How a meeting of minds led to a new concept in estate agency… Here’s the story of Michelle Ricci and Julien Zak, the couple behind Zakzetter Real Estate in Islington
The inception of Zakzetter Real Estate started with the collision of two geeks. Michelle Ricci and Julien Zak both came to London separately from overseas; they met at work and became friends. When asked about her first impression of Julien, Michelle muses: ‘He had a quiet, cerebral look about him. He seemed to appear in the distance, his face wrought with intensity as though he was mentally grappling with a puzzle.’ Makes sense as Julien possess a Master’s Degree in Cryptology, a field of study where candidates emerge from university with the permanent expression of someone in the midst of cracking the Engima.
Michelle had a passion for property and had already completed several renovation projects in Islington and Clerkenwell by the time she met Julien. ‘I originally wanted to be an artist. Even though my formal education is in Mathematics and Computer Science, I have an undeniable urge to express myself creatively. Architectural design and property renovation offer me that means of expression,’ says Michelle.
Drawn into the concepts of revolutionizing industries with technology, Michelle and Julien mused over ideas of changing accepted practices. ‘We were about the place our home for sale. We had interviewed a number of estate agents and was struck that all big agents had these great offices. What if we created a virtual estate agency where we employed qualified estate agents as “contractors”? We could offer clients flexible hours that suited them as we didn’t have to be concerned about maintaining an office. Could we charge people less and offer the same service? Why not?” questions Julien.
Zakzetter Real Estate was born. They started in September 2014. ‘Once the technology was set up, the advertising relationships established, and the vetting of agents completed, we were ready for business. We had a team,’ recounts Julien. ‘Michelle was perfect. Who better to valuate and market properties than with someone who spent 14 years buying and selling properties in the area? She spent years working with builders, structural engineers, and trades. She could disassemble a house and reassemble it into something spectacular. Everything fit perfectly.’
Immediately after creating the estate agency, Julien and Michelle put their home for sale with Zakzetter Real Estate. ‘We are “All In”,’ says Michelle with a smile. ‘We expect to trickle more of our property renovation projects through the estate agency. However, the big test is selling our own home using the estate agency we designed.’
Their home is a recently-renovated, four-story, Georgian, Grade II Listed mid-terrace house. The house is perfectly positioned along the quiet streets of Barnsbury. The front of the house overlooks Bernard Park and the back of the house overlooks its own expansive garden projecting 64 feet with two paved terraces. With the sun rising over the back garden during the morning and setting over the park in the evening, there is no shortage of bright spaces in the home.
The ground floor kitchen brilliantly captures this dual perspective and capitalizes on the views. There are few houses in Islington that offer the great advantage of being able to see the horizon through the front windows.
The kitchen’s retro design plays well against the mix of modern and vintage. An AGA, faithfully piping warm air throughout the ground floor, sits happily in the custom-made kitchen. Fixtures and fittings have been carefully selected to create a sense of belonging.
The soft, warm colour of the American Walnut flooring evokes a feeling of home. Where there aren’t wooden floors, there is tile that also retains the warmth. The rear extension of the house has beautifully tiled floors with underfloor heating. An office located in the rear of the house boasts fantastic views of the landscaped garden. With its own entrance to the garden, one could shut off the rest of the world and happily spend the day in the office. When was work ever so relaxing?
The master bedroom is perfectly located on the first floor where soaring Georgian windows proudly offer uninterrupted views of the Park. ‘Julien and I perch ourselves in the windows and could whittle away the day silently watching the movement of the Park,’ muses Michelle. The captivating design scheme extends across the upper floors as the master bathroom echoes a retro-industrial theme.
The house is a quick five minute walk to Islington High Street and Angel Tube station, and a 15-to-20 minute walk to Kings Cross/St. Pancras International Station. UCL’s St. Martins College of Art and Design – Central London is a ten minute walk from the house.
When asked why they are moving house, Julien replies: ‘We’ve always been drawn to the Clerkenwell area. We would walk for hours on the weekends down the winding streets. In fact, I asked Michelle to marry me in St. Paul’s! We found a house on the Islington-Clerkenwell border that would allow us to have a foot in both Clerkenwell and Islington. We hope to create a loft space where we could have a work area alongside a living space. This is the dream.’
Michelle and Julien are hoping to grow their business starting in Islington. ‘We would be delighted if we started a trend towards companies that can offer more than a High Street office. Currently, our team work whatever hours our clients’ desire, because people no longer work the typical 9-5pm hours, so companies need to accommodate. We are here to do just that.’
The property is listed for sale with a guide price of £2,550,000 with Zakzetter Real Estate – call 020 3652 1193 for more