Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty paid for a refurbishment of the flat above No 10 full of “opulent” new decor, their personal designer has revealed.
The prime minister and his wife opted to remodel George Osborne’s “very tired” furnishings, according to John Challis, an upholsterer from Mr Sunak’s Richmond constituency.
The designer told Tatler that he had installed “opulent curtains” in the entrance areas and velvet sofas in “jewel colours” – describing the cushions as “a work of art”.
He said the curtains for the room overlooking the garden were “hand-pleated and held back with heavy co-ordinating tassels in red, gold and the ivory of the damask”.
Mr Challis added: “The ornate cornicing was hand-gilded and a rug was commissioned to almost fill the room.”
The wealthy couple’s decision to pay for their own redecoration follows Boris Johnson’s infamous refurb of the flat above No 11 – a complex scheme which a Tory donor and Conservatives initially front up money before the then-PM settled the costs.
Mr Johnson had hired interior designer Lulu Lytle to carry out work – including £840-a-roll gold wallpaper – costing at least £100,000 more than the £30,000 grant provided to prime ministers for their home.
Mr Sunak decided that his family would live in the flat above No 10, leaving chancellor Jeremy Hunt to decide what to do with the Johnsons’ furnishings in the flat above No 11.
Mr Challis said the Sunaks would be will be living in “far less glitz” than the Johnsons, and said Ms Murty was “not afraid of getting stuck in and helping” with the redesign.
The profile of Ms Murty in the February issue of Tatler, details of which appeared in The Times, also reveals fresh details of the decision to renounce her non-dom tax status.
The issue hit the headlines earlier this year when The Independent revealed that Mr Sunak’s wife, daughter of a billionare IT tycoon, had held non-dom tax status.
An adviser told the magazine that “she and Rishi made the decision” that she would “own” the row, which saw her agree to pay UK tax on her overseas income.
A friend added: “She comes from a successful family. It made sense to do things in a tax-efficient way. Plus, the arrangement was perfectly legal. But that was different to what felt right, given Rishi’s political role.”
Labour has called on the government to abolish non-doms and use the money raised to train a new generation of NHS staff. But Mr Sunak claims that the move would cost the government money by sending more wealthy people overseas.
However, chancellor Jeremy Hunt was later forced to admit he did not know how much ditching the loophole might raise. Treasury officials have been ordered to look at the figures.