Victorian maisonette transformation

When Sophie Harley took on the challenge of renovating a run-down Victorian flat, she updated it to maximise the space and turned it into a comfortable family home with stylish touches

Sophie Harley was looking for a good-sized property for herself and daughter Millie after her relationship with Millie’s father ended. She concentrated her search on the Shepherd’s Bush area of west London but didn’t have much luck at first.

‘I viewed a handful of places but they simply didn’t tick the right boxes,’ Sophie explains. ‘I wanted to stay in Shepherd’s Bush for a number of reasons –Millie was settled in her school, all her friends lived in the area, as did her father, plus my jewellery business was based here too.’

Sophie was looking for a large flat, but it seemed that properties within her price bracket were small with boxy rooms.

She was understandably thrilled when she struck lucky, discovering a maisonette with large rooms, high ceilings and lots of potential in Shepherd’s Bush – even though the property was pretty run-down.

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The owners: Sophie Harley, who is an award-winning jewellery designer (, and her husband John Hutton, a business consultant, live here with Sophie’s daughter Millie, 14, and John’s daughter Lutia, 17

‘When I first saw this maisonette I was overwhelmed by the space and light,’ says Sophie. ‘It’s one half of a Victorian house, with a lovely garden and a main living room that is bigger than the living space in my previous home.’

The downside was that it had been rented out for several years, so it had seen very little updating during that time. It needed a lot of work to turn it into a comfortable contemporary home.

Despite its shortcomings, Sophie had fallen in love with the maisonette and was determined to buy it. However, she was competing against other equally keen buyers, which is why it went to sealed bids.

‘The asking price was £445,000, but I wanted it so much that I bid higher than that,’ Sophie remembers. ‘I was thrilled when the estate agent told me I had been successful – the maisonette was mine.’

After drawing up a lengthy list of the renovations required to transform it, Sophie called in the builders – and the seven-month project began.

‘It was a big challenge and I realised that Millie and I wouldn’t be able to live here while the work was going on,’ she says.

Luckily, they were able to stay nearby during the building work, which meant she could visit the site regularly.

‘The entire maisonette needed gutting, which included ripping out everything in the bathroom and kitchen,’ says Sophie. ‘Every door and window, plus all the flooring, had to be replaced. A major part of the building work centred on restoring the ceiling to its original height in what is now the dining space.’

It was when she opened some large storage cupboards on the wall that Sophie realised that the ceiling had been lowered by a couple of feet in this small space.

‘That meant you went from a big, open living room into a bit of a tunnel and then out into the kitchen,’ she explains. ‘Luckily, the original ceiling was still intact behind the false ceiling so the builders knocked through to it. When the false ceiling was removed, the high windows were uncovered, which made it feel more like one big space.’

As the build work continued, the maisonette was replastered, replumbed and rewired throughout. After the dining room and living room had been fitted with new oak flooring, Sophie turned her attention to the living room’s fireplace.

‘I love curling up in front of a blazing fire on a cold, rainy night, so a beautiful fireplace is a must for me. I didn’t like the wooden fire surround in the living room,’ says Sophie, so she replaced it with an elegant contemporary limestone surround and wrought iron fire basket.

‘Although it’s a gas fire, the flames look very authentic – plus it gives off enough heat to keep the room cosy,’ she says.

Sophie has been running her successful jewellery-designing business for 21 years. She received a major boost during the renovation work when she was chosen to design the jewellery for the James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

‘It was a great commission,’ she smiles, ‘and it enabled me to carry out all the renovations to a very high standard.’

She was especially keen to update the kitchen, which had been badly designed – the original units cut the area in half and its extension wasted the available space. The previous owners had added the extension 20 years ago – it had two plastic dome skylights in its sloping roof that Sophie couldn’t open to allow air in.

‘The first thing I did was to rip out everything and take it back to an empty space,’ she says. ‘I replaced the skylights with three new windows, which instantly created a light, airy feel.’

Sophie had underfloor heating installed in the kitchen before large natural slate flooring tiles were laid on top. She chose white high-gloss kitchen units, teaming them with stainless steel appliances for a contemporary finish.

Leading off from the kitchen is the master bedroom which faces a large, pretty garden. Sophie took the opportunity to install bi-folding doors all along the rear of the house so that they would open out on to the garden.

‘Some people are not keen on having their bedroom downstairs, but I love it,’ she says. ‘It’s great in here with the doors open in the summer. I also have a large en suite off the bedroom.’

As the en suite and other bathroom were very dated, Sophie ripped out the old suites and installed new fittings.

‘It was just as well that I was remodelling the master bedroom en suite, because I decided to use part of it to create a walk-in wardrobe – something I’d always dreamed of having,’ says Sophie.

When the en suite bathroom layout was reconfigured, the existing small window was replaced with a large sash-style window to bring extra natural light into the room.

A winding staircase leads upstairs to Millie’s bedroom and a new wetroom, which was created from the original first floor bathroom.

Millie’s bedroom also has french doors, but these open out to a Juliet balcony with views of the garden below.

‘It’s almost like there are two separate flats in this maisonette, which is practical and suits us well,’ says Sophie.

Happily for Sophie, she met her future husband John at the 100% Design Show in London three years ago.

They got married last year. When John moved in, he brought some of his own pieces of furniture with him. His daughter Lutia moved in too and shares a bedroom with Millie when she is not away at boarding school.

‘John’s pieces have provided the finishing touches here,’ says Sophie. ‘He brought some special items, such as his 1960s orange velvet chair, a table that he made himself plus various artworks.

‘It made me realise that it had been a little sparse before, so the combination of our pieces really makes it work,’ she adds. Now that everyone is settled in the new-look maisonette, Sophie and John have no firm plans to move.

‘We have dreams of building our own eco house and studio in the country,’ she says, ‘but we love it here and adore London, so we can’t imagine selling this place yet.’


Building work£32,000
Furniture and accessories£15,000
Windows and doors£8,000
Timber flooring£4,000