Bespoke Luxury and Light

For Justine Bartolo, founder of Lillie Helena Design House, working with a shell of a property is hugely exciting. ‘As interior designers, we are able to live out our most creative ideas and execute a space that is fully planned out, from the floor up,’ she says.
This was certainly the case with this elegant, waterfront Sliema penthouse that enjoys panoramic views of Marsamxett Harbour and the old city fortifications, as well as of Manoel Island. A blank canvas when she first saw it, Justine was able to start from scratch to design a home that combines luxury and functionality, creating a classically elegant style within a contemporary framework; it recently won the ‘Best Residential Property’ in the European Property Awards 2020 – 2021.
The south-facing penthouse is 160m2 internally and 200m2 externally. ‘As it’s a compact space, we focused on how to make it feel ample and spacious,’ says Justine, who founded Lillie Helena Design House in 2016.
The first step was making a decision about the placement of internal structures to create living and kitchen rooms as well as the three bedrooms and four bathrooms that the client requested. To avoid long corridors and dark spaces, Justine created a large open-plan main living space which is connected, at one end, via a short corridor to the more private rooms. To retain the light and add a design element, the division between the larger living space and the corridor is an open bookcase. ‘At Lillie Helena, we love the idea of creating furniture pieces that are both functional and pleasing to the eye,’ explains Justine. ‘Here, we wanted to extend the TV unit, add a different element to it as well as solve the problem of having a corridor without closing off the open-plan living space. After many sketches, we finally came up with this.’
An interior background palette of subdued, neutral colours was chosen, creating a calm space that is airy and bright, allowing the eye to fall on the elegant details and textures of the custom-designed pieces and soft furnishings which is where bold colour has been introduced – the apartment pops with emerald green headboards, blue dining chairs, fluid brass light fittings, and a pink ‘art wall’, all of which add an extra layer to the design work.
Many of the penthouse’s main pieces – the kitchen, sofa, armchairs, walk-in closet, wardrobes and bathroom vanities – were made bespoke. ‘Giving clients a one-off piece made especially for them makes the design more personal,’ says Justine. ‘We also love having full control over a piece, where we choose the form, colours and material to create something we feel is beautiful, functional and perfectly suited to the space.’
The end result is a unique home with a personal, organic feel. ‘Being able to plan furniture layouts and go through the technical phase allowed us to make sure that everything was catered for beforehand,’ says Justine. ‘It eliminated the need for corrections during the process and made everything go much more quickly and smoothly.’