Interior designer & architect Shalini Misra’s home is intimate yet spacious in all its Victorian splendour

I’m not even in Shalini Misra’s house yet, and I’m impressed. Her detached Victorian house in London’s St John’s Wood is guarded by two stone lions, there’s a water fountain featuring the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, and it’s full of lush greenery. I shouldn’t be so surprised; Misra is an internationally celebrated interior designer and award-winning architect, who is known for her bold, luxurious designs, imbued with a sense of playfulness. “No project I do is cut and paste,” she tells me. “I focus on bespoke design and work on a lot of detail, and arts and crafts. I really love art.”

Hand-painted timber staircase with art by photographer Candida Höfer

Her London home of 17 years is a testament to this, with its fusion of bold American artwork (a print in the hallway reads ‘BLAH BLAH BLAH’), Victorian panelling, and Indian art, from the likes of Ram Kumar. She gives me a tour of the family home that she shares with her husband of 28 years, Rajeev Misra, the CEO of SoftBank Vision Fund, her youngest daughter Roshni, 14 and cat Ella. Her older children Reeva, 27, who runs the non-profit Vahani Scholarship Trust, and Rohan, 25, who works in finance don’t live there anymore.“But they’re always coming back,” says Shalini—and it’s really no wonder why.

Radhika Sanghani: Tell me about how you came to buy this house. What attracted you to it?

Shalini Misra: It was 17 years ago. I was looking for a house with a big garden because nature’s really special to me. My real estate broker told me I’d fall in love with the house as soon as I walked in, and he was right. The house had no character, but the garden was everything I wanted.

The living room features a sculpture by Misra’s son, Rohan

RS: You definitely can’t say it has ‘no character’ now. How did you bring it to life?

SM: Back then it was a Victorian house without a single feature. We deconstructed the house and opened it all out. The garage and storage room have become the family room. We have tried to incorporate a lot of Victorian features like the fireplaces and panelling. We also have a lot of Indian artwork, like the floor from a 400-year-old Indian palace up on the ceiling.

Shalini Misra in her beautiful home in London

RS: I really love the mix of Indian and British styles in your home. Tell me more about it.

SM: Yes, we’ve tried to mix them along with other styles from around the world, and places I’ve visited. The floor in the hallway is from an old Italian church. The lift door is old English lace pattern, with eglomised mirror. We also have a lot of Indian artwork, and I’ve used materials like vegan leather embroidered in India. We’ve also followed the Indian principle of vastu shastra, to keep the central core of the house empty.

A stunning Italian Calacatta Viola marble indoor staircase

RS: You’ve also created a really open space in your living area over two floors. Was there any principle behind that?

SM: A lot of people keep a formal drawing room quite separate. It’s quite a British and Indian thing. But we don’t have any spaces blocked off in the house, and we have no doors in between our formal drawing room or dining room. We’ve avoided corridors because they can waste a lot of space. We have doors we can close off to divide spaces. This is a very Japanese philosophy. They used to have shoji screens to divide open plan spaces. People often keep the best room for guests, but it’s important to enjoy it. We try to make a space inviting, livable and usable.

A custom bath in Azul stone from Brazil and handmade pottery jars

RS: It’s an amazing home but it still feels like a family space. How do your kids feel about it?

SM: The kids are artistic. They didn’t want me to design their rooms because they have such strong ideas of their own. Roshni designed her bathroom, with pink marble, in a very specific way to her taste. When their friends come it’s interesting to them, because this type of a house is unusual for a place like London.

Shalini Misra

Sleek joinery design created by Misra to ensure more storage space

RS: Is it always this tidy?

SM: Often, yes. The key to tidy is to have enough storage. We have all our books and games hidden away in cupboards in the living space, and the speakers for the television are all behind a wooden panel so we don’t expose the sound. And the television in our bedroom is hidden away inside a wardrobe. If you have enough space and drawers, you don’t need to have everything out.

Shalini Misra's

Fireplace custom-made by Misra with stools by Martino Gamper

RS: I know wellness is really important to you and has been for many years. How does that play into design?

SM: We play around with a lot of flow and energy. Most things have a wow factor. We like to impress. If it’s not beautiful, or related to wellness, I don’t have it in my home. For me wellness is about creating a certain ambience, which you can be created through lighting, or colour. Our utility room is rhubarb red with green cupboards, but in my bedroom, our dressing area has calming greys. We also have plants and flowers everywhere and do a lot of upcycling. We also like to buy vintage things, like chandeliers and re-upholstered sofas.

Shalini Misra's

The dining space is adorned with a vintage Nilufar Gallery chandelier

RS: What are some of your favourite spaces in the house?

SM: In the living area, I have a fireplace to make you feel cosy and warm—I love sitting with my back to it. In my bedroom, I have a corner to meditate, where my husband and I also take our tea in the morning. To me the bedroom is always a sanctuary. We decided not to have a ‘his and hers’ dressing area because my husband and I have the best conversations getting ready together.

Photographs: Vikram Kushwah; Sittings Editor: Stav Roulazoe

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