Our clients lives had become split across opposite ends of the world. As a couple of senior financial professionals, their international lifestyle demanded a secure London home for their two school-going children.
They bought a beautiful Grade 2 listed house in St. Johns Wood, satisfying the ideal, quintessentially London atmosphere to come home to after months of working amongst Hong Kong’s skyscrapers.
But with all its charm came a shortage of modern conveniences and style. They wanted a complete renovation – both in structure and interior design – to bring their London home up to today’s standards while preserving its period character.
Few projects are more challenging than a listed building, especially in the borough of Westminster. Their planning department is one of the strictest in the country, demanding uncompromising quality and absolute respect for the property.
It wouldn’t simply be a case of restoring its period features but also reintroducing them. Much of the structure simply could not be altered, and there was a hard limit on how much we could extend.
Work on a listed building is a constant tug of war between our clients wishes and those of the planning officers. We knew even with our talent for negotiation that our proposals would be hard won.
Since it was built in the 1850s, the house had gone through a number of modifications that had removed or replaced original details. Each provided us with an opportunity for restoration that would win us favour with the council.
The design ended up being a process of balancing a number of period restorations with the more contemporary additions our clients wanted. The more of the former we achieved, the more we were granted of the latter.
This process resulted in almost complete contemporary design on the lower ground floor, where the kitchen, dining and housekeeping accommodation would most benefit from a complete renovation. A white resin floor gives the whole level a clean, bright look with light pouring in from the new metal framed glass extension, which opens directly onto a freshly levelled and planted garden.
In the floors above, faithful restoration work – such reinstating replica fireplaces and cornices – was contrasted beautifully with modern details and our client’s taste for contemporary furniture, design and art.
By opening up the wall between the two receptions on the upper ground floor and fitting a pocket door to the library, modern adaptability and convenience is added to an otherwise faithful restoration. And while we weren’t allowed to replace the existing floor, we were able to clad new timber on top of it, achieving an updated aesthetic without altering the structure.
A highlight is found in the master bedroom on the first floor, where a glass wall separates the dressing area from the en suite complete with spacious bath and power shower. In the floor above, the children enjoy their own air conditioned bedrooms with shared en suite.
Buildings are listed with the intent to preserve their historical legacy, which is easier if people want to live in and love the property. By modernising their home without compromising its character, our clients can enjoy the best of the past without giving up comfort and convenience.