Interior designer Ben Huckerby has one of the best apartments in the city. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by James Hardisty
Moving home ranks as one of the most stressful of all life events but for Ben Huckerby it was a breeze. He swapped his rented flat for a much larger
three-bedroom apartment directly below. So a few trips down in the lift and some carefully aimed drops on to the balcony beneath and the removals were complete.
“It was easy. I threw most of my stuff off the balcony and that was it,” says Ben, who bought the property at Leeds Brewery Wharf 18 months ago.
“I waited for this place to come on the market. I wanted to buy here and this is the biggest flat in the development. I wanted to stay at Brewery Wharf because it has a lovely village feel and some of the other parts of the city can be a bit soulless.”
The large balcony was a big draw. It has sensational views of the river. Naturally, it’s been given the Huckerby treatment. Ben is an award-winning interior designer and was keen for the decked terrace to work as an outdoor room.
He painted the decking grey and laid some AstroTurf. There’s a hot tub, sofa and a table and chairs plus some giant planters filled with realistic-looking plants.
“The problem with real plants is that they attract flies, drop leaves and need watering. I saw these amazing looking artificial plants at a trade show in Paris and they are brilliant. It is all about having an easy lifestyle with as few household chores as possible,” he says. “My parents have a big house in Derbyshire and spend most of their time cleaning and gardening. With this flat, I can come home after work and just enjoy it.”
Inside, the apartment is decorated in his trademark style – opulent but cosy and relaxed. It was, he says, a quick makeover, as he is busy with work.
He is refurbishing his HQ and showroom, which is on a nearby industrial estate.
A sneak preview reveals that what looks like a workshop from the outside, is more akin to a glamorous five-star hotel inside.
“It’s not quite finished yet but the idea is that clients will be able to see the style and quality of the bespoke furniture in situ,” says Ben, who is also working on commercial and residential projects in the UK and overseas.
He studied interior architecture at university and launched his own business after working for businessmen Terry George and Michael Rothwell. He cut his teeth on transforming their home, Carr Hall Castle, and it won the title Britain’s Best Home. He’s been sought-after ever since and has a list of celebrity clients.
His flat reflects his attention to detail and love of texture and subtle pattern. It couldn’t be more different to the way it looked when he first got the keys.
“It was just another white box with fittings that the developers put in ten years ago. I couldn’t live with it like that so I redecorated straight away. The most important change I made was to dress the windows with curtains, which has added a softness,” he says
It took him one week to transform the look, though he has lots of other plans for the property, including changing the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring, altering the layout and stealing corridor space to make a larger bathroom and a luxurious master suite.
The rooms show Ben’s passion for wallpaper. He has used paper from Zoffany, Osborne and Little and Brian Yates. His current favourite is Komodo by Osborne and Little, which is in the bathroom – it looks like lizard skin and has a 3D, holographic effect.
The walls are decorated with his collection of art, which includes prints from Cobra Art, based in the Netherlands. Most of the lighting is by Porta Romana. “They hand make the lamps and every one of them is slightly different,” says Ben.
The majority of the furniture was made bespoke for his previous flat and the rest is high street with a couple of skilfully adapted bargain buys. His luxurious looking bed is a Malm frame from Ikea that is lit from underneath with plug-in, remote controlled LED strip lights, costing about £20. The headboard is bespoke and made to Ben’s design.
His dining table for eight is one of his best-loved pieces and he managed to squeeze it into the open plan living area, but says: “I entertain a lot so my plan is to move the dining area to where the kitchen is, giving it more space. I can’t wait to redo the kitchen completely. It’s awful and it’s falling to pieces.”
His love of entertaining is celebrated with a perspex tower filled with champagne corks, all inscribed with the names of the friends he shared the bottle with.
“It’s a bit like a memory bank. It started with a vase but the corks outgrew that very quickly.”
The champagne tower will stay as part of the new scheme for his apartment. When he completes the next phase of work on the flat, it will be his perfect home.
“I love living in the city. I can be in Harvey Nichols within six minutes. I can also come home at 6pm and be out in a restaurant with friends by half past,” he says.
“Part of me would like a house in the suburbs. I’d also like a partner and children eventually, that’s the dream and that would be the time to get that house with a garden. Until then, I can’t see me moving.”
Ben Huckerby Design, www.benhuckerbydesign.co.uk