Old workshop becomes stylish city home

Architect turns one-storey workshop into a three-level home that makes maximum use of space

When architect Fiona Kirkwood saw a disused, one-storey upholsterer’s workshop in Bethnal Green, London, she knew it had the potential to become a fabulous home for herself and her husband, Benjamin.

Using all her professional skills, and drawing inspiration from the narrow houses of Amsterdam and Japan, which make clever use of small spaces, she came up with a design that would make maximum use of the plot.

The conversion was so successful it was named overall winner in the first Real Homes Transformation Awards.

Project Notes

The owners: Fiona Kirkwood (pictured above), partner in Kirkwood McCarthy, lives here with husband Benjamin, a banker


The old workshop is thought to have started life as a tax office, and dates from the turn of last century


The grey and white colour scheme helps bounce light around the space. Bed, The Natural Bed Company. Curtains, Kvadrat. Table, Hay. Pendants, Zero Lighting


Different materials have been used for each flight of stairs, including American black walnut, perforated steel and powder-coated steel 


The façade is now more in keeping with the streetscape. The couple were only able to add one level on top, so chose to dig down to gain more living space


Fiona pulled the top level back so that the house wouldn’t overshadow their neighbors garden, leaving space for a small balcony


The bespoke kitchen has lots of hidden cupboard space, including drawers under the stairs. Worktop, Silestone. The staircase is bespoke with American black walnut treads from Wood Floors 4 U. Dining table, Magis. Black chairs, Norr11. Flooring, Traditional Brick & Stone


The bathroom on the top floor is surrounded by curtains, rather than walls, as the sloping roofs meant it wasn’t possible to enclose it

Entrance with full height glass door in a workshop conversion

The living room ends in double-height windows and glass doors which open onto the courtyard where the steps are at seat height, ideal for sitting outside
Alison Jones
Assistant Editor

Alison is Assistant Editor on Real Homes magazine. She previously worked on national newspapers, in later years as a film critic and has also written on property, fashion and lifestyle. Having recently purchased a Victorian property in severe need of some updating, much of her time is spent solving the usual issues renovators encounter.