It was during an afternoon with Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall in the late nineties that the Borgiones were persuaded to swap their South Kensington dwelling for a sprawling, but dilapidated, eighteenth-century estate in Richmond by rock royalty.
Enticed by the enormous garden and the prospect of a quieter life in the leafy London suburb, the couple – Italian businessman Francesco and Australian former model Gael – sealed the deal on the house in 1998 and just two years later snapped up the nursery that adjoined the property.
Now, the family have thrown open the doors to their stunning home in The Maverick Soul, a new book by interior decorator Miv Watts, mother of Academy award-winning actress Naomi, and photographer Hugh Stewart.
In the past 17 years, the entire family – including their four children Lara, Harry, Ruby and Anna (whose godfather was the late David Bowie) – have all pitched in to build the business from the ground up and today, Petersham Nurseries also contains a popular restaurant beloved by the rich and famous, located at the bottom of their garden.
Italian businessman Francesco and Australian former model Gael married in 1979, living with their four children in South Kensington before swapping their home for the Queen Anne estate of Petersham House in 1998
The Borgiones rub shoulders with royalty at a charity even in aid of Elephant Family in 2006. In June this year the couple held a Farms Not Factories Fundraising Banquet attended by close friend Mick Jagger and Sienna Miller
The walls in the house were painstakingly restored, stripping back the plasterboard and selecting paint colours that represented the 17th century estate
It took the couple five years to fully renovate the property, sourcing antiques from all over the globe on their travels to evoke and eclectic mix of English and Antipodean style
Gael with the Duchess of Cornwall in 2006 when hosting a charity gala. Franceso (left) with legendary supermodel Twiggy and director Leigh Lawson (right)
Dame Shirley Bassey joined Prince Charles and Camilla at the charity soiree at the Richmond estate in London held in their sprawling garden
The couple worked with a number of different craftspeople to bring the house back to its original 17th century state, stripping back the woodwork
Formerly a ballroom built in 1929, it is now the main dining room in the house. The exquisite chandelier is without electricity instead lit only by candles, the table is French and chairs are were discovered in Turin where Francesco is from
The walls were painted to provide a simple but excellent backdrop for the collection of artwork that has been carefully selected by the couple
The guest bedroom is one of Gael’s favourite rooms, she said: ‘The oldest part of the house is the guest suite and I really stripped everything back to its purest form there’
A stunning Alex Catz painting hangs in the hallway which sets off the period staircase, with the dark wooden floors striking in comparison to the white twisted banister
The furniture throughout the house is all sourced individually, a mix of contemporary and vintage pieces that in some instances have been reupholstered in French linens
The Maverick Soul by Miv Watts and Hugh Stewart (Hardie Grant, £30) Design by Tracy Lines, Photography by Hugh Stewart
Passionate for sustainability they literally rub shoulders with royalty hosting extravagant parties and charity benefits of which have been attended by Prince Charles and Camilla.
It took over five years to finish the project, filling the house with an eclectic mix of items yet retaining its Englishness, picking up items on their many travels across the globe.
Francesco and Gael are avid art collectors with works by Alex Katz, Gary Hume, Paula Rego and Damien Hirst all adorning the walls of the cool interior.
They painstakingly restored the walls, removing plasterboard and matching colours to evoke the original 17th century era.
Dark wooden floors feature throughout the property which offsets the cool creamy walls that provide the backdrop for the carefully sourced antiques and artwork from around the world.
Gael explained how they approached the decor in the profile for the book: ‘We never had a plan for anything but I wanted to keep the Englishness in the house and we began in a simple way and pulled the house together over a period of five years.
‘Francesco keeps me on my toes and annoys me on a daily basis. The oldest part of the house is the guest suite and I really stripped everything back to its purest form there. I wanted to keep it very simple.’