The modern makeovers of Number 11 Downing Street

Carrie casts out Sam-Cam era with vintage overhaul at No11: PM’s fiancée swaps £64,000 minimalist and modern look left by David and Samantha Cameron for opulent decor as she stamps mark on Downing Street

The flat at Number 11 Downing Street has seen extensive refurbishments in the past two decades before Carrie Symonds made her recent renovations, making further changes to those left by the Camerons.  

The ‘glum’ decor is said to have been removed in favour of vintage furniture restored by hand by Miss Symonds and the hall floors stripped and burnished – with the living area, often lit by candles, painted deep green. 

The flat was seemingly stuck in the 1960s until Tony and Cherie Blair began living there in 1997. When Mr Blair became prime minister he opted for the four-bedroom No 11 flat instead of the smaller one at No 10, and he and his wife spent £127,000 on refurbishments between 1999 and 2005, including £3,500 on a bed.

However Gordon Brown, his wife Sarah and their two sons are not thought to have spent anything on upgrades after they moved into No 11 in 2007, being content with the changes made by the Blairs.

Then David and Samantha Cameron took residence in 2010 which prompted the next series of major changes, including a £64,000 makeover which included extensive work on a bathroom, give a new floor and ceiling.

Among the changes made by the Camerons to the kitchen were the installation of a £3,400 Britannia range cooker and a Dualit toaster and Gaggia coffee machine, worth about £200 apiece.  

Theresa May, who is a keen chef and owns more than 100 cookbooks, is not thought to have changed anything significant when she moved in with Philip – and would therefore likely have been happy with the new kitchen. 

Now, it has been claimed Boris Johnson is secretly trying to set up a charity to help pay for a costly makeover of the Cameron’s flat by his fiancée Carrie Symonds after claiming the cost was ‘totally out of control’.

The scheme is based on one used by the White House to raise millions of dollars for interior design, antiques and art – a presidential charity which is bankrolled by private donors.

The proposed Downing Street version is expected to be funded largely by wealthy Tory benefactors, but runs the risk of claims of conflict of interest if it is seen as a back-door way of providing a financial benefit to the PM. 

Mr Johnson is alleged to have been alarmed by the cost of wallpaper, saying Miss Symonds appeared to have ordered ‘gold wall coverings’. The restyled décor is said to have been inspired by interior designer Lulu Lytle. 

Mrs Lytle is the founder and director of Soane Britain which ‘designs and makes British-made furniture, upholstery, lighting, fabrics and wallpaper’ based on ‘traditional crafts including blacksmiths’.

Prince Charles visited her rattan workshop last year and her fabrics start at £100 a metre. Work on refurbishing the No 11 flat is believed to have been completed in recent months, having gone on for more than a year.

Walls are adorned with paintings by the Prime Minister, who said to be a surprisingly good artist, and handprints by baby son Wilfred, along with pieces by Mr Johnson’s mother, Charlotte. There are also works by John Nash.  

One friend of Miss Symonds said: ‘The makeover is appropriate for a building of such huge importance. Carrie has exquisite taste. It is classic, stunning, stylish and chic. She should be congratulated not criticised.’

Here is a rundown of how the flat at No 11 has changed over the years as successive prime ministers moved in: 

TONY BLAIR (1997-2007)

After Margaret Thatcher stopped a proposed refurbishment of the No 11 flat in 1979, saying the public would not be impressed with the expenditure, it remained a product of the 1960s until Tony and Cherie Blair arrived in 1997. 

‘I won’t sleep in Ken Clarke’s bed,’ Mr Blair declared of the Conservative chancellor, the most recent tenant, when he became prime minister and opted for the four-bedroom No 11 flat which was bigger than the one at No 10.

A new bed costing £3,500 was swiftly shipped in courtesy of Mrs Blair’s close friend and lifestyle adviser Carole Caplin. In the Blair years, the flat above No 11, frequently littered with toys belonging to baby Leo, born in May 2000, had £127,000 spent on refurbishments between 1999 and 2005, according to official records.

Mrs Blair’s memoirs record her first impression of the flat as being a whiff of Mr Clarke’s cigar smoke and ‘a series of heavy mahogany wardrobes that smelt of cedar and mothballs’ as her ‘heart sank at the sight of the kitchen.’

She added: ‘It might have been state-of-the-art in the Sixties, but that was then.’ In came £70-a-roll wallpapers, new artwork and a set of custom-made glass-fronted bookcases for Mrs Blair’s office.

The couple were pictured at their private flat by photographer Anthony Crickmay for a Christmas card in December 1998, which also saw them with children Euan, then 14, Nicky, then 13, and Kathryn, then ten.

Tony Blair with his wife Cherie, and their children Euan (left), then 14, Nicky (right), then 13, and Kathryn (front), then ten, as they appeared on the Prime Minister’s Christmas card in December 1998 which was taken at Number 11 Downing Street

The downstairs area of Number 11 Downing Street is pictured in 2005. The four-bedroom residence is located upstairs

Floor plans for Number 10 and 11 Downing Street show the second floor of the complex has a large number of bedrooms

Number 11 Downing Street is pictured in 2005, eight years after Tony Blair became PM and opted for the four-bedroom flat

Number 11 Downing Street, pictured in 2005, remained a product of the 1960s until Tony and Cherie Blair arrived in 1997

GORDON BROWN (2007-2010) 

When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown moved into Downing Street in 1997, Mr Blair persuaded the then-single Mr Brown to vacate the Chancellor’s flat at Number 11 to provide room for the prime minister’s young family.

And when Mr Brown had a family of his own with his wife Sarah, they were based in his own Westminster house, before moving into the Number 11 flat when Mr Brown became PM in 2007.

And the Browns appear to have been perfectly content with the property, because there are no records that he spent a penny on upgrades. 

In 2010, a friend of Mr Brown described the Number 11 kitchen as ‘perfectly adequate, but obviously not up to Notting Hill standards’.

They added: ‘It’s very plain and bare. It’s a bit old-fashioned – a bit like a Sixties-style kitchen. It’s quite spacious and it was fine for Gordon and Sarah and her homely cooking.’

Gordon Brown is pictured in the kitchen of the Number 11 Downing Street flat in October 2008, after moving in a year earlier

Number 11 Downing Street is pictured in 2009, at the time when Gordon Brown was living in the four-bedroom flat upstairs

DAVID CAMERON (2010-2016)

In 2010, David and Samantha Cameron made a series of major refurbishments to the flat, which clearly fell well short of their standards they were used to at their home in Notting Hill.

They got rid of a mirrored exercise room where Carole Caplin had put the Blairs through their paces, while old carpets were also ripped out and expensive black granite worktops were installed in a new private kitchen.

As part of a £64,000 makeover, extensive work was carried out in a bathroom, with everything apart from a towel rail stripped out and a new floor and ceiling installed.

Some of the costs were met from the flat’s annual £30,000 maintenance grant, and the rest by the Camerons. The couple went for an ultra–modern, minimalist design of brushed steel and floating shelves in the second kitchen.

This left the original 1960s–style kitchen in its original state. Modern appliances were installed including a Dualit toaster and Gaggia coffee machine, worth about £200 apiece, along with a £3,400 Britannia range cooker.

David Cameron in his kitchen at Number 11 Downing Street in March 2015, which had a major refurbishment after he moved in

David Cameron speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his flat at Number 11 Downing Street in February 2014

Samantha Cameron eats with children from the charity Contact A Family at Number 11 Downing Street in January 2015

Samantha Cameron speaks with then First Lady Michelle Obama before having tea at Number 11 Downing Street in May 2011

THERESA MAY (2016-2019)

Theresa May is not thought to have made any major refurbishments to the flat, but did buy a bold three-seater red couch, chrome lamp and a glass-topped coffee table on which to place a £25 Elemis Revitalise Me scent diffuser.

A photoshoot with the Sunday Times revealed her colourful sofa had been covered with brown patterned throw cushions, while the coffee table – in front of a marble fireplace – having been brought in from Habitat for £195.

On her side table was a £100 Zachery chrome table lamp from John Lewis, which was next to an extravagant £42 rose-scented Diptyque candle. The photoshoot also saw her wear a £495 cashmere jumper by Amanda Wakeley.

But a profile of Carrie Symonds in Tatler magazine said the planned overhaul of the flat by Boris Johnson’s fiancée aimed to clear out the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ reportedly left by Mrs May. 

Boris Johnson is allegedly secretly trying to set up a charity to help pay for a costly makeover of his official flat at Number 11 by his fiancée Carrie Symonds. The couple are pictured together at Number 10 in December last year

And here’s how Number 11 looked as a residence for chancellors in the 1980s and 90s before the Blairs moved in…

Norman Lamont poses in 1991 in the sitting room of the Number 11 Downing Street flat when it was occupied by the chancellor

Chancellor Nigel Lawson celebrates his birthday with wife Therese and children Emily, 6, and Tom, 11, at the No 11 flat in 1988

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