It was renovating his home in London that helped Enis Karavil hone his aesthetic and led him to start his own design business.
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In 2012, after graduating from the Inchbald School of Design in London, the Turkish designer Enis Karavil was living in the city’s Belgravia neighborhood and working nearby — for the London Design Festival — at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He spent much of his weekends, however, a few miles northwest in Notting Hill, browsing at Portobello Market, which consists of a mile-long string of street vendors who have been congregating there since the late 1860s, and which, thanks to the so-called rag and bone men — essentially, cart-wielding junk dealers — has over the last eight decades evolved into an epicenter for antiques and eccentric bric-a-brac. Eventually, Karavil’s frequent excursions, as well as the neighborhood’s vibrant atmosphere, spurred him to look for a place in Notting Hill. First, he put an offer on a three-story London villa, but then he saw an apartment that spanned two floors of a stucco-fronted townhouse built in the mid-19th century. Though it needed considerable love, he knew, largely thanks to an original marble fireplace with neo-Classical corbel detailing and an unusual wrought-iron spiral staircase, that it was where he wanted to be.
What he did not yet know was that renovating the home would usher in a new creative chapter for him. Over the next five months, Karavil worked to revive the property’s quiet charm, at which haphazard interventions and general neglect had, over the decades, slowly chipped away. “I wanted to make sure the interior mirrored the architecture of the building, so that everything felt as though it had been here since the beginning,” he says. In some ways, this meant putting things back the way they’d been. Starting in the south-facing sitting room that anchors the apartment, Karavil reinstated decorative plasterwork molding, restored the trio of round-topped windows that open onto a long balcony and tore down ceiling storage that had been installed in the 2000s and stunted the room’s original generous proportions.
But Karavil also let himself stray from the historical record, opening and brightening the space, and its combination of old and new elements is one of a couple of apparent contradictions that make the home so appealing. He removed the door leading from the entryway to the formerly boxed-in kitchen, for instance, and added a serving hatch in the wall between the kitchen and the sitting room. He also painted the walls bone white — rather than any of the deep hues the Victorians might have favored when the home was built — installed custom stainless-steel cupboards in the kitchen and laid a reclaimed pinewood floor sourced from an old English tobacco factory throughout.
Another notable tension is that, for someone who loves collecting, Karavil has kept the rooms remarkably and intentionally spare. The seating in the living room largely consists of a single sofa — a boxy brown leather design by Umberto Asnago for Arflex — a vintage black pony skin club chair from the Nicole Farhi store in Chelsea and a trio of small, mother-of-pearl-inlaid dining chairs from an antiques store in Marylebone. There’s also a slender Serge Mouille floor lamp, a television-shielding lacquered screen with mesh and gold patina detailing and a metal-trimmed tea stand.
Still, Karavil’s more maximalist side shines through here and there via various curios, which are prominently displayed and offer notes of theatricality. On the mantel of the marble fireplace, also located in the living room, is a glass dome encasing a trio of dried and painted mushrooms, their dark, globular forms looking as though they’re part artwork and part science project, and on the dining table is an old butcher’s block topped with vintage stationery accouterments. On the floor in front of the hearth is an antique alligator rug nicknamed Bob that Karavil found at a Chelsea fair in 2016. And in a far corner of the room is a set of custom shelves that houses pieces from his collection of over 100 silver teapots. What began as a nod to the English tradition of having afternoon tea — and to Karavil’s grandmother Sol’s copious assemblage of silverware — has become a full-scale obsession, and among his vessels are a pyramidal version picked up at the Marché aux Puces in Paris and one with a plexiglass handle sourced from Lots Road Auction House in London. “They’re these tiny things. But it always amazes me how completely different they are from one another,” says Karavil, who adds, “It’s the details that bring the color for me.”
That’s certainly true of his favorite item in the apartment, which didn’t come from a design studio or a flea market but instead from his maternal great-aunt, an artist named Suzanne Kutiel: Above the fireplace hangs a glamorous oil portrait of her that was rendered in 1959, when she was 36 and dressed to attend a friend’s ball in her adopted homeland of Brazil. When she returned to Turkey in 1995, the painting was the only possession she brought back with her. It looks out past a glass-topped dining table with mismatched wooden legs from the Georgian and Edwardian eras, at which sit a set of cartonlike papier-mâché 10313 stools, both of Karavil’s design, to the opposite wall, which is hung with 13 anonymous male portraits purchased at different antiques markets. “A stadium for Suzanne,” he says.
By the time Karavil was mostly done with the apartment, he was working as an interior designer at the firm Hubert Zandberg, but then his friends, seeing what he’d done with his own space, started asking him to reimagine theirs. In 2015, after he’d worked on homes for pals in Boston and Istanbul, he decided to start his own firm, Sanayi313, with his brother, Amir, and to base it out of Turkey, where he knew he could create environments, and offer products, that weren’t available anywhere else in the country.
Even today, the Notting Hill flat remains a kind of blueprint for his projects — from an art-filled beach house in Bodrum to Cafe di Dolce, a Parisian-style restaurant in Istanbul where guests sit beneath an installation of some 2,000 acrylic peonies by the artist Nahide Büyükkaymakci — which all share a streamlined aesthetic that nods to Old World beauty. This approach extends to the Sanayi313 restaurant and store, located on the mezzanine of the former car repair shop that houses the firm’s offices in Maslak, an industrial district of Istanbul. The former serves a daily menu of seasonal fare to guests seated at the same style of long glass table in Karavil’s Notting Hill dining area, while the latter sells items from the house line alongside a curated selection of objects from other makers, including Karavil’s beloved Serge Mouille lighting, Taschen art books and Cire Trudon candles.
The designer hopes one day to open a similar setup in West London. For now, he’s getting ready to present a 21-piece offering of wood, ceramic and glass vases this spring, and working on a furniture collection. He lives in the Notting Hill flat about one week a month. When he’s there, he likes to host impromptu wine and cheese parties. After his friends go home, he makes for his bedroom, a bijou space to the rear of the apartment that’s appointed with a simple antique Iranian table and a Flos Parentesi lamp. On the wall, in lieu of a headboard, is a wallpaper mural depicting a chlorobromide print of a nude by the Greenwich Village portrait photographer Atelier Von Behr titled “Rebecca, 1938.” The next morning, if his schedule allows, he wakes up, grabs an iced coffee, takes his black schnauzer, Polka, for a walk and then heads to Portobello Market.