Flora Bathurst’s experience as Photography Director of ELLE Decoration stood her in good stead when it came to renovating her own home. ‘I spend all day looking at the most beautiful houses in the world,’ she says. ‘There’s constant inspiration.’ The four-bedroom terraced property in Kensal Rise, northwest London, which she shares with husband Andrew, five-year-old son Eli and two-year-old daughter Isobel put all her style skills to the test. The 1890s house was ‘in a very sorry state’ before they moved in two years ago.‘There were rotten joists and holes in the floor,’ Flora recalls. ‘It was the ultimate doer-upper.’ On the outside, the building was painted a lurid shade of mint green.
The couple approached the project with all guns blazing, gutting the house and starting again from scratch. They seized the chance to reorganise the building’s layout, creating a double dormer in the loft to house a main bedroom and bathroom, and moving all of the walls on the first floor to produce better-proportioned rooms. The ground level was extended. ‘We added a lot of rolled steel joists,’ says Flora. ‘This allowed us to open up the middle of the house, box in the stairs with storage and link the front to the back seamlessly – not easy in a Victorian terrace.’ Help came from her interior architect, Anthi Grapsa of Arch Memories and Martin Starlet, an expert in building with reclaimed materials. It was Anthi who had the idea for the bank of cupboards that runs between the living room and kitchen hides all family clutter. ‘She’s really good with storage solutions,’ says Flora.
Anthi is also an expert in using reclaimed materials, which are without doubt the most important aspect of the house’s decoration. The salvaged pitch-pine panelling and iroko surfaces used in many of the rooms were chosen for their resilience and character, with much of the wood sourced from London-based reclamation experts Retrouvius.
‘I love things that have integrity and history,’ says Flora. ‘Also, with old buildings, I think you need to honour their past. In the original rooms, such as the sitting room, we put back the cornicing and opened up the old fireplace. In the newer parts of the house we felt we could be more modern.’
The project also benefited from the creativity of the Bathurst family at large. Flora’s late mother was an interior designer; her elder sister Bella is a furniture maker (as well as a successful author); middle sister Lucy is an interior designer and textile specialist with her own studio, Nest; and cousin Rupert is a painter. All made their contributions to the space, notably Lucy’s handmade curtains and cushions, Bella’s sturdy black walnut kitchen table and Rupert’s paintings and charcoal drawings in the sitting room and study. Flora describes her style as ‘reclaimed meets classical modern’ and cites her inspirations as ‘Scandinavian simplicity, mid-century shapes and all things natural’. In two years, this house has seen a remarkable transformation and, stripped of its mint green masonry, is its best self again.
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration October 2017