May 31, 2023


Creative living

Lord locked in legal battle with interior designer over revamp of London home

3 min read
Lord and Lady Russell approached the designer over a refurbishment of their Notting Hill townhouse
Lord and Lady Russell approached the designer over a refurbishment of their Notting Hill townhouse

A lord is embroiled in a High Court battle with an interior designer once employed by the Royal Family over a refurbishment of his Notting Hill townhouse, it has emerged yesterday.

Lord James Russell, whose late father Robin was the 14th Duke of Bedford, has accused designer Lucinda Sanford of “exceptionally poor performance” after tasking her with revamping his lavish London property.

Lord Russell is suing Ms Sanford’s firm, Lucinda Sanford Ltd (LSL), in the High Court amid claims the renovation spiralled £1 million over budget and missed its completion date by more than a year.

However, the design firm has filed a counter claim against Lord and Lady Russell whom they accused of dithering over key decisions and unhelpfully micromanaging the renovation.

Ms Sanford, who has previously worked for the Royal Household, said her firm, Lucinda Sanford Ltd (LSL), was approached by Lord and Lady Russell to carry out a makeover at their home during the summer of 2015.

According to court documents, following an agreement to carry out the revamp, Lord Russell had insisted on “deciding on every matter of layout and design, no matter how minor”. Documents claim the lord paid £4 million towards project.

The High Court heard Lord and Lady Russell had not “voiced any major concerns” over the standard, quality, or timeframe of the works and had even recommended the firm to the lord’s mother, the Duchess of Bedford.

But that by October 2017 there had been a “marked” change in attitude, the documents assert. 

Documents revealed Lord Russell stopped paying invoices before ending the contract in March 2018, claiming he and his wife had become exasperated by LSL and Ms Sanford’s “exceptionally poor performance”.

William Webb, a barrister representing Lord Russell, wrote: “The works had taken over twice as long as they should have taken.

“Seeking a stable home environment for their children, Lord and Lady Russell moved in during October 2017 despite major elements being incomplete”

The couple claimed their son was found with an open bleach bottle while “open Stanley knife blades” were allegedly left lying around the property.

They also said the townhouse was “vulnerable to intruders” when workers left doors and windows open, according to documents.

LSL deny the couple’s claims and alleged themselves that Lord and Lady Russell failed to control their children who they said  entered construction areas and fired Nerf guns at builders.

LSL are contesting the claims that the family’s safety was put at risk. The firm also denies dangerous objects were left out in the open and argued that Lord and Lady Russell failed to control their children who they said entered construction areas and fired Nerf guns at builders.

Isabel Hitching QC, representing LSL, said workers were given contradictory views by the couple, while Lady Russell sometimes “changed her mind” once jobs had been completed.

The High Court has been told how bathroom sinks that were supplied and installed were removed as well as the marble and vanity units to which they had been fixed on one such occasion.

The firm is seeking £863,436 in alleged unpaid fees. While Lord Russell is seeking to recover more than a quarter of the £4 million he says he paid towards the refurbishment as well as £376,731 allegedly incurred in damages.

The case is set to continue.

Lord Russell, whose family seat is Woburn Abbey, currently the home of his brother Andrew, the 15th Duke of Bedford, also sits on the board of The Bedford Estates, the largest private landowner in Bloomsbury, central London.

While his American wife, Lady Dawn Russell, is the founder of wellness company 8Greens. According to Ms Sanford’s LinkedIn page, the designer was employed by the Royal Household two years before she started her design firm.