Penthouses pay homage to ancient history of the City

Giacomo Ribolla gives Italian interior design tips to Melissa York

LONDON’S ancient history meets 21st century city life in three penthouses built on the outskirts of Roman London.

Italian design impresario Giacomo Ribolla, associate director of interior design at The Manser Practice, drew on his roots in northern Tuscany to furnish the high-end apartments.

“I grew up in Carrara, like the marble. It’s a city of marble,” Ribolla explains. “The inspiration for Roman House was mostly down to two things.

“The location which is in the heart of the City, so it needed a strong character and personality to really stand out there, and to reflect the history of the place.”

Roman House (EC1V 1XJ)is situated next to the largest surviving section of the ancient wall that marked the city limits of Londinium.

It seemed fitting that estate agents Berkeley Homes should name the three penthouses at the pinnacle of the developments after emperors Julius, Claudius, and Augustus.

“When you’re designing that level of property,” Ribolla says. “You do want it to be unique and just feel that bit better than the next urban house.

“With penthouses, it’s a luxury development and you’re giving them something special and individual.

“It can’t just feel like you’ve made a nice flat.”

To enhance their uniqueness, Ribolla stuck to three colour schemes for the rooms – each named after an Italian city.

The Venice rooms are opulent featuring marble and dark tiles; Florence, a modern student city, includes lots of contrasting ivory and black with dark mosaic tiles; while Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, is softer and more romantic in tone with its traditional oak floors, and classic grey marble.

Real flames dance behind glass in his eye-catching gel fireplaces that form partitions in the open-plan living rooms providing a bit of warmth while you’re soaking in the tub in the bathrooms and adding a bit of heat in the bedroom.

Ribolla says: “You come home and it gives you a beautiful light, a warming up colour and, unlike electric fireplaces which are entirely fake, there’s a real flame there so you can feel the warmth.

“You also get the movement of the flame and you can feel the life in the fire.”

Ribolla has also hidden a kitchenette at the back of the living space so, when entertaining – “a big part of city life”, according to the designer – catering staff can come and go without disturbing the party.

To find out more, contact Berkeley Homes on 0207 920 9920, visit or email

Grab a slice of modern Italy

■ Keep it simple
“You’ve got to remember that less is more. All the lines are straight in an Italian home. Also, Italians only have straight lines. Take skirting - in Italy, we don’t mould it, it is always straight.”

■ Don’t clutter
“Have a few pieces of furniture, but on a bigger scale, and only put a few pieces in the apartment. Low sofas a very popular in Italy, it’s more comfortable.”

■ Keep colours natural
“Italians really love their grey but modern Italy at the moment is going for quite dark colours. So natural but not neutral.”

■ Pick key design pieces
“Just pick a few key design pieces to draw the eye and be the feature of the room. A nice chandelier in the middle of the room is a nice example.”

■ Don’t go for vintage
“The British really have a passion for reclaimed material but that’s not done in Italy.”