The front door of the Victorian-era home of model, actor, and activist Adwoa Aboah, it turns out, is brilliantly deceptive. Painted a discreet black, it gives little indication of the decor behind it but suggests, perhaps, an owner with a penchant for the pared-back. Step into the entry hall, however, and that is all subterfuge. A framed, brightly colored vintage Asafo flag showcasing symbolic African art—a nod to Aboah’s dual Ghanaian and English heritage—greets you, hanging against walls bathed in soft pink, and ahead, a graphic stair runner catches your eye. Minimalism this is not. “I wanted to make a point of putting this here, as soon as you enter the house. It really sets the tone,” says Aboah of the flag. “We’ve collected them for ages—me, my dad, and my sister.”
She was with her father, Charles, and sister Kesewa, an artist and model, when she viewed the four-story redbrick town house five years ago. She had been searching within a short radius of her parents’ home in West London but had yet to find The One. On paper, this wasn’t it either. A worrying wreck, it had no electricity or heating and was split haphazardly into five units. “But we walked in, looked at each other, and just knew,” she recalls. “It was falling apart, but I was like, ‘This is my home.’”
Aboah, who has graced magazine covers including British Vogue and fronted advertising campaigns for the likes of Chanel and Burberry, always had a clear vision. “I didn’t want a stage home. I grew up in a house filled with pattern and color where nothing matched. It was unpretentious and comfortable. And that’s what I wanted.” She started working on the restoration with architectural designer Lewis Kane. But with a hectic schedule—she divides her time between London and LA—Aboah needed additional expertise. Enter Beata Heuman, the AD100 Swedish-born, London-based interior decorating maestro known for her cheerfully bold and offbeat aesthetic. “I loved that she wasn’t scared to take certain risks in terms of color, pattern, and shapes,” explains Aboah.
For Heuman and her head of interior design Fosca Mariani, it was clear this was going to be a collaborative process. “Adwoa has a really strong sense of style, so her thing always was to find someone who understood that, who she felt could enhance or contribute. It’s about interpreting who she is. It was great to work with a client who is so focused.”
Serious issues may lie close to Aboah’s heart—she has been candid about her past mental health struggles, and she created Gurls Talk, a successful platform to support the well-being of adolescent girls and young women globally—but she is light-hearted in person, an element reflected in her home. Heuman helped conjure a city reworking of a relaxed English country look, with chintz thrown off-kilter by bespoke pieces and vintage finds. “I don’t want it to look that controlled, but it is quite considered,” the designer says of her approach.
Souvenirs of Aboah’s life abound in the spaces, giving this home its heartfelt character. Dotted around are creative contributions from family and friends—even her garden was designed by her aunt, landscape designer Sarah Husband. Aboah’s library is a trove of eclectic curios (including her own Barbie doll), rare and personal photographs, artwork—a wall tapestry made by her sister as part of her art school degree hangs in a prominent spot—and books collected over the years.
Her living room was designed around a large-scale hanging by Ariana Papademetropoulos. “A friend introduced me to her artwork, and I completely fell in love,” says Aboah. Two bespoke sofas act as calming counterpoints while an ottoman, upholstered in Warris Vianni’s Naivasha in pink, adds, as Heuman notes, “some sass.”
A new kitchen side extension allowed a run of birch plywood cabinetry, painstakingly stained a custom yellow. Most of the pieces here are freestanding, including the bottle-green banquette, beneath a work by Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah. “I didn’t want to have anything in a fixed position—what if I want to have a party?” laughs Aboah.
Unexpected details are a hallmark of Heuman’s work and are seen in abundance, from the delightful glossy blue ceiling in the library to the sherbet-lemon plumbing fixtures in the powder room. Or indeed in the dressing room, where neutral floor-to-ceiling cabinetry has been zhuzhed up with ruby trim.
The primary bath is Heuman’s canny interpretation of the original brief to make the whole space pink. An additional wall created arched alcoves that are highlighted in the color, while recessing the marble shower. “We felt that if she had pink all over the walls, she might get bored … so we suggested an element of that, but not one that dominated the space.”
Aboah’s bedroom embodies what she had visualized for years. “I always wanted patterned wallpaper and matching curtains,” she says. For that, Heuman turned to Whiteworks’ Posy, while keeping the overall look tailored so as not to feel too saccharine. “We wanted something theatrical but still cozy and calm,” she explains.
Aboah—back onscreen now in the Netflix drama Top Boy—says with Heuman’s help, her home provides much more than meets the eye. “Friends have said if they could imagine a house that described me, this would be it. I feel very at peace here. It is like my sanctuary.”
SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike; as part of the strike, union actors are not promoting their film and TV projects. The interview for this article was conducted prior to the strike.
Adwoa Aboah’s home appears in AD’s October 2023 issue. Never miss an issue when you subscribe to AD.
- Art: D.A. Jasper1/17
The entry hall’s floor tile was already in place. Heuman designed the stair runner; coatrack by Gebrüder Thonet. Hanging at left is an antique Asafo flag made by the Fante people, which Aboah bought in Ghana.
- Hair by Jaz Lanyero assisted by Anoushka Danielle; Makeup by Maha Alselami using Laura Mercier for LMC Worldwide; manicure by Michelle Class for LMC Worldwide. Art: Steve Husband.3/17
- Art: Steve Husband.4/17
A vibrant mix of colorful fabrics enlivens the living room.
- Art: Zora Sicher.10/17
A collage by Zora Sicher is displayed in the kitchen sitting area. Tribeca side table by Julian Chichester.