Looking at the well-preserved façade of this elegant five-bedroom 1850s villa in London’s Highgate, you’d never guess the surprises that lie within. It’s awash with ingenious design touches, but at street level, the listed building’s period authenticity is scrupulously maintained.
The owners are a young, busy family who wanted a ‘fun yet functional’ home for their three children to grow up in. They’re sociable people, so it also had to accommodate their love of entertaining. London architects Michaelis Boyd were the natural choice for the job. ‘Playful design full of character is at the heart of our ethos, so this was right up our street,’ says founding partner Alex Michaelis.
The fulcrum of the new interior is a curvaceous, classic yet modern staircase. This was moved away from the original location at the rear of the house, creating what Alex calls a ‘Boyd void’ – a signature of the architect’s studio.
‘It allows light to flood all the way through the house, illuminating it on every level,’ he explains. The chief source of the illumination is a spectacular skylight at the top of the stairs, which forms part of a new rooftop extension. Along with glazed Crittall doors in various rooms and a long, narrow skylight in the ground-floor dining room extension, it’s one of several smart design solutions that maximise the sense of space in this home.
A fusion of traditional and contemporary elements is evident throughout the interior, which was the work of Simone McEwan – previously creative director at Studioilse. ‘We wanted the interior to reflect the personality of its owners, but also to feel like it had been there for a long time,’ explains Alex.
Original features are complemented with new bespoke storage, and there’s a fresh, minimal take on painted wall panelling in the living room, which ‘hints at the past but avoids pastiche’.
A calm colour palette contributes to the overall sense of cohesion, enlivened by occasional pops of bolder hues. Notable is the inky blue in the garden-view family room, which was converted from an old garage and is linked to the house by a new timber-clad passageway.
There’s also an uplifting feeling of being connected to the leafy garden – especially in the dining room, where the family spends most of their time. An outdoor studio and barbecue pergola allow even closer contact with nature, and are designed in a mix of oak and charred timber boards.
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2021
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Keep your spirits up and subscribe to ELLE Decoration here, so our magazine is delivered direct to your door.