Renovating a Grade II Listed townhouse

Wendy Hiscox and Michael Logie have extended and transformed a property comprising three run-down flats into a stunning family home. The four-bedroom townhouse was originally built in the 1850s and has been modernised within whilst retaining its period exteriors

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When Wendy Hiscox and her husband Michael Logie first viewed their listed Victorian property they knew it would require a lot of renovation work to convert it into a modern, comfortable family home.

‘The property was in a shocking state of disrepair,’ Wendy remembers. ‘It was subdivided into three flats and needed extensive renovation, but we’d been looking for a house on this quiet street for a while. We knew we had to act quickly before another potential buyer snapped it up.’

Canadian-born Wendy and Mike had been living in a two-bedroom flat near the house for six years, but they had decided it was time to upsize.

‘Our daughter Ashia was still very young, but we wanted a place where she could grow up and run around in a garden,’ says Wendy.

Fact file

The owners: Wendy Hiscox, a medical law lecturer, and her husband Michael Logie, who is a solicitor, live here with their two children, Ashia, five, and Jessica, three

The house had damp on the upper ground floor, which had caused black spots on the walls and bubbling paint. A previous owner had removed a wall on the lower ground floor, cracking the property’s façade and making the roof uneven.

‘There had been little maintenance on the three flats,’ says Wendy. ‘Some of the bathrooms still had dated salmon-pink fittings, while an internal door had been taken off its hinges and left rotting against a wall. We were undeterred though.’

It was while she was looking for ideas and inspiration in homes magazines that Wendy came across Living In Space (living-inspace.co.uk), an interior design company.

‘I’d seen a few features about Living In Space and was impressed by their work, so I contacted the company’s designer, Anita Kohn, to discuss our plans,’ says Wendy. ‘I thought we’d have to employ a builder for the structural work, but when Anita told us the company could do the plans and build project as well as the interior design, we hired them to project-manage it all.’

The first job was to strip out the original interiors. All the old sanitaryware and redundant walls had to be removed and the house made structurally sound.

A section of a back wall had to be rebuilt because it was structurally unsafe. The roof was braced while a new brick wall with rolled steel joists (RSJs) was fitted in the lower ground floor to provide the necessary support, which had been lost when a previous owner had removed the wall.

A lathe and plaster finish was applied to all the walls, as the old plasterwork was falling off. Most of the internal walls were stripped back to the studwork, with many removed to convert the multiple-dwelling property into a single-dwelling house.

Layers of paint that had built up on the doors over the years were stripped away, but the doors were restored in accordance with Grade II listing requirements.

Although the house has many listed period details, including the original fireplaces, doors, shutters and staircase, Wendy and Michael wanted to introduce simple contemporary furniture and fittings for a modern interior style.

‘We wanted the top four levels, including the bedrooms and bathrooms, to be a private space,’ says Wendy, ‘with the lower floors for guests and entertaining.

‘There were a lot of planning restrictions, so we submitted two different versions of our plans to extend the house as well as convert the basement and the loft into more practical living spaces,’ she adds. ‘We would have liked to remove more of the rear wall to create a larger glazed extension area. We also wanted to extend further to bring more light to the lower ground floor, and add a contemporary staircase, but we couldn’t get permission for those plans.’

The property now spans several tiers in total. A new extension at the rear includes a breakfast room on the lower ground floor. The glazed section of the extension features a series of folding sliding doors leading out to the garden, linking the inside and outside spaces with a patio, which the couple use for summer entertaining.

The lower ground floor has become a practical, stylish open-plan kitchen/TV/ breakfast/dining area, where the family spend most of their time.

‘Our kitchen has underfloor heating, which makes it really cosy,’ says Wendy. ‘It has an island unit which not only provides extra workspace, with storage for wine, it also makes a great seating area for guests who can sit and chat to us while we’re preparing meals, before we all move into the breakfast/dining area,’ she continues.

There’s also a utility room plus a guest bedroom on the lower ground floor, along with a WC/shower room.

‘The shower room is a particularly clever idea as it makes great use of the low ceiling, which is shaped by the stairs above,’ Wendy explains.

A study occupies the tier between this level and the street-level upper ground floor, where there is a large sitting room complete with a grand piano.

‘It was going to be our dining room, but it didn’t make sense eating there if we then had to go downstairs to the kitchen for the food, so we turned it into a sitting room,’ says Wendy.

The couple’s style is contemporary but relaxed, with wooden floors fitted for warmth and easy maintenance. They wanted to keep the design scheme understated, with a grey and neutral palette for the wall shades and furnishings. ‘It blends well with the original cornicing,’ Wendy explains.

Bold, patterned flat-panel sheer curtains have been chosen for the sitting room, which also features elegant light fittings. Between the upper ground floor and first floor, there is a cloakroom tiled in red glass on a half-landing. It makes a stylish statement, contrasting well with the muted palette used in the rest of the house.

On the first floor there is the master bedroom with an en suite – but the design didn’t go completely to plan.

‘One of the underfloor heating panels wasn’t working when we first laid the floor,’ says Wendy, ‘so we had to lay it twice – but we didn’t really expect such a big project to go without any hitches.’

She and Michael have chosen a charcoal and silver scheme for the bedroom. ‘Our designer Anita was great at coming up with ideas and helping me to visualise them,’ says Wendy. ‘I wanted neutral shades for the walls and much of the storage and fixtures, and her team suggested the perfect textures and tonal shades.’

On the second floor there are the two children’s bedrooms, with their own bathroom on the third floor.

‘We used colour and fun accessories in their rooms to liven up the muted shades,’ says Wendy. ‘As their bathroom is small, the designers suggested adding a skylight to open it up. It’s great as Ashia and Jessica can look up at the stars during bathtime.’

Wendy and Michael are thrilled with the house’s transformation, which took two years while they continued living in their old flat.

‘When I think back to how it looked originally, I can’t believe the difference,’ says Wendy. ‘With time and lots of patience, we have created the perfect family home.’

Costs

Building work and materials£180,000
Fixtures and fittings£125,000
Plumbing£30,000
Electrics£20,000
Refurbished doors£10,000
Flooring£30,000
Joinery£40,000
Windows£15,000
Rear garden and balcony£25,000
Miscellaneous£25,000
TOTAL£500,000