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A Room of One’s Own: Romans, Greeks and retro sleekness in Gergei Ergei’s glamorous sitting room

The designer talks Italian pop playlists, the value of cushions and the thrill of antique hunting – all against the backdrop of his Holborn pad

Mhairi Mann
Chris Horwood
A Room of One’s Own: Romans, Greeks and retro sleekness in Gergei Ergei’s glamorous sitting room

Gergei Erdei is busy. He’s back at it today, having been up late last night at the National Gallery, furnishing the private dining area at Ochre, the museum’s newly opened restaurant. The room’s views over St Martin-in-the-Fields, with its grand columned entrance, feel like a fitting background to the work of this designer, who draws heavily on neoclassical shapes and Medieval architecture.

Born and raised in Hungary, Gergei moved to the UK to study at the London College of Fashion, before working under Alessandro Michele at Gucci in Rome as a designer and illustrator. His eponymous home décor line followed in 2019, combining his understanding of art, textiles and interiors. His work – like his home – layers inspirations and periods, from Roman mosaics and Renaissance motifs the Beaux-Arts rugs by André Arbus and vintage Yves Saint Laurent scarves, all recast for a contemporary audience.

It is no small wonder that when it came to house hunting, the designer sought one with history and character. “I had always lived in east London,” he explains. “It became a bit of a party capital, though, and when you’re working, you don’t want somebody shouting beneath your door in the middle of the night. I wanted to find something that complemented my aesthetic better.”

During the second lockdown, Gergei was the first through the door of the apartment in the Georgian townhouse he now calls home, located on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Holborn. He immediately fell for its large bay windows, period detailing and unusual burnt-sienna walls. “It reminded me of the flats in Budapest, with their soaring three- or four-metre-high windows. It’s hard to find that in London.”

As well as natural light, another non-negotiable was an unfurnished space Gergei could place his distinctive 1970s-leaning stamp on. Dispel at once any thoughts of brown, orange and shagpile, however, for Gergei’s seductive reincarnation of the decade is the embodiment of sophistication, drawing on the work of Italian design luminaries: Gio Ponti, Willy Rizzo, Luciano Frigerio. Like Gergei, these creators blur the boundaries between art, design and craft.

In the sitting room, which doubles as the designer’s study, a palette of high-shine brass, glass, burl wood and lacquer ooze louche glamour, while Regency chairs and the neoclassical silhouettes from his own collections bring an opulent air to the space. It serves as a compelling example of his incisive eye and enviable flair for colour and texture. Note the low curvaceous velvet sofa that basks in the light of the big bay windows, next to a set of glimmering nesting tables on which sits a chrome lamp with a butter-yellow plastic shade. Two caramel-toned Gordon Russell leather seats look towards the fireplace. Across the room, a set of vintage chairs in the style of Marcel Breuer’s ‘Cesca’ reflects Gergei’s penchant for a Bauhaus-like cleanness of line.

Don’t be fooled into thinking, however, that this space cost Gergei the earth to furnish, for here’s a man that prefers Facebook Marketplace to 1stDibs, as well as exploring Alfies Antique Market in London. The striking mirror above the fireplace is an eBay treasure. “Part of the reason I like antiques is the sheer thrill of finding a gem,” he says.

While living in Rome, Gergei would rummage through warehouses chock-a-block with second-hand furniture. It was here he found that sunny-shaded chrome lamp, as well as an illuminated vitrine, which he then shipped to Hungary. It was unexpectedly returned to sender and Gergei appealed to Instagram to help rearrange the delivery in exchange for some cushions. The negotiation was successful; now the glass case sits proudly here, showcasing one of his own terracotta urns, created in collaboration with London-based artist Giuseppe Parrinello.

Hand-painted Ikea boxes line the shelves on the wall facing the windows, creating a pattern with pleasing geometry that David Hicks would have envied. Gergei cites the late interior decorator’s seminal, immersive schemes in which colour and graphic print ran floor to ceiling as a recurring influence.

In fact, a melange of ideas feeds into his uplifting homeware designs. This year’s spring/summer collection, ‘Herculaneum’, celebrates our return to conviviality with a full tableware collection, its glassware, dinner plates and table linen all brought to life with Gergei’s chalky, expressive hand-drawn illustrations. Alongside Greek and Roman antiquity, these pieces simultaneously conjure the carefree spirit of the Italian Riviera in sky blue, sunny yellow and mandarin.

Gergei’s ceramics are crafted in Hódmezővásárhely, a Hungarian city with a rich history of hand-painted pottery, while his textiles are made in England. The graphic cushions wouldn’t feel out of place in one of those Hicks schemes, and Gergei likes to think of them as pieces of art, only more flexible: “You can move around your room to completely change the mood. I strive to create beautiful pieces that you can use every day.”

The soundtrack to this is exactly as one expects. When he worked at Gucci, Gergei would listen to Italian pop classics and he continues to play Mina, Iva Zanicchi, Patty Pravo and Loredana Bertè on repeat while he’s working in here, so that they can inform his sensuous, retro world, all polished brass and pointed shirt collars.

What would a house party at casa del Erdei entail? Emilio Pucci kaftans, naturally, as well as Hugo Spritz cocktails, Campari sodas and, Gergei adds, “whatever else you find on the bar trolley” – an Italian brass and smoked-glass one, of course.

Further reading

Gergei Erdei

Gergei Erdei on Instagram


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