Right I’ve found a corker for you this week and I think you’ll like it too, so I thought we would take the time to have a proper old mosey round. It’s a classic London Victorian terrace, which is actually very similar to mine from the outside (although prettier) and, in case it helps it’s just under 17ft wide (about 5m) which is the same as mine too.
It’s in Islington, north London, and is on the market with Brickworks for £1,250,000. I have written about this agency before but, in a nutshell, they are a self-styled ethical agency and give 2.5 per cent of all fees to Depaul UK, a homelessness charity that works to help young people stay off the streets. They also give you a pretty cool welcome box when you move in, including a bottle of English wine, a jar of honey from the Bermondsey Street bees, some fair trade coffee and a bag of muesli.
Now, then, this house. I have decided you show you the downstairs from all angles so you can see how the owners have dealt with the long and narrow space. They have decided to knock it all through to create a living room, dining room and kitchen leading out into the garden but, despite the lack of walls, the spaces are all clearly defined (we’ll ignore the rug island for now as we all know that won’t be staying when I move in).
Now the first thing to note about this open plan sitting room is that the owners have closed off the original door into this room and turned it into an internal window. This means they come in through the dining area below and gives them more freedom to furnish the space. They have used it to create a wall of books and put the sofa in the bay window. It also brings more light in from the hall.
You can see from this image that the rooms are not that wide but they have created a comfortable and functional space. Note how the panelled ceiling in the dining area differentiates that space from the rest. Also, yes it’s a feature wall but there’s nothing random about this one. It has a job to do – zone the dining area. You could take this idea one step further and paint the whole area in the same colour and then pick it up in the kitchen tiles at the far end as well.
The aim is to try and visually widen the space so that it doesn’t turn into a corridor. With that in mind I would also suggest painting that half wall at the back behind the tall plant – that would help to square off the space and frame the view through to the kitchen.
Paint is not just about the colour you choose but can also be a vital tool in changing the perception of a space too.
Moving into the kitchen, and again I might paint that wall at the end pink to shorten the space but I love the dramatic use of colour here. It’s clearly not dark in here so the owners have chosen dark units rather than classic white and it looks great.
This shot gives you a sense of the whole of the downstairs. The parquet flooring unifies the space but each room is framed by the walls as you look through. Another visual trick you could play is one the Georgians often did in rooms that led into each other and this is to pick a colour and use it dark at the front and gradually getting lighter towards the back. Again the spaces will be unified but distinct. I would start dark at the front as that is, generally speaking, the room that will be used most in the evening and lighter at the back which is the morning space.
That morning space also leads out into this very pretty town garden. Who says small can’t be beautiful? And low maintenance. I love the hexagonal tiles which look as if they have been there for years. One thing I often hear is about people want gardens for the kids to play in. Of course that’s ideal but having had two small boys I can tell you from experience that once they are about four they want to go to the park with their friends (and you might want to escape the house too) so a big garden doesn’t always make a huge amount of difference. Given that’s it’s always all about compromise, it might be better to have more inside than outside given the vagaries of the British climate and the cost of moving.
Now come upstairs. There are four double bedrooms arranged over two floors and one bathroom. There is also a shower room on the ground floor. Note again, how every space has been pressed into use for bookshelves. If you are mostly storing paperbacks they don’t need to be very wide so they don’t take up much room. A magazine is about 26cm deep so that is the maximum you will need there.
I’m going to show you just this one bedroom because there are some clever ideas in here too. First up – the wall of wardrobes. This is a common sight in many bedrooms and so often we hate the doors we inherit. But there are things you can do that don’t involve ripping the whole lot out. You can wallpaper them. You can cover them with material – a thin layer of foam padding will make them feel really luxurious too – by using a staple gun. Or you can replace them with the doors of your choice.
I love what they have done here with simple slabs of wood but each with a different handle or paint effect and finish. I don’t have a wall of wardrobes but I almost wish I did now. And to Sally-Ann, who has been complaining about her hideous lacquered purple doors for the eight years I have known you – THIS.
Moving round the room and you can see the half-painted wall (and yes, like the rug island downstairs I’m ignoring the white radiator). The blue acts as a sort of headboard to the divan bed and brings in colour without being overwhelming.
If you buy this house – and frankly why wouldn’t you – you could take the bottom colour up to the height of the shutters and paint those to match as well which would create a very cosy space.
Finally the bathroom. This shot is taken from roll top bath which sits across the end of the room. Isn’t this a great bathroom? The old school basin, exposed brick, patterned tiles and, yes, a pink loo seat. It’s not a huge space but it’s very pretty and the frosted glass door increases the flow of light from the back of the house to the, traditionally, dark spot in Victorian houses which is just outside this room on the first landing.
So there you have it. Anyone fancy this one? If you haven’t got a million quid down the back of the sofa then perhaps there are some helpful ideas you can take for your own homes at least.