SIR Ben Kingsley is locked in a £60,000 court fight with interior designers who he says left his luxury apartment like a “building site” after walking off a refurbishment job.
The Oscar-winning actor — whose roles range from Hamlet to Gandhi and Jungle Book’s Bagheera — is suing after commissioning a full “replan and restyle” of his South Kensington apartment in 2019.
Sir Ben, 78, and wife Lady Daniela Lavender Kingsley, 47, wanted a complete makeover of the flat, close to the Royal Albert Hall, including “unique bespoke furniture” and high-end appliances fitted to the “highest standard”.
They also wanted a gold finish to chrome and brasswork, but claim the apartment was left “uninhabitable” after their interior designer walked off the job without delivering all their paid-for goods.
The couple are suing for delivery of the luxury household items, including a Calcutta gold worktop and marble vanity top, as well as damages for “conversion” — a legal term meaning interference with their property.
Alternatively, they want the value of the allegedly missing items in a claim which their lawyers told Central London county court has a total value of more than £59,000.
“The works at the property….are a very long way from being finished, and it is currently uninhabitable and resembles a building site”, said the actor’s lawyer, Thomas Alan Walshe, when launching the legal claim.
“That is not a situation out clients can tolerate.”
Interior designer Leonardo Biagioni and the fellow designer who also worked on the project, Lara Harrington, trading as Lumiere Interiors, deny any liability to pay the couple damages.
Mr Biagioni insists he upheld his part of the agreement to provide interior design services, saying Ms Harrington is responsible for any unfinished building work and alleged missing items.
Ms Harrington said she left the project after Sir Ben’s personal assistant insulted the quality of her work, and she has held on to items including a copper sink, a fridge, an oven, and a slimline dishwasher because of a dispute over £6,250 in alleged unpaid fees.
The court battle was sparked by Sir Ben and Lady Daniela’s decision to overhaul their newly-bought apartment in a Victorian garden square a short walk from Harrods. They claim Mr Biagioni was hired “to provide interior design and building works at the property”, and say he subcontracted work to Ms Harrington with the couple paying for and agreeing to furniture, fittings, and designs as the project evolved.
They say Mr Biagioni “quit” the project on August 9, 2021 in a telephone call with their PA Dannii Johns, also saying that Ms Harrington would not be returning to do any more work on the flat.
The Kingsleys instructed lawyers to secure the return of “a substantial quantity of property, including fixtures and fittings, that are intended to be installed at the property”, as well as opposing Mr Biagioni’s alleged decision to quit the project.
In his defence to the claim, Mr Biagioni says he is “purely an interior designer” and never agreed to conduct building work, insisting he “has completed his obligations”.
He denies subcontracting work to Ms Harrington, saying that while he had provided the initial introduction she was directly hired by the Kingsleys.
Mr Biagioni denies “quitting” the refurbishment job, and accuses Ms Johns of “screaming down the phone” in their August 2021 conversation.
“(He) attempted to tell Ms Johns that the items would be delivered, however Ms Johns would not let (him) speak”, said solicitor Raymond Arman.
Ms Harrington said she only met the Kingsleys once and conducted most of her dealings on the project through Mr Biagioni.
She said her work was delayed changing instructions from Mr Biagioni and the Kingsleys, faults in the structure of the apartment, and the Kingsleys’ demand for soundproofing of their home.
Ms Harrington says her involvement came to an end after a phone call with the Kingsleys’ PA, who “inappropriately and rudely criticised” her.
“At the time of cessation of the renovation works by Ms Harrington, the renovation works had been completed save for fixing the toilet, bath and basin in the bathroom, installation of kitchen worktop and the installation of the kitchen appliances in the kitchen,” says her solicitor, Lawrence Jegede.
Ms Harrington also denies having all of the items which the Kingsleys say are missing, claiming that she is “exercising lien” over a handful of household goods, including an oven and a fridge, until she is paid £6,250 she says is still owed by the Kingsleys for her work.
But her solicitor in court said she and her firm had attempted mediation and would be happy to return all disputed items.
The case had a pre-trial hearing relating to the costs of a future trial over the dispute, and is due back in court this Friday.