Following the royal wedding in 2011, William and Kate were dividing their time between Anglesey in Wales, where William was working as a search and rescue pilot, and Nottingham Cottage, a two-bedroom house in the grounds of Kensington Palace. When choosing their future home, they reportedly looked at a state apartment in St. James's Palace, but both agreed they wanted to live at KP. William was said to be considering Apartment 8, Diana's old home, where he and Harry spent much of their childhoods, however, when the Cambridges visited Princess Margaret's former home, Apartment 1A, they both loved it.
A source told The Mail on Sunday: "Kate particularly adored the private walled garden because she loves gardening, and she just thought the house had so much potential. She also liked the fact it was so close to Kensington High Street." The twenty-room apartment had been uninhabited since 2002 and would require extensive renovation before the couple could move in. In terms of interior décor, many of the rooms were still painted pink, turqouise and blue. Shades Margaret favoured since the sixties when London's most eclectic social set would gather there.
Obviously decorating a palace comes with a different set of requirements than most homes. This was very much on Kate's mind when she and William teamed up with Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary to visit UNICEF's emergency supply centre in Copenhagen.
The Duchess was delighted to be given a tour of Amalienborg Palace by Crown Princess Mary during the visit and was said to be hugely impressed. A Danish royal court source said: "Mary showed them around their apartment at Amalienborg Palace and they loved the way they had combined their collection of modern art with antique furniture, Kate was truly inspired and wants to use some similar ideas in some of the rooms at Kensington Palace."
Along with enormous crystal chandeliers, the palace is also home to a series of murals and artworks created by Danish contemporary artists, among them the Icelandic-Danish sculptor, Olafur Eliasson. Another, by artist John Kørner, is themed around Afghanistan and shows camels, stately palm trees and soldiers silhouetted against a colourful Afghan sunset. The project is a stellar example of how to combine tradition with modernity.
With plans for renovations at Apartment 1A making headlines, it was revealed the Queen had gifted Anmer Hall to the couple as their country home. Located on the Sandringham estate, the late-Georgian house dates from the late 18th century and features two storeys and an attic with dormer windows. The news meant extensive work on both properties would be undertaken concurrently.
With an eye for interiors, art history graduate Kate oversaw both projects, choosing everything from lamps to exquisite pieces from the Royal Collection to adorn her homes. Frequent sightings of the Duchess shopping emerged; below we see Kate leaving Turnell & Gigon loaded with samples and swatches.
The fabrics store holds the prestigious royal warrant and supplies some of the finest original and most sought-after fabrics from around the world, alongside a comprehensive range of wallcoverings and trimmings.
Kate paid several visits to the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour, a one-stop haven for home furnishings with five hundred brands in a three-storey, modern showroom. A source told People: "I think she likes to pop in every now and again to look for inspiration. She is always by herself and very low-key. She browses and stops for a coffee." On one recent trip, Kate looked at traditional lighting at Vaughan Designs, fabrics at Sanderson (the arts-and-crafts Morris and Co. range was a favourite), as well as fabric at Mulberry Home where she was particularly taken with a jade green and teal paisley stripe material.
A shop assistant at Ann Sacks, which specializes in luxury tile and stone products, said: "She was looking at the sort of thing you would imagine for a period property – reclaimed terra-cotta flooring from France and a particular reclaimed stone used in French castles that she liked too."
Simon Knight, owner of Cotswold Oriental Rugs shared a few words about meeting Kate with People:
"Instead of hiring a royal interior designer, she wants to furnish it in her own style, because she wants this to be her own family home."
Knight spent time with the Duchess of Cambridge when she visited his antique rug store and purchased several Turkish kilims – a type of flat tapestry woven carpet. "She was looking for things for bedrooms," he said, "so she wanted softer pastel shades rather than strong colors."
After first doing her research online, she came into the store armed with the specific stock codes. "She knew exactly what she wanted to look at, as she had looked at my website," said Knight. "She is very hands-on and down-to-earth, helping to get things out. She really wants to be involved."
The Duchess was photographed shopping at Chelsea-based fabric printing company Bernard Thorp when she was expecting Prince George. She spent time browsing before choosing beige and brown handmade fabrics that cost £131.76 per metre, and purchased cream and light brown herring-bone material for the curtains in a corridor.
Kate was spotted several times purchasing furnishing accessories, dark blue bath towels and gingham hangers at Zara Home. One shop assistant noted: "She definitely likes blue. Everything she seemed to look at was blue but not for babies – she must just like the colour." Kate was also spotted buying items at John Lewis including their Gingham Check Tablecloth. The classic wipe-clean cloth retails for £12 per metre, and also comes in blue and sage.
Of course, decorating one's home rarely goes exactly according to plan. It was reported Kate was left very unhappy with a decision to paint one of the rooms purple. More from Vanity Fair:
'Kate is said to be "dissatisfied" with the color of the walls in one of the rooms. She had attempted "to save money" by getting "Dulux paints to match the Farrow & Ball color palette," but now is regretting the decision as "one room came out with a horrible, unexpected purple tinge." Yikes! We are imagining the color of a bruise on a thigh, or a rotten eggplant, and it is displeasing. Kate is reportedly blaming this headache on her pregnancy hormones, as she planned the design of the room when she was pregnant with Prince George.'
The Duchess enlisted in-demand interior designer Ben Pentreath - who has worked with everyone from Prince Charles to Sarah Jessica Parker. More from a 2015 Hello! story:
'He loves classic country houses but isn't afraid to bring them up to date with a splash of colour and bright wallpaper. Nor is 43-year-old Ben afraid of mixing antique furniture with modern accessories. It was the designer who is said to have encouraged Kate to step out of her comfort zone. So while parts of the house, including George's nursery and the drawing room are traditional and classic, the other areas reflect this bold new approach. For instance, Kate had the dining room painted jewel green. She also requested that a new, more child-friendly kitchen was installed.'
With both projects successfully completed, Anmer became the family's primary home for the time being, whilst Kensington Palace serves as their London residence. With much speculation on the inside of both homes, we've been lucky enough to get a peek inside over the past year. Kate's family photographs of George and two-week-old Charlotte taken at Anmer offered a glimpse into the neutral palette the Duchess selected. George and Charlotte were photographer on a pristine cream sofa, which was complemented by a pair of beautiful curtains - possibly made with fabric from one of the aforementioned brands.
Last November, Kensington Palace released new photos of an adorable six-month-old Princess Charlotte sitting on a green-checked armchair.
What Kate Wore reader Nancy noted the fabric is Brunschwig & Fils Tresors de Jouy Carsten Check. The material sells for $300 a yard and is made in India. Below we see the fabric in Carsten Check, Pale Blue and Cream.
For Princess Charlotte's first birthday photos we were offered another peek inside Anmer. Charlotte sits on a wicker chair in the photo and in the background we see a beige striped couch with a selection of cushions.
In another photo, looking ever-so-cute, Charlotte is pictured leaning on a chiaviri chair with a pink cushion. Anmer Hall is beautifully decorated from what we've seen, and very much embodies the look of a traditional country home.
We certainly got more than we bargained for when William, Kate and Harry welcomed President Obama and First Lady Michelle to Kensington Palace for dinner in April.
Not only did we see Prince George greeting the President of the United States in his pyjamas...
The world was given an unprecedented insight into William and Kate's home when photos from the Drawing Room were released, seen for the first time since Apartment 1A was refurbished. The room combines the trappings one would expect in a palatial lounge, such as antiques from the Royal Collection, with family photos, drinks and books. It's a modern palace, marrying tradition and modernity, and very much seems like a family home. I expect this is something Kate was eager to achieve: a drawing room suitable for entertaining world leaders, that could easily provide a background for drinks with friends and family. In all photos you'll notice a stylish mix of modern and traditional décor.
Let's take a look inside! In this photo, of Kate and Michelle Obama chatting, the pair are sitting on a cream sofa with a floral cushion and a green velvet cushion, reportedly by South African interior designer Kelly Hoppen. The use of different fabrics and cushions adds a homely feel to the room.
A beautiful bouquet by royal florist Simon Lycett. A fragrant bouquet of fresh flowers adds an incredibly welcoming touch to any room.
On the couple's silver drinks tray: a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka and a bottle of Gordon's Gin alongside several mixers.
Sitting on a side table beside William and President Obama - a scented candle thought to be by Jo Malone.
And Nick Brandt's book, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls, is said to capture the vanishing grandeur and beauty of east Africa with widescreen panoramic shots of majestic animals and landscapes.
Items from the royal collection include a persian rug, said to be worth an estimated £30,000.
Kate chose a painting by Dutch artist Aelbert Cuyp to adorn the wall of the drawing room. It was purchased by George IV in 1809 and may have previously belonged to Benjamin West. I imagine selecting paintings was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the process for art history graduate Kate.
|The Royal Collection|
More on the painting from the Royal Collection:
'The real or would-be aristocratic character of Cuyp’s clientele explains the popularity in his oeuvre of riding and hunting portraits. It has been suggested that the nobleman here, wearing black and attended by his groom and page, is a portrait and may be identified as Willem van Beveren, son of Cornelis van Beveren, who was knighted by Louis XIII in 1635. The background architecture is certainly of exactly the type used in the equestrian portraits ; however the man in black is half hidden by his horse and upstaged by his page, neither of which suggests the prominence one might expect from a portrait.
The alternative is that this is a general evocation of journeying south. The scale of this painting may seem rather grand for an equestrian caprice rather than an equestrian portrait, but in fact the decorative schemes which became a feature of Dutch painting in the later years of the seventeenth century are almost always grand in scale and imaginary in subject.'
A selection of family photos are on display around the room including a photo of Michael and Carole Middleton at the royal wedding, William and Harry with Diana as children, and photos of William and Kate from their pre-engagement days.
It would appear the black and white photo of Kate was taken at the 2006 wedding of Laura Parker Bowles.
An array of lamps create a relaxed atmosphere in the room. It's interesting to note, whilst they all work impeccably well together, they are not identical.
The addition of the personal touches on the evening were a major winner for me. It was a lovely gesture to have the rocking horse and the toy dog the Obamas gave George on display, and showed an enormous level of consideration.
What is your take on the drawing room at Kensington Palace? I think it's beautifully done, and as anyone who has has decorated their own home knows, it's no mean feat to take so many individual pieces and create a stylish, clean and comfortable place with just the right ambience. There's a plethora of elements, from lamps to paintings, photos to contemporary perspex side tables, a persian rug, and so much more. Yet they all sit seamlessly. I think you'll agree, Kate has more than achieved her interior decorating goals!