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Exquisite fabrics, fine damask, velvet sofas… inside the No. 10 Downing Street flat fit for a Prime Minister and his family

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Every Prime Minister likes to make his – or her – mark on their new abode.

But it’s been quite some time since that abode was Number 10 Downing Street. Not since Gordon Brown, has a PM and his family set up home behind that familiar black painted door.

All that has changed, however, with the arrival of Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and their two children Krishna, 11, and Anoushka, nine, who are, we are told, comfortably ensconced in the flat ‘above the shop’ – one that became their part-time home when Mr Sunak became Chancellor of the Exchequer in February 2020, until his dramatic resignation in July.

Now, courtesy of a warm behind-the-scenes feature in the glossy pages of society bible Tatler, we’ve been given a peep behind the curtains of the PM’s reclaimed home.

Family man: Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and their two children Krishna, 11, and Anoushka, nine

Family man: Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and their two children Krishna, 11, and Anoushka, nine

Comfy: A Challis Interiors bedroom. Akshata chose the services of Challis Interiors, a small company which also refurbished the Sunaks’ home in Yorkshire

Comfy: A Challis Interiors bedroom. Akshata chose the services of Challis Interiors, a small company which also refurbished the Sunaks’ home in Yorkshire

And what fine curtains they sound, having been made and installed under the attentive eye of a husband and wife interiors team, hailing from the town of Richmond in Mr Sunak’s own North Yorkshire constituency.

There are scant past photographs of the private rooms at Number 10, but those that do exist (circa the Thatcher era) are decidedly chintzy.

But, Tatler’s writer Anne McElvoy tells us, now it’s a riot of ‘exquisite fabrics’, ‘fine damask’ and velvet sofas in jewel colours.

The Prime Ministerial couple are said to be intent on opening up Downing Street and putting their own stamp on what unfolds there, and the interiors are all part of that vision – all strictly funded from their own pocket, we are told.

It was all very tired 

As the daughter of an Indian billionaire, worth millions in her own right, Akshata, 42, could have presumably looked anywhere for design inspiration.

But rather than finding her own Lulu Lytle (the upmarket designer Boris Johnson used to furnish the flat above No 11), we learn she chose the services of Challis Interiors, a small company which also refurbished the Sunaks’ home in Yorkshire, the far more palatial £2million Kirby Sigston Manor.

So, how did No 10 look when the Sunaks first moved in? ‘It was all very tired,’ John Challis, who fitted the new soft furnishings (his wife Alice made them), told Tatler.

Recent residents have included Sajid Javid, Philip Hammond and George Osborne, who, despite having the full array of furnishings services of the family business – the Osborne & Little interiors company – at his fingertips, apparently left the latest design team underwhelmed.

Plush: Curtains have been installed by Challis Interiors. John Challis said No. 10 ‘was all very tired' when the Sunaks moved in

Plush: Curtains have been installed by Challis Interiors. John Challis said No. 10 ‘was all very tired’ when the Sunaks moved in

‘Let’s say the blinds were not of the level we would put in. And, in fairness, it was an era where everything was very matching and co-ordinated and times move on,’ says John.

Ouch.

Tony Blair famously swapped flats with his Chancellor Gordon Brown in favour of the more spacious offering of neighbouring Number 11, which has four bedrooms rather than just the two at Number 10. But like Mr Brown, Mr Sunak and his wife have apparently embraced the smaller home, which comes with access to an array of state and working rooms.

Intriguingly, they did their refurbishment while Mr Sunak was Chancellor, lending credence, perhaps, to the theory that a longer-term game plan was afoot.

Having been worried about life in a ‘goldfish bowl’, the glamorous new ‘First Lady’ is a woman on a mission – albeit one that has remained, until now, off-radar.

In the Tatler profile of ‘No 10’s new chatelaine’, we are told the mother-of-two wants to put a new stamp on the public face of life at Downing Street, opening up the state rooms more and, more pointedly, to use the couple’s connection to Yorkshire to bring ‘more of the north to Downing Street’.

And in her choice of upholstery services, she has got off to a flying start. ‘We made long, fully interlined curtains for all five windows overlooking the garden, hand-pleated and held back with heavy co-ordinating tassels in red, gold and the ivory of the damask,’ John Challis tells Tatler.

‘The ornate cornicing was hand-gilded, as it would have been originally, and a rug was commissioned to almost fill the room.’

Akshata, he adds, was ‘very involved’, adding: ‘She is also not afraid of getting stuck in and helping either.’

Most of the rooms in the flat have window seats, each upholstered to complement the colours of the opulent curtains, which hang in front of two sets of blinds – a sheer, unlined Roman blind, then a heavier blind behind it. Scattered on the velvet sofas are cushions Challis likens to a ‘work of art’ – using fabrics with traditional ikat-based design (an Indonesian dyeing technique) and ‘richly woven woollens’.

The husband and wife team, who worked in London before basing themselves in North Yorkshire, told Tatler the refurbishment project, initiated in 2020, was far from glitzy. Indeed, their company website is a decidedly understated affair, focusing on their craftsmanship.

They will doubtless be thankful that Mr Sunak has graduated from a self-confessed reliance on Ikea flat-pack furniture in his younger days. However, he’s still a high street man. ‘We love John Lewis in our house. Who doesn’t love John Lewis? What’s not to like?’ he declared in an interview in August.

In November, Mr Sunak, who is worth an estimated £200million, revealed that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would be using the larger flat above No 11, explaining that with three children he would appreciate the space (Mr Sunak’s eldest daughter is now at boarding school).

The full profile of Ms Murty is available in the February issue of Tatler, on sale from January 5.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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