Redesigning a Victorian terraced house

With only a basic structure in place, Julia and Carl Moss have created a stylish contemporary space from their three storey, three bedroom Victorian terraced house. Installing full-height glazed doors leading out to decking in the garden has created more space and light in the previously gloomy home

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Julia and Carl Moss were ready for a change from their loft apartment home – they wanted a bigger property with plenty of light and space.

‘We put our apartment in central London on the market,’ says Julia. ‘It sold really quickly so we had to rent a basement flat for six months, but at least that meant we could move quickly if we found our dream home,’ says Julia. ‘During that time Carl and I decided that we wanted a more open-plan layout in our next home.’

Although the couple had enjoyed living in the Shoreditch area of London, it no longer suited their lifestyle and they were keen to find a quieter, less busy area with more green spaces.

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The owners: Julia and Carl Moss, the UK owners of Polestar Pilates (, which trains instructors in Pilates techniques

Julia and Carl initially thought about building their own house and went to look at a plot for sale in Stoke Newington.

‘We’re city people at heart and we wanted to stay in London, because the Pilates studio where I teach is here and I like to cycle to work,’ Julia explains.

They were attracted by the proximity of Stoke Newington to central London, as well as the shops and parks in the local area.

‘When we looked at the building plot, we realised that we weren’t really ready for two years of upheaval while the house was being built, so I started looking in the windows of local estate agents,’ says Julia.

Julia drew up a shortlist, eventually narrowing 15 properties down to six.

‘I knew I had to show Carl somewhere really special – and as soon as I walked into this house I knew it was “the one”,’ she says. ‘It had been well converted to include a contemporary open-plan layout under the direction of the vendor’s father, who was an architect. However, the work has been done years before so it was dated and in need of attention. While we really appreciated the architect’s vision, it seemed that the level of finish had been budget-constrained.’

Julia took Carl to see the property the evening after she had viewed it, and he was in complete agreement with her.

‘The structural survey showed that the basics were fine. We could see so much potential for turning it into our dream home that we went straight in and offered the full asking price,’ says Julia.

With the purchase complete, the couple moved in. They lived in the house for a year, delaying any changes to ensure their plans would work in the space.

‘We’d learnt our lesson in the past, when we had ploughed into things and then regretted it later, so we wanted to take our time and see what it felt like to live here first,’ Julia explains.

The couple tried out different uses for the rooms. ‘We moved a sofa upstairs to see what it would be like to have a living room on the first floor, but it was too far away from the kitchen,’ says Julia. ‘When we tried to house the master bedroom on the top floor, we realised it was much better next to the bathroom on the first floor.’

When they hired their own architect it helped them to focus their thoughts on the design and layout and gave them plenty of ideas. The architect showed how they already had enough space without having to convert the loft, but the layout had to be redesigned to maximise its potential.

They tackled the exterior first. After the roof and all the external pointing had been repaired and cracks were filled, it was completely repainted. They then turned their attention to the interior.

‘The kitchen, bathroom and living room were problem areas for us,’ says Julia. ‘The kitchen units were blue, which didn’t suit our style; the concrete worktops were badly cracked and we weren’t keen on the wooden worktop surrounding the sink.’

Their builders, who were stone experts, repaired the concrete worktops. The wood worktop was replaced and the carcasses of the units were kept but the blue doors were swapped for a white formica style for its timeless appeal.

Unlike the kitchen, the bathroom was ripped out as the architect felt it wasn’t salvageable, so the couple decided to redesign the space.

‘We both prefer to use a shower, but we agreed to have a bath in the space as there would only be one bath in the house,’ says Julia. ‘We chose a dramatic Roman-style design, incorporating a shower, and covered the area in mosaic tiles – it looks so stylish.’

In the living room, a bulky TV was taking up space on one wall, so there was only room for one sofa.

‘It wasn’t a sociable space when friends came to visit, as it felt like there wasn’t anywhere to sit,’ says Julia. ‘We discussed the problem with our architect and discovered a space in a cavity wall behind the TV, which was large enough to set it into.

‘Now we have space for another sofa, and the natural light that floods through the original folding sliding doors can reach every corner of the living room,’ adds Julia.

The two second floor bedrooms have been turned into a dressing room and a personal Pilates studio for Julia, without any structural changes to the spaces.

‘We took our architect’s advice and installed bookshelves in the main bedroom but we didn’t want to squeeze wardrobes in there too, so we converted one of the spare bedrooms into a dressing room,’ says Julia. ‘We also converted the basement into a bedroom with ample storage and a sofa bed, tanking the room first to make sure it was waterproof and habitable.’

To freshen up the interior, all the walls were painted white, with the occasional wall in pale blue, grey or mushroom.

‘Our architect helped us see how to make the most of our property’s existing space,’ says Julia. ‘We didn’t have to convert or extend to achieve our dream home.’


Roof repairs and exterior work£15,000
Architect’s fees£8,000
Building/electrics/ plumbing£6,000