Secretcape is the Mayfair-based design and architecture firm that creates multi-million pound interiors for royals, billionaires and celebrities. Gina Baksa meets its founder and visionary CEO, Mathilde Allibe
As elegant and enigmatic as the Secretcape interiors she designs for her affluent clients, Secretcape’s leader is a woman with a mission. Born in the south of France, Mathilde spent a Bohemian childhood in Central Africa – where her surgeon father provided healthcare to local pygmies – followed by an equally free-spirited adolescence on Guadeloupe in the French West Indies.
It was Guadeloupe where Mathilde’s interior design skills were first recognised and at 19 she received her first commission to design the island’s airport VIP lounge. Private projects followed and she began to make a name for herself. Hailing from an entrepreneurial family (her grandfather designed the machine that prints bank notes), Mathilde was encouraged in her design career by her father who nurtured her obvious creative talent.
Yet she became tired of island life, “Everyone knows everyone else; it became claustrophobic,” she reveals. “I’m a very private person and I also needed to feed my brain and travel more, so I left.
“But I was lucky I had that kind of free-spirited background, since it means I can easily adapt to any situation and any environment.
“It grounded me and taught me to become independent. My father told me he always knew I would succeed.”
Many summers were spent with her grandparents in the South of France: “I still go there to recharge,” and although travel to clients in the US, Europe and the Middle East is now a constant, Secretcape’s roots are firmly in London’s Mayfair, the exclusive location of her head office that is home to a team of 20 designers, architects, project managers, finance and aftercare specialists.
“I like to give my team the chance to express themselves, so that they feel part of something bigger. We are like a family in a way,” she tells me.
Established in 2008, Secretcape’s client base is a discreet mix of affluent royals, celebrities, heiresses and entrepreneurs. Villas, apartments, yachts, luxury hotels and private jets have received the Secretcape stardust, combining luxurious architectural design elements with a sensual mix of textures and sophisticated bespoke craftsmanship.
“Most of our clients are regulars,” she tells me, remaining superbly discreet. “They begin with one property and soon I find I am working across their portfolio. And if they decide to sell, their profit can be as much as 30%.”
A self-confessed “perfectionist”, Mathilde oversees every detail of every project. From personalised towels and linens, to artwork, tableware, lavish linens and exquisite and state-of-the-art lighting and shading. The result is an ‘art of living’ residence that is not just aesthetically beautiful, but also a functional living home. A refined space that provides a beautiful entertaining environment, as well as a retreat from often hectic professional and private lives.
We’re chatting at one of Secretcape’s completed projects at 30 Pont Street in London’s exclusive Mayfair. This Grade II listed, six-storey, Queen Anne mansion was designed in 1889 by architect C W Stephens, who also built Harrods and Claridges. Behind the mansion’s impressive redbrick façade is the most beautiful transformation all carefully orchestrated under Mathilde’s expert eye.
Originally six separate flats on each floor, Mathilde’s brief from the property’s Middle Eastern owners was to transform the house into three fabulous apartments. It’s a listed building and with a budget of over £20 million, a considerable responsibility that has taken 2.5 years of careful redesign, from initial planning to the present day design spectacular.
The owners of 30 Pont Street are delighted with Secretcape’s majestic end result, but due to a change in family circumstances have now put the house up for sale. Each apartment is listed at over £7million and listed with Knight Frank Mayfair and Napier Watt.
From the impressive concierge area with its original dark wood panelling, marble flooring and bespoke lighting we take the elevator (each apartment has its own lift entrance) to the top of the house.
I’ve seen many beautiful interiors, in luxury private homes and high-end hotels, where the design is effortlessly cool but lacks heart. Mathilde’s vision on the other hand effortlessly blends warmth and sophistication, with delicate masculine and feminine touches. Bold dark wooden flooring is the perfect pairing for soft fabrics and a sensual mix of textures and colours. Vibrant art displayed on a neutral backdrop with red and gold colour accents, together with beautiful symmetry that creates calm and order without feeling contrived or controlled.
Soft velvet fabrics, warm rich taupe-coloured sofas, and artfully placed lamps and Secretcape finds from markets, as well as high-end brands, make for an interesting visual mix that’s playful as well as grown up.