Behind the neat red-brick façade of a classic Victorian terrace in London are interiors with a fairy-tale charm. As these combine English chintz and romantic-era Russian details with a gallery of wonders, it will not surprise regular readers of House & Garden – or her many Instagram followers – to learn that it is the latest home of the writer, explorer and polymath of style Alexandra Tolstoy and her three children, Aliosha, Ivan and Marusya.

What is surprising, given the layers of ornamentation, is that Alexandra decorated the house in just 10 days, following eviction from her previous home in Chelsea, after the Russian government claimed it against alleged debts owed by Alexandra’s ex and the father of her children, the oligarch Sergei Pugachev.

She has conjured magic from mettle, giving a masterclass in starting again, downsizing and decorating within the limits of a rental contract, while creating a beguiling home for her children full of treasures valued for reasons that do not relate to their cost. The best houses reflect the lives of those who live there; this is one of them.