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Designer Stephanie Barba Mendoza brings mellifluous maximalism to Antwerp

In the Belgian countryside, an opulent mock Tudor country house designed by the Mexican-born, London-based interior designer, Stephanie Barba Medoza vibrates with lavish yet liveable furnishings and fabrics. It's a floricultural fairytale come true

Writer
Sophie Sims
Photography
Tim Van de Velde
Designer Stephanie Barba Mendoza brings mellifluous maximalism to Antwerp

It’s a dreary Friday when Stephanie Barba Mendoza and I speak over video call, although her background – a wallpaper called Marly by Colony – could pep up even the glummest of days. A dense entanglement of broad leaves and red fruit, it encapsulates much of what Stephanie’s practice propagates: the use of rich and audacious colour, pattern and texture to brighten the everyday.

Yet Stephanie’s work is anything but quotidian. She spent 10 years cutting her teeth at Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, where she worked on the luxurious redesigns of ritzy London establishments such as Sexy Fish and The Ivy. She reflects fondly on her time under the mentorship of Brudnizki: “I learned so much from Martin, but equally he gave me a lot of freedom. I had a voice with him – as a designer, it’s so wonderful to find that.” She went on to set up her eponymous firm in 2019. “I worked on my own for a whole year – then there were two of us, then four and now, we’re seven.”

It was her work at Mayfair’s legendary private members’ club, Annabel’s, that caught the eye of a future client, the owner of Antwerp House. “It was a pairing that felt so natural,” says Stephaie. “It was so easy to work together. We are very much aligned in our tastes.” One of two projects that started within a week of each other after setting up her firm, the Antwerp House was, as Stephanie says, “a test” of sorts. “You just think, ‘OK, what am I – Stephanie Barba Mendoza – going to do with this?’”

Despite its location, the Antwerp House borrows heavily from the grand tradition of English country house decoration. It is a vast, mock Tudor house, surrounded by trim gardens, with interiors defined by symmetry, proportion, and perennially revered silhouettes. “The client absolutely adores English architecture. She’s a total Anglophile!” explains Stephanie.

As with much of Stephanie’s work, a wealth of inspiration has been woven into the fabric of the house. “I have always been drawn to colour,” she says. “I think that has a lot to do with growing up in Mexico. Things influence you without knowing, particularly the colours around you. You begin to absorb and collect the things that call to you and that you’re drawn to.” As much as there is a distinctly English feel, the house – as with the rest of Stephanie’s oeuvre – borrows from a broader web of references, places and temporalities. (Note the impressive collection of Delftware plates: “the client loves antiques.” Stephanie explains.)

There is a sumptuousness to Stephanie’s design that, when paired with her signature use of colour, creates a truly immersive, sensory experience. She has described the house as “confidently straddling the tricky balance between lavish and liveable.” This is where Stephanie Barba Mendoza excels.

The downstairs living spaces of the Antwerp House exude a palatial richness that pivots on the deft use of dramatic, contrasting colours: magenta pink is riotously paired with forest green that segues into the gardens beyond. Upstairs,, the story is more muted. A palm-leaf wallpaper enwreathes the principal bedroom, making use of lighter tones while maintaining a decorative alliance with the ground floor. “The bedroom is an example of being able to use patterns in a lighter palette,” says Stephanie. “The wallpaper – even though it’s busy and leafy – has a white background to it. It’s calming and soft.”

That an elaborately decorated space can’t be calming, or have longevity, is something that Stephanie decries. “It’s a complete misconception. I think a lot of people are scared of colour and pattern and they decide to leave everything white. It’s about the composition of the room, how warmth is brought to it, and how things can sit harmoniously together. And often I hear, ‘Oh, well I don’t want to get bored of it,’ but I think for me, it’s plainness that’s boring. I would get bored of having nothing to look at!”

Further reading

Stephanie Barba Mendoza

Stephanie Barba Mendoza on Instagram

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