Do you have a passion for preserving and celebrating the history of a property while still making it your own? Revel in the unique character of Alexandre Liaume’s vibrant apartment and then browse more real home transformations...
Owner Interior designer Alexandre Liaume lives here (alexandreinteriors.com (opens in new tab))
Period A two-bedroom duplex apartment in a former artisan workshop, built in 1880, near Bethnal Green, east London
What he did Alexandre has rewired, replumbed, installed a new bathroom and staircase, added sound insulation, laid new floors and decorated
Every so often Alexandre Liaume opens his front door to find people dressed in leather jackets picnicking across the road or taking selfies on the doorstep. Very occasionally a guitarist serenades him from the street or someone peers through the letterbox. Luckily though, these incidents are rare and Alexandre takes it all in his stride. It’s the legacy of living in an apartment once rented by the Libertines’ guitarist Pete Doherty.
‘It adds to the history and character of the place,’ Alexandre says. ‘Some things, like the kitchen units, haven’t changed since he lived here between 2001 and 2003, but most of it is completely different. When I moved in three years ago I made a lot of changes. I wanted to make it mine.’
The 80 sqm apartment was dark, very cluttered and not particularly well laid out. The bathroom was directly off the main living area and a heavy spiral staircase lead to two bedrooms upstairs.
Having already refurbished a tiny two-bedroom flat, Alexandre was confident that the move into a larger, unmodernised property, in a trendier area of east London, would pay dividends.
‘It was a lifestyle move,’ he says. ‘There is an amazing flower market two minutes away and loads of artisan workshops, antique shops and a strong community atmosphere here. The fact that the apartment needed lots of work didn’t bother me.’
Alexandre knew, just by looking at the agent’s photographs, how he would change and update the apartment. He would move the bathroom upstairs, turn the old bathroom into a guest room/office/ music room and make every inch of space count in the compact property. He moved in after a long purchase process and got a builder to strip out the bathroom so he could set up camp in there as the rest of the apartment was renovated around him.
‘For the first month I had to shower at friends’ houses, and use a ladder to get to the loo because the previous owner had taken the spiral staircase and it took me a while to replace it,’ he says.
As a designer, Alexandre is used to seeing the bigger picture however, and during the five-month renovation project he replaced the carpeted floors with various types of wooden alternatives, designed the new bathroom to include a whirpool bath and hammam, and had the staircase made and fitted to his own measurements – ‘It was scary, but it saved me a fortune doing it this way,’ he says.
He also had all the plaster removed on the stair wall to expose the original multicoloured, workshop bricks and turned a cluttered rooftop terrace into a chic outdoor living area with sofas, upturned decking, table and chairs, and planting.
Alexandre’s style is influenced by his French roots, his passion for English vintage and antique furniture, and a love of graphic art.
‘I grew up in an architect-designed house with wooden floors and white walls, but I have always liked using colour to bring warmth and depth to a place,’ says Alexandre. ‘Against the advice of others I decorated the main living area in dark blue and then introduced lots of textural layers, patterns and contrast to create a home. I wanted it to be comfortable and welcoming. A place I want to spend time in, whatever the time of year.’
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Alexandre has maximised the limited space, adding shelves in alcoves and over doorways, linking the outdoor terrace to the inside and creating multi-use living areas. The open staircase and narrow French-style doors between room – which are often left open – take the eye from one area to another to create a sense of light and space.
The finished look soon led to requests for help from friends and colleagues and Alexandre has now made the leap from digital product management to interior design, retraining and transferring his skills to work on commercial and private projects with his company Alexandre Interiors.
‘It was always a passion of mine - right from being a boy of 10 wanting to redesign my bedroom,’ he says. ‘A home is about the atmosphere you create that is very personal to you. I didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily in my own place because I had to be realistic with the budget. so I kept the 20-year-old kitchen, which is very good quality, and simply painted it. I also shopped around for ages to find an affordable staircase. I had to get all the measurements absolutely right for it to fit, but it has worked out brilliantly.’
Alexandre’s managed to create a sense of luxury throughout his apartment by filling it with furniture and things that are precious to him. ‘My home is the place I look forward to returning to and spending time in, where I relax and unwind, surrounded by things I love,’ he says. ‘That’s what makes it my home.’