Houzz Tour: A Period Family Home is Gently Brought Back to Life
This beautiful conservation-area Victorian house has been both restored and revitalised from a dishevelled state
The owners wanted a sociable family home that also had “pockets of privacy” and an understated feeling of luxury, but was “bold and cool, with splashes of fun”. “They liked the idea that it would feel like a five-star hotel, beautiful and comfortable,” Seán adds.
Who lives here? A young family with three small children
Location Islington, north London
Property A three-storey Victorian terrace with a basement in a conservation area
Size Five bedrooms and four bathrooms
Architectural design Seán McAlister of Pencil and Brick
Contractor Tobias West
Interior designer Anna Hewitson Design
Project year 2021
As the house had been stripped, it was very much a blank canvas to work with in terms of the internal configuration.
The footprint on this ground floor level wasn’t changed, but several structural and external alterations, as well as the expansion of the basement floor, have helped to revitalise the space.
The slim-framed doors you can see on the right replaced the Victorian originals, which were rotten. These flood the new kitchen with light and open onto a new terrace.
“The owners loved the soft look of natural wood,” he says of the fluted island. Bare, pale timber, ribbed textures and understated luxury are themes repeated throughout the house. The lovely pale, wide floorboards are Douglas fir.
The cupboard on top of the worktop is used as one of two pantry cupboards.
Bespoke kitchen, Blakes of London. Douglas Classic 350mm planks, Dinesen.
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Seán fitted a new sash window in the dining area (to the right) to replicate what was in the same spot before. There also used to be a small door here that led to the main steps down to the garden.
The door and steps have been removed, giving more wall space internally in the dining zone and creating space for the expansion of what was previously a very small and unliveable basement area below.
“The owners had us come back more than a year after completion to do some further design work, including integrating a new banquette [here],” Seán says. “It shows how much they liked the design and working with us.”
This particular project didn’t come to Seán through Houzz, though a good number do, he says. “Lots of people have clicked on one of our images on Houzz, or they’ve used the button on our profile to send a question through Houzz, or we’ve been matched with them via the Project Match tool.”
So don’t forget – if you’re looking for the right pro for your project, try the Houzz Professionals Directory.
Slim-framed doors, IQ Glass.
The doorway you can see here remains (see below), albeit in a tidied up state. It now gives access to the new basement area.
This wall has been part-demolished to allow views directly to the back of the house from the front door. A new cloakroom has also been put in the spot adjacent to the stairway down.
The swooping mahogany, swan-necked handrail is the just-seen original, but has been beautifully restored. The spindles, however, were replaced with metal rods.
On the left is a new entrance into the living room, fitted with pocket doors. Details such as the dado rail are all new; the team put in lots of work to bring back features that would have been there originally.
The architectural details in here were all recreated as faithfully as possible to what would have been in place originally. “There really wasn’t any detail to retain in most of the house, nevermind to restore,” Seán says.
All the windows were replaced with double-glazed wooden sashes to improve the building’s thermal envelope.
The biggest change by far, though, is the expansion of the basement level, which now features a kitchenette/living space and a bedroom with en suite. In this before image, you can see the small doorway at the bottom that led into the original basement.
“There was a shallow space down here, which you find in almost every Victorian building,” Seán explains. “It had small stairs up to the garden [just out of sight here] and we expanded on this. There was significant digging and structural work.”
The standout feature here is the pink steel staircase. “This comes back to the brief of understated luxury with a splash of fun,” Seán says. “The owners loved the stairs and spent many hours with us picking the perfect colour.”
The brickwork above the doors echoes the ribbed woodwork inside as well as the balustrade.
Seán likes the composition of different textures in this view. It shows how his team resolved the conundrum of transition between the lower and upper exterior levels.
There is a concrete retaining wall, needed after the digging here, but this is almost completely hidden by the timber planters you can see at the top.
Terrazzo worktop, Diespeker.
The doorway on the left, which is at the front of the house, is used as an informal way in and out and is often used by the family. The neat little coat and shoe tidy was made bespoke by a joiner. “The owners really needed more spillover storage on this floor,” Seán says.
At the bottom of the stairs, the joiner added an extra bit of secret storage that doubles as a place to perch and take off footwear. “It’s a good space for things like garden cushions and blankets,” Seán says. There’s more storage behind the doors under the stairs, too.
The vertical slats forming the staircase wall were designed to let as much light flow through as possible. “This is a nice architectural piece,” Seán says of the staircase, pointing out the shadow gap between the tongue-and-groove panelling and the treads and risers.
“This bedroom and en suite were a real priority for the owners,” Seán explains.
The mirror above is, in fact, a recessed cabinet.
Lower walls painted in Babouche, Farrow & Ball.
White and gold octagonal floor tiles, Bert & May. Vanity unit painted in RAL 3028, Ham Interiors.
Gelato Rose Gloss wall tiles, Mandarin Stone.
And how do the owners feel about their ‘new’ old house? “The kitchen is their pride and they love how it flows with the living space at one end and the terrace doors at the other,” Seán says. “They told me they absolutely love living in it.”
Tiles, Original Style.
What’s your favourite feature in this renovation? Let us know in the Comments.