After buying the flat below, Michelle Naughton wasted no time bringing her London townhouse back to its former glory – with a modern twist.
When Michelle Naughton married her husband Alex, she moved from Ireland to his London flat. It was in one of the many typical townhouses in the area; spread over three floors with high ceilings and large sash windows. At some point during the mid-1900s, the then-owner decided to split the property into two units – turning the upper portion into the Naughtons’ two-storey apartment, and the basement into a small garden flat.
After this major remodelling of the building, many of the period features had been lost. The fireplaces and some shutters remained, and the stairway railings were modelled on the originals, but this actually suited Michelle and Alex’s style. ‘We wanted a Scandinavian feel in a Victorian house; light and bright, with a fresh feeling of space.’ So the couple wasted no time modernising the bathroom and kitchen, and then opened up the living space to suit modern family life. This gave them the confidence to tackle a major renovation project when their neighbours below decided to sell a little while later. ‘We jumped at the chance to buy the garden flat,’ Michelle explained. ‘Connecting it to the rest of the house and re-establishing the original layout would give us the space we needed.’
Architect Leith Kerr was on hand to bring the couple’s ideas to life, which involved moving the kitchen downstairs to ground level, then linking the storeys with a new staircase. ‘Our builder Derek did a brilliant job, especially with our kitchen-diner,’ Michelle explains. ‘He had to dig up a lot of the garden in order to level the floor, and we also decided to extend the space into the side return.’
Featuring a glazed roof and two sets of French doors, the new room is dotted with bright home accessories and furniture to lift the all-white walls. Large-scale floor tiles continue on to the patio, blurring the lines between indoors and out and creating the illusion of an even larger space.
The first floor – which was once was the couple’s ground floor – houses a more formal living and dining room, plus a small bedroom. ‘This has become our grown-up space, where we can relax and leave the detritus of family life downstairs,’ Michelle laughs. Upstairs, the master bedroom, one child’s bedroom and family bathroom are on the second floor, and above is their all-new and muchawaited loft conversion. ‘Getting the necessary planning permission was a long and drawn-out process,’ laments Michelle. ‘It wasn’t allowed to be seen from the street due to conservation regulations, which threw up a lot of tricky issues.’ However, the couple agree it was worth the wait. Now they have future- proofed their home with a fourth bedroom and bathroom, plus a luxurious roof terrace. ‘It’s such a fantastic place to be on summer evenings,’ she adds.
The twins Edward and Rachel arrived soon after the renovations finished, and so there wasn’t a huge budget left over for decorating. ‘To save money, we found lots of great pieces at Ikea and other high-street stores,’ says Michelle. ‘And many others bits are upcycled vintage pieces, too.’ In fact, she is a regular at the antique stores on Portobello Road – which is where she found the circular mirror now hanging proudly above the fireplace – and at Sunbury Antiques Market in Kempton Park, where she chanced upon her dining room chairs.
The hallway’s dynamic blue-and-white chevron pattern was another of Michelle’s creative strokes. ‘I couldn’t find any wallpaper that matched the idea I had in my head, so I got some stencils and paint and spent a Sunday doing it myself.’ As for the distinctive artwork on the walls, most of them are museum posters that have been mounted on boards and sealed. ‘It’s a great way to preserve large prints and make them look more substantial,’ says Michelle.
Now that the conversion is finally complete, the family of four can enjoy their home and take long walks in the nearby park, perhaps following the footsteps of the original Victorian owners. ‘We always had a very clear idea of what we wanted to do with the house and it’s every bit as beautiful as I hoped it would be,’ Michelle says.
Photography: Sarah Hogan/Stockfood