Converting the loft, installing huge skylights and designing a glass and steel staircase added space and light to this north London flat. The Resident takes the Houzz Tour…
The potential to convert the loft above this flat, on the second floor of a Victorian villa in Highbury, London, was a key draw for its designer and owner. Gaining consent took time, though, so this stylish home was created in two waves, with the lower floor opened up and modernised first, and the loft added a year later.
“The logistical complications of taking the roof off to build the dormer extension while living downstairs were huge,” says Ewan Walker, who owns the property and worked on the redesign. “We managed to do it in about three weeks, but I had to be really organised to pull that off!”
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here Ewan Walker, co-founder of a design and build firm
Property A second-floor flat with a loft in a large Victorian villa, which is now semi-detached and converted into flats
Location Highbury, London
Size 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Designer Ewan Walker and the team at MADE Property
Photos by James Hawley Photography
Ewan Walker bought this flat in 2013. It had been rented out and was in a tired but habitable state. “I was really attracted to the three arched Victorian windows in the front, and wanted to make the most of the space there,” he says. “There was a small kitchen pushed into the far corner, so we put in a long steel beam on the internal wall of the living room and could then open out the space.”
Walker chose a simple scheme to help the space feel open and airy. “It’s very modern, very clean, almost Scandi looking,” he says. The flooring throughout is a pale engineered oak. “I chose boards that are as wide and long as possible, and they run continuously through this floor,” he says.
Pictured above: b1 kitchen, Bulthaup. Hob and oven, Gaggenau. Yeoman zinc dining table; Yeoman benches, all Habitat
The clean-lined kitchen is a Bulthaup design. “I’ve fitted Ikea kitchens in the past, which are great, but wanted to try something different,” says Walker. “I splashed out on beautiful German cabinets and Gaggenau appliances.”
Pictured above: Brick tiles, Reclaimed Brick-Tile
To give the neutral scheme some warmth, Walker added a wall of reclaimed brick in the living room. “I tried to keep the space quite neutral, but I didn’t want it looking bland,” he says. “This looks and feels like a true brick wall, but it’s actually made from reclaimed bricks that have been sliced down to create 1cm-thick slips. You just stick them to the wall like tiles, using adhesive.”
To satisfy Building Regulations, Walker had to fit a fire door across the opening to the stairs and landing. He commissioned oak sliding doors, which measure about 2.5m long. They had to be brought up the narrow stairs in two pieces and joined on site.
“We also had to provide samples to building control to prove that, once we’d put them together, they would meet the regulations and act as a fire screen,” says Walker. “We inserted flame-retardant material into the join between the door blanks.”
Pictured above: Flex, fittings and bulbs, Urban Cottage Industries
The flat features a Lutron lighting system and much of the lighting is recessed into the ceilings. Walker added filament pendants over the table, though, to create a nice retro feature. “You create them by choosing the flex, fitting and bulb that you like,” he says.
Pictured above: Sofas, Dwell
LED strip lights are used in the living room to give the shelves a warm glow, while a wood-burning fire provides warmth and a focal point.
A beautiful feature staircase runs from the flat’s entrance up to the loft. “I was inspired by chats with architects to fit oak panelling in the stairwell, right up from the front door,” says Walker.
The walls were not perfectly straight, so a batten framework had to be constructed first, to which the panels were then fixed. Walker added an LED strip into the recessed handrail to create a warm seam of light that leads you upwards.
Walker designed the glass and steel staircase. Having then received quotes from stair companies of between £30,000 and £35,000 to create and install it, he decided to do it himself, although this option might not be for everyone.
“I got a steel fabricator to put in the framework for about £2,000 and a structural engineer designed the stairs for about £500,” he says. “Then it’s triple laminated glass for the treads and double laminated for the balustrades, which cost around £5,000.”
The whole design came in at a much more reasonable £7,500. “I had to do a fair bit of running around between the trades and a lot of the measurements were my own, so there was some risk! But I saved money,” says Walker.
Light flows down to the entrance hall from the huge skylight in the loft roof and through the glass stair treads. You can see here how the stair design barely touches the walls, but just wraps around the stairwell, with only a couple of fixings on the half landing wall.
Pictured above: Wall lights, Urban Cottage Industries. Bed; bedside tables, all Habitat
Walker was already living in the flat by the time permission to convert the loft was granted. “The cost of securely covering the roof while work took place was prohibitively expensive,” he says. “So instead, we just waited until we saw a dry week on the forecast and then ripped the roof off!”
A team of builders worked on the extension and a separate team of roofers constructed the new roof and fitted two skylights. “We did run into a couple of rainstorms during the three weeks of work and the tarpaulin we were using to secure the roof was becoming less watertight the more we used it,” says Walker.
“I remember getting up on a couple of stormy nights and walking barefoot through all the sawdust and screws to reposition buckets, hoping none of the rain would come through to the bedroom below. It was a relief when the skylights went in and the whole roof was sealed!”
A built-in window seat has storage underneath. “It’s a great place to sit,” says Walker. “It looks east and the sun blazes in through the window in the mornings.” The window can tilt or swing open.
Walker didn’t fit doors to the hanging space tucked into the eaves. “Once we’d put in the floor and the insulation in the ceiling, this all sandwiched-down on the head height. I’m 6ft and would have been crouching to open a door. It seemed a bit of a faff.”
Leaving doors off also increases the sense of space, as the floor stretching into the eaves can be seen.
Walker had two skylights fitted in the loft roof, which had to be craned into position. There’s a fixed skylight over the stairs and another above the bed. “It’s cantilevered and remote-controlled, so you can open it in the summer and lie in bed staring up at the stars,” he says.
An internal window allows additional light from the stairwell skylight to flow into the bedroom.
Pictured above: All sanitaryware, Duravit from QS Supplies. Tiles, Tower Ceramics
Another internal window draws light from the stairwell into the master bathroom. Walker chose large-format porcelain tiles with a concrete finish for the walls and floor in here.
“They are 800mm x 800mm and work well in the space,” he says. “I put the toilet centrally against one, the basin against another, and the towel rail against one, too. They lend a kind of logic to the layout.”