Interior designer Sera Hersham Loftus has transformed an interconnecting enfilade of rooms in London’s Little Venice to capture the faded glamour of a palazzo on the Grand Canal.
Britain emerges from Brexit and the dark days of the pandemic lockdowns, there’s a newfound fertility and creative energy in the air as art and design interact with each other. Interior and set design maven Sera Hersham Loftus is one such artist that is very much part of this creative renaissance. Working for celebrity clients has always kept her in the spotlight, and today she is imbued with a new energy and fervor for her craft. “I love what I do with such passion,” she says. “I continue to be compelled by my desire to do great work for my clients and to seek originality.”
Manifesting a design integrity of her own sets her apart from clinical white spaces so popular today. Nowhere is her originality expressed more vividly than in her own apartment she calls “Little Venice Rooms.” “It’s an unashamedly romantic style that is influenced by the faded grandeur of a Venetian palazzo,” explains Loftus. “Living in London’s Little Venice with its colorful boats and life on the canal provided all the inspiration I needed.” Loftus has never been afraid to break the mold. Her sensuous style mixes unserious vintage pieces with the occasional concession to shabby chic creating intriguing layers of narrative reminiscent of a bygone age. Her collection of vintage clothes had a profound influence on her aesthetic. “I have been collecting and wearing vintage stuff since I was a teenager,” offers Loftus. “The faded colors never cease to hold me in their thrall.”
Loftus’s painterly, glamorous style is unique to her and gives her brand, Serasestra, that distinctive difference over others. Her apartment is more than just her home – it’s her studio and atelier; a place to create as well as try out color palettes, fabrics, furniture, and wallpapers. “Little Venice Rooms is kind of my laboratory, a bit like a theater set where I experiment with new ideas,” she explains. “A good example are my Serasestra house gowns seen hanging from the high ceilings in nearly every room.” These diaphanous drapes often strategically replace doors and diffuse the harsh sunlight that streams into the rooms in the summertime. Her seductive lampshade designs are also on display along with her cushion collections, which adorn the daybeds.
Loftus’s brand is much in demand. Her current projects are numerous including designing a holistic retreat for Charlotte Church in what was Laura Ashley’s old family mansion in Wales. It is soon to be shown as a six-part series on Discovery Channel. She is also designing the Chelsea apartment for artist Charlotte Watts, granddaughter of the late Rolling Stone Charlie Watts. As always, Loftus remains a free spirit with a strong following. Dressed in a vintage number you will find her gliding through her salone designing the next project transported by the beguiling interior she has created at Little Venice Rooms.
Never one to stand still, Loftus has recently completely redecorated and changed the apartment from her initial vision for the space. The panelling and walls have been painted in a terracotta pink set off with smaller areas of soft pastel shades of blue, eau de Nil, and yellow. “I worked with the best specialist painter in this country, Andrea Bizzarro, who painted the walls to look like they date back to the original building,” she says. Now crumbling and worn with the faded patina that the caress of time creates, they merge with the well-trodden floorboards.
Loftus originally bought the apartment from DJ Mark Moore, who acquired it 30 years ago when a ruthless developer stripped it of its glory and turned it into a characterless 1970s refurb. “Despite its shortcomings, Mark filled it with his musician friends and composed music there, so it had a fantastic vibe,” comments Loftus. “Nevertheless, my first task was to give it back its original character.” All the cornices, ceiling-roses, and skirting were reinstated, and she purchased extra wide, antique distressed floorboards from a house in Amsterdam. The pièce de résistance, however, is the room she calls her “salone” where Loftus installed original 18th century panels. “They just feel like they always belonged here,” she comments. After two years of hard graft to completely restore the original architectural features and attention to every detail from the soft lighting to the sound system, Loftus was ready to move in. “Lighting is paramount in all my work,” she states. “All the low-level lights are on dimmers so at night the rooms are softly lit and enhanced by candlelight and the glow of warm fires.” Frankincense is the house perfume, which Loftus has been buying from an old church in Venice for more than 20 years. Music is always softly piped through the rooms, adding to the ambience: Miles Davies, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, jazz, and the blues. “I go to sleep and wake with it,” she offers. Moody, seductive, and gently perfumed, the apartment resembles a soft-focus dream-like world.
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Vogue Living Arabia