When Zana Maksimovic and her partner Danny first viewed their house they were amazed to discover that the bathroom was located on the ground floor next to the kitchen, with an opening in the wall between the two rooms.
‘You could lie in the bath and chat to people in the kitchen,’ laughs Danny.
Such a bizarre layout was far from ideal, and the property was generally in need of a redesign and a modern update. However, Zana and Danny both felt that it had a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere. Not only was it perfectly located – just 10 minutes from famous Portobello Market – it also offered a sheltered, child-friendly rear garden, with the added bonus of a roof terrace, which can be very difficult to find in London. The couple had been searching for a new home for some time and knew that upsizing from their flat to a house in the same area was going to be extremely expensive unless they were prepared to take on a renovation project.
They put in an offer for the terraced house, which was accepted, and work began almost immediately, as the builders started stripping out the property.
The owners: Zana Maksimovic, who is an interior designer, and her partner Danny Briottet, a record producer, live here with their son Louis, five
‘We continued living in our flat as the house was like a building site,’ says Zana, who oversaw the project and employed an engineer for structural calculations. ‘We decided to build a small dining extension into the side passageway, which involved expensive excavation work,’ says Zana. ‘Adding glazed sliding doors to lead outside meant that at one point the back of the house was virtually missing and the rest was supported on steelwork. We hadn’t realised just how much would be involved in creating a little extra space – I’d describe it as opening Pandora’s Box.’
Repairs were made to the leaking roof and there was a serious damp problem which had to be put right. The house was completely rewired and re-plumbed; sagging ceilings were taken down and the old metal windows were replaced with double-glazed timber sashes, giving the exterior a much-needed facelift.
Relocating the family bathroom upstairs reduced the number of bedrooms from three to two, but freed up the former bathroom on the ground floor for extra living space. As the couple had always dreamed of having a large kitchen-diner for entertaining, they combined the old bathroom with the original kitchen to create a stylish kitchen-dining room. They also allowed for a separate utility room to house all their appliances and the open-plan staircase made space for a new cloakroom cupboard, which is accessible from underneath the stairs.
Inexpensive black gloss base and wall units were fitted along one wall in the kitchen to contrast with the white walls and ceiling. The original wooden floor, along with all the others in the house, was sanded, stained dark and varnished for a high gloss, reflective finish. At the far end of the kitchen, Zana and Danny installed glazed sliding folding doors to to connect the two spaces together.
‘Louis loves playing out in the garden, so bringing those two spaces together means I can keep an eye on him while I’m preparing dinner,’ says Zana.
‘As two reception rooms had already been knocked together and the staircase was open-plan, it helped to create a feeling of more space,’ says Zana. ‘We also removed the small entrance lobby and just left a small partition wall inside the front door. One space now flows into the next on the ground floor, and you can see right through the house and out into the garden. This open-plan space gave us the chance to work with a large empty shell when it came to choosing the interior design.’
The couple were set on using a classic black-and-white decorating style for the interior of the house.
‘People say that a predominantly monochrome palette can be dramatic, but I think black and white seems like a safe option, as it creates a perfect backdrop for furniture and bright accent colours,’ says Zana. ‘To me, magnolia and beige are plain and boring in comparison.’
Black-and-white wallpaper was used to create individual feature walls, with Cole and Son’s Woods design behind the staircase and Cow Parsley in the master bedroom and bathroom.
‘I’m addicted to wallpaper, but I wanted to avoid pink and girly patterns because Danny and Louis have to live here too,’ says Zana. ‘Danny travels a lot with his work and loves bringing back tribal artwork and other ethnic finds, so most of our walls are plain white, which is perfect for displaying artwork and ornaments.’
The project took seven months to complete, instead of the eight weeks that Zana and Danny had expected, so it cost far more than they had anticipated.
‘We were really naïve about how long we thought the work would take. The jobs we thought would need just a couple of days to complete actually took weeks. This meant the builders and tradesmen’s fees escalated and the materials we needed just kept growing,’ explains Zana.
These additional costs prevented the couple from going ahead with their plan to convert the attic space into another bedroom and en suite bathroom. However, the structural steelwork and staircase work were completed during the building project which means that a conversion will be possible in the future.
‘Saving money became a real priority for us,’ Zana remembers. ‘I shopped on eBay and did lots of research to cut costs.’
So, wherever possible the couple tried to use local independent retailers and tradesmen from the Notting Hill area. They also tackled some jobs themselves.
‘Danny helped out varnishing and staining the floors. We also decided to work on the garden ourselves and make it a family project. It was really overgrown, but everyone worked hard to clear it and we’ve created a practical lawn area,’ says Zana. ‘Now the garden feels almost like another room – and it’s the only one that isn’t decorated black and white’.
|Labour and materials||£48,600|
|Structural engineer’s fees||£1,263|
|Windows and sliding doors||£3,900|
|Plastering and exterior paintwork||£3,100|
|Heating, plumbing and electrics||£9,800|