November 16, 2003
A Pad With the X Factor
John Elliott takes a tour of Gillian Anderson’s home in Notting Hill and discovers that the star of The X Files used striking colours and artworks to create a bohemian haven
The brilliantly exuberant bedroom of Gillian Anderson, star of The X Files, could scarcely be bettered as a stepping-off point for the land of nod. It’s reminiscent of a gypsy princess’s caravan. Flick a hidden switch, and rows of tiny lights on the headboard — once part of a funfair sign, and festooned with carved grapes and painted animals — glow into life. On the bedside table, next to the huge Pyrex measuring jug doubling as a lampstand, the star has placed a figurine of herself, dressed only in black underwear. For the times when the multi-millionaire actress is sleepless, a huge plasma television emerges from an antique oriental cupboard, on which hangs a painted Japanese theatre costume, covered in toy rabbits. The whole room sings Arabian Nights meets vaudeville meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Anderson, an American who grew up in north London and also owns homes
in Vancouver and Malibu, bought her three-storey Notting Hill town house
in 2001 for £1.45m, and has given her imagination free rein in
its decoration. The result is a gorgeous testament to those brave enough
— and rich enough — to
“When I think of normal, I think of mediocrity, and mediocrity scares the hell out of me,” Anderson, 35, said recently, adding in another interview: “I had this idea of many colours, with ragged edges here and there, a kind of used feel.”
Entire interior walls of the boldest colours give the four-bedroom house a stunning impact. The acres of colour and antiques from around the world are carefully balanced with plenty of white spaces. In the sitting room, the wall behind the white marble fireplace is painted in a rich black-brown, which, Anderson explains, took 18 coats to get just right. She took charge of the decoration herself but hired Christine Kennedy of the design firm Kennedy Marks and other experts to lend a hand.
Although bursting with colour and energy, the house doesn’t feel cluttered, crowded or chintzy. Favourite antiques and artworks are on show, including custom-made stained-glass windows in green and blue bearing her initials.
Anderson, who says she spent her first pay cheque from The X Files on an etching by the Canadian artist David Blackwood, said recently of her taste in art: “Sometimes there is a provocative element that stirs a feeling, sometimes you’ve simply never seen anything like it before.”
The second-floor kitchen and dining room seems the heart of the house — and not just for the scarlet walls. It’s the perfect space for a party, with a heavy, ornate black wooden dining table surrounded by 12 chairs covered in purple velvet.
Above the table hangs a Moulin Rouge-style candelabra dripping with red and blue glass balloons, while the bustle of the street below creeps in through shutters painted the colour of French mustard. On the wall is a painted sign from a pub, one of Anderson’s many finds from nearby Portobello market.
The drawers in the kitchen area are painted green, white and blue, while around them sit the armaments of the party animal: rows of coloured glass goblets painted with patterns in gold, deep wine glasses, tumblers and highball glasses.
The next room — into which drinks can be passed through a hatch with a stained-glass shutter — is a Moroccan-inspired chill-out room. Here the enormous sofa, sitting on a mosaic floor, is covered with heavily-embroidered cushions and light peeks in through another stained-glass window. “There are lots of rooms to disappear in and have conversations in,” says Anderson.
Further upstairs is one of three bathrooms, painted a rich brown, on the walls and ceilings of which is a giant map of east Africa. Bathers tiring of Tanzania’s geography can instead study the drawing of two lingerie-clad girls.
Anderson’s timber-decked roof terrace, with views across west London, is less exotic than the rest of the house, but with a table for six, gives the house much-needed outdoor space and is not overlooked. Next to the bedroom is a tiny second terrace, enclosed by walls and creeping vines.
The work Anderson did on the house went further than paint and decoration, and for this she called in Jump Builders, of north London, who installed oak floors, underfloor heating and other imaginative touches. The doors to the sitting room are Islamic in style, while removable glass panels on the stair landings allow more light into the house and are useful for moving larger bits of furniture about.
In the basement — where Anderson’s mother stays when she is in London — the design is more straightforward, with a bright, white-walled kitchen and sitting room, a quiet refuge, for those that might need it, from the exuberance of the rest of the house.
But still, there are photos that intrigue: large black and whites of a man screaming on a beach and an Ophelia-like body under water. A door in the middle of a wall opens straight into a dank, unlit cellar — which seems appropriate for the star of The X Files, with its mix of mysterious and the domestic.
Anderson, who has plenty of friends in Notting Hill, is in the process of moving into a new place in the area as she prepares to marry her fiancé Julian Ozanne, 38, a film producer who grew up in Africa.
The house would suit somebody bohemian — “somebody like Gillian, who is into the Notting Hill vibe” — says Ben Podesta of joint agents Knight Frank, who are selling the place for £1.795m. “For the price, you could buy any number of houses in the area,” he adds, “but somewhere this different only comes up once in a blue moon.”
Anderson’s house is on sale with Knight Frank (020 7229 0229,
Bective Leslie Marsh (020 7221 0330, www.bectivelesliemarsh.co.uk)
Transcript appears courtesy of the Sunday Times.