This month, the design blog will showcase a top to toe renovation of a dark house in Dulwich. Mainly pictorial, there is a little blurb along the way to set the scene..
My clients are a French Russian couple who were newly married and had been looking to buy a family home for some time. The market such as it was in 2015, they were finding it difficult to find something in London that was big enough for them to grow into, but within a price bracket they were happy with.
London in 2015 (pre-Brexit-nonsense) was competitive and buoyant. They finally found a home which fitted the bill in location and size but was in dire need of renovation, the estate agent’s photo were laughable, amazing what a powerful lightbox can do. We saw the house whilst it was being lived in by previous occupants, and I would say that the reality was a far cry from what was on the web! The tricky thing was to create the dream home within a budget (a fairly healthy one on the face of it), which would be seriously dented when structural changes and new infrastructure was needed.
The design was to be modern, light and airy and of course reflective of their own personalities. I take alot of time getting to know my clients and talking to them in the initial stage to try and understand them and from there a design will start to take shape.
Ontop of that there were some interesting design challenges that were faced along the way – aren’t there always…
THE ENTRANCE HALL
Originally dark and stunted (apologies for image size), this hallway need to be opened up. Getting anywhere in this house was a mission as there were always doors and walls in the way – it was clear from the outset some re-configuration was needed.
We stripped it back and discovered some really scary wiring (some of it possibly DIY) hidden behind plasterboard and strange boxing. That wall ahead had to go and was one of the first moves made when designing the space.
I took this image the day the demolition team punched through the wall separating the hall from the rear of the house.
“Home” – a bright, welcoming entrance making it really easy to access from front to back of the house, with all rooms hanging off it, and letting light filter through from the kitchen. Panelling was a request so a simple, modern box design was installed to add interest to the new, long entrance hall. The clients did not like the original tiles on the floor – sadly sometimes the colour is hard to work with. Once they were taken up, we chose a modern hall tile to work with the new scheme.
Bespoke under stairs storage
The gallery wall and chalk wall make for a welcoming entrance
HALLWAY FRONT VIEW
A stunning window at the front of the house did not give enough light to the hallway
The difference in light coming in from both sides plus a glass front door is huge – even with shutters in place
GROUND FLOOR RECEPTION ROOMS
These thumbnails were taken on a rainy winter day, but you can still see how oppressive these areas felt. The top image shows a small rear room behind the original glass back doors. The third image shows estate agent’s details, I can only imagine that a large lightbox was used to light the room for the photos since there was no way that much light could enter this middle room through two sets of doors.
In reality the middle room was very dark and a bit sad – my clients were insistent (rightly so) that we had to find a way of ensuring it was bright and airy.
MID – CONSTRUCTION:
Firstly an opening was punched into the dividing wall between the two reception rooms
…then we knocked down the two sets of doors at the back..
Original rear view
Rear doors have been knocked down and this old kitchen extension is about to be demolished..
The back is now opened up and ready for the full extension at the rear
The new extension is built to design, 3 enormous roof lights each 1.3m wide and between 2.75 and 3m long are installed to flood the whole space with light
The wine cellar dig starts as soon as the structure is in place
Early December – the porcelain tiles are laid before breaking for Christmas as the Kitchen is arriving in January..
A light, bright airy space where moving around the entire floor is easy.
The skylights were designed into the roof to be as close to the central reception room as possible – the light flooding in is amazing.
When the clients said they liked maps, it did not take much to convince them that a huge map wall with magnetic backing paper could be a stunning way of decorating the space and to document their travels. The map is made to order and spans 4m long and over 2m high.
The pictures on the map had been put up by the clients and there is no staging for the photo shoot. I love it when clients embrace and use a space as it was designed to be used – their instamatic style photographs are a step beyond what I imagined, it works beautifully.
Similarly this chalk wall was already drawn on when we went to take photos – so homely – I really feel the love in this house
This wine cellar holds 900 bottles. Floor levels had to be exactly right in order to have this beautiful seamless edge around the glass doors (electrically operated)
This is the original fire surround – it was removed and stripped back then re-installed and painted, co-ordinating with random painted recesses within the bespoke TV/book unit opposite. I like asymmetry balanced with symmetry, a space needs to be felt and experienced and too many sharp lines can kill it.
The brick on the fireplace looks great, and we were lucky it came up so well on cleaning. A gas line was run to the new working fireplace so that this central room has moved from being un-inviting to truly the heart of the home in both location and feel.
TOP FLOOR MASTER BEDROOM, ENSUITE BATHROOM AND WALK IN WARDROBE
A challenge! The top floor had a good footprint but was truncated by a pitched roof at the rear of the house and it was on different levels. The owners wanted to have a double shower-double sink bathroom preferably with a bath and a large walk in wardrobe with window seat overlooking phenomenal views of the City. The budget was starting to look a bit thin as we were trying to shoe-horn everything else in downstairs too.
To avoid a double dormer loft extension (and save precious funds), we came up with several configurations including separate his and hers shower rooms. These lovely clients were quite insistent on having all shower fittings in one room and putting it in the triangle room (see below) and their bedroom had to be at the rear of the house. All this totally precluded our grand master plan of splitting the shower rooms.
I finally won the debate on raising the entire roof across the top of the house.
As a designer it is not my job to ask my clients to spend extra money beyond budget, infact I constantly work for the opposite. However, sometimes if a specification will not budge, there is no choice. We offered other areas where we could cut back in order to achieve the master suite they so wanted…they are really happy with the results and I believe it was the right thing to do. You can see how that evolves from the exterior perspective in the images above. Here are the before and after photos of the top floor interior.
iPhone picture – original layout of current master bathroom (“triangle room”)
(Estate agents photo – original layout of current master bedroom). A larger dormer was planned for this room, our clients insisted on this room being their bedroom as it catches the morning light.
Estate agents photo – original layout of current walk in wardrobe. This window overlooks London.
The top floor was stripped back completely. We already had a plan, but it is always good to keep checking in to see if any extra nooks and crannies are revealed that you can utilise. It is not un-common for a design to change a bit throughout the works. This image is of the now walk in wardrobe..
Side view of what we called the triangle room – the “debate” to raise the roof lasted 8 weeks, this is how the space looked when stripped back – there would be no chance to install everything our clients wanted in here without installing a dormer.
Current master bedroom stripped back and before removal of this small dormer to be replaced by a larger one..
After we have knocked it out…
Newly extended master bedroom and opening for new balcony doors..
The extended triangle room – WHAT a difference. We put in a skylight so that the bath could be placed underneath, the useable footprint was increased massively simply by raising the head height. The dormer spans the entire width of the house so that the elevation from the garden was seamless and stylish.
The master bathroom is a bit of a triumph for me as a designer as it was probably the most flummoxing – how to get all these elements into one bathroom and it had to be in the triangle room..
My lovely clients wanted to have privacy in the bathroom if both were in there at the same time, so the layout and frosted doors allow for this. In addition, they both had very strong views on what type of fixtures to have in each shower – so they each have their own. I think that’s a win-win for them.
You can see clearly in this first image where the original pitch of the triangle room was raised to create a full dormer extension. Having a bath and looking at the stars will be really lovely too.
The double sink HAD to be a minimum of 1400mm long (client’s wishes) – we just about managed it, but it was down to centimetre planning and a bit of blood, sweat and tears from the contractors..
View from the master en-suite where the colour scheme co-ordianates. This floor was kept deliberately very simple in look, the clients wanted total tranquility and lack of clutter here.
Working to a budget, this entire walk in wardrobe space was designed with IKEA internals.
For privacy we have not photographed all of them but there are oak sliding drawers, jewellery drawers, tie racks and dedicated shoe storage in his and hers wardrobe areas, as well as hanging and shelving. The tricky thing is working to specific IKEA fixture dimensions without wasting any precious space, but after a bit of head scratching we managed to eek out every bit of space to good use.
The window seat has deep blanket drawers beneath, and further storage is discretely dotted around this top floor, making it very easy to keep tidy and clutter free.
This window seat was one of the key factors that the entire top floor was designed around – my client wanted to be able to sit up high and look at the views over London Town…..I don’t blame her…
You can see why my client would want to sit at her window seat any day of the week — the Wheel, St. Paul’s, The Shard, Walkie Talkie, BT Tower and more…this photo was take on a December day. The Summer views will be breathtaking..
FAMILY BATHROOM AND OTHER BEDROOMS
The family bathroom had no toilet and was poorly laid out and hard to get in and out of with dated, broken fittings..
Re-hang the door to open on the other side, replace an old cupboard with a toilet, use a simple white scheme with a very bold dash of Orange !!….et voila!
The children’s bedrooms were simply cleaned up and re-decorated. Again, when precious budget has been chewed up elsewhere, it is easy to be clever with colour resulting in a punchy, stylish and cost effective interior.
British Racing Green for a boy and a splash of Aubergine for a girl…(obviously)…
The renovation took just under a year from start to finish. My clients worked really hard themselves to help us achieve such a tight deadline, looking around for alternative fixtures and fittings for discussion and green-lighting in order to hit our budget and time target once the dormer discussion was finalised.
Despite many on-site stresses (completely un-avoidable on most projects), they were always polite to the contractors and respectful of the fact that we were all striving to achieve the build to their wishes. They were timely with their responses and open to debate on areas that needed to be flexed away from their preferences, even if sometimes these discussions could take a bit of time to process.
Walking into the house now I am full of pride and happiness for what we have achieved together. There is truly LOVE in this house, and I wish them every happiness in their new home. Thank you for asking Velvet Orange to be part of your journey – we are honoured to have worked for you.
(Photo credit: all “AFTER” photos have been taken by the lovely Janie Airey website here