrade also added more of the original features back into the design in keeping with the building’s heritage.

The two new flights of the staircase down to the basement complimented this with a modern stepped soffit finished with a rounded nose to the tread. The new balustrade chosen was glass, set into slots in the top of the treads allowing for a modern and uninterrupted view through the building and the new stairs down to the basement.

“It was the contrast between the flights, giving two very different aesthetics that worked well together.”

Stone was a clear and early choice for the project

All set-in-stone
Stone was a clear and early choice for the project in order to reinstate the original staircase. The whole project was carved from Portland Base bed Limestone – a stone used in London, across the city.

The stone was the perfect choice not only for its traditional and premium qualities, but it’s fine grain and properties make it ideal for consistency and the crisp stonework required for the project.

From start to finish
The project was undertaken by masons at Ian Knapper who supported the project from conception and design, through to creation and installation. It is this complete support to the client that allowed the team to conceive and deliver such a cohesive aesthetic to the project, tying both modern and traditional concepts together.

Once the aesthetic had been chosen, the team had to overcome a list of logistical considerations from the limited space and access; to engineering for the project as treads could not be set into walls in the traditional method.

“Sometimes the aspect of the project you are most proud of, are the things you don’t see – and it took all our team’s experience and engineering to overcome some of the challenges we were faced with, without compromising on the design of the stair.”

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The result
The combination of the traditional detail and the clean contemporary lines really showcased the material and brought classic detail and modern design together. The sweeping clean line created by the underside of the first-floor staircase helped the design connect with sharp lines of the contemporary stair that descended two flights into the basement.

The off-white limestone in contrast with the traditional black ironmongery and rich wood handrail on the first-floor treads, combined with a modern glass balustrade topped with a leather-wrapped handrail as you move down the new modern staircase worked well together. Combine this with the continuation of the material and a clear connection between modern and traditional was made, whilst showcasing both at their best.

Wanting the material to also feature across the rest of the design, the team at Ian Knapper were also asked to create matching skirting, tiles, and edging to the gallery to complete the look.

With the project finished in the most beautiful limestone and with meticulous attention to detail – this connection between the traditional and modern is set to stand for 100’s of years to come.

Fact file
The project required an estimated 400-man hours to complete and took six months to manufacture and install from the point at which stonework commenced used approximately 25 tonnes of stone used Portland Limestone and included 22 traditional carved treads and 31 modern treads.

Specialising in quality bespoke masonry from staircases and fireplaces to commissioned pieces, Ian Knapper’s team include national and international award-winning masons who have built a reputation for delivering the best. For more information, visit

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Editorial Team

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