STA­BLE MAN­NERS

Ar­chi­tect Adri­ana Natcheva’s Lon­don flat – a con­verted horse sta­ble – is a mas­ter­class in el­e­gant so­lu­tions for a small space.

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– an ar­chi­tect’s stylish tiny Lon­don Flat was once a home for horses

The set­ting and frame­work had been in place for decades when ar­chi­tect Adri­ana Natcheva started de­sign­ing her new home in Kens­ing­ton, Lon­don back in 2009: lim­ited space, high ceil­ings, a large sin­gle win­dow fac­ing the front and two smaller ones fac­ing the back. The flat, lo­cated on the first floor, was orig­i­nally a sta­ble serv­ing Kens­ing­ton Palace with ramps for the horses to be led up. The down­stairs pro­vided park­ing and garages for the horse-drawn carts and the coach­men had their liv­ing quar­ters up­stairs along­side the horses. When Natcheva bought it, the orig­i­nal sta­ble door had al­ready been re­placed with the large sin­gle win­dow. Un­de­terred by the chal­lenges of such a tiny space and lim­ited avail­able light, she gave her creativ­ity free reign. Ev­ery­thing was aimed at a mod­ern life with­out chil­dren, but with so­cial­is­ing and deal­ing with po­ten­tial clients in mind. It was worth the effort. Turn­ing con­ven­tional think­ing up­side down and choos­ing so­lu­tions that weren’t ex­actly straight­for­ward, every inch of po­ten­tial was op­ti­mised in every pos­si­ble way. What was once a mere horse sta­ble is now a charm­ing court­yard set­ting in one of Lon­don’s most lux­u­ri­ous and sought-af­ter neigh­bour­hoods.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Cam­bridge Univer­sity, Natcheva, along with busi­ness part­ner Mur­ray Groves, started Groves Natcheva Ar­chi­tects in 2000. Her of­fice, in the build­ing op­po­site her

apart­ment, is where she works on both large and small projects, all with a fo­cus on the rich­ness of life. Her own pro­ject took con­sid­er­able time to sort out be­cause of the ex­ten­sive plumb­ing needed to ac­com­mo­date all the var­i­ous func­tions within a very tight space. “The space I did have to play with had to fit all the func­tions of an en­tire house and in an aes­thetic style I’d be happy to live in,” says Natcheva, who over­saw all the in­te­ri­ors, in­clud­ing the plumb­ing so­lu­tions so she could put the bath­room and kitchen where she wanted, as well as the stairs con­nect­ing the mez­za­nine level to the ground floor.

In­side, the gen­er­ous ceil­ing height made it pos­si­ble to build the mez­za­nine level above the kitchen and hall­way lead­ing to the bath­room. Her bed­room is lo­cated above the din­ing area and kitchen, the lat­ter of which is tucked away neatly be­hind slid­ing doors so you don’t feel like you’re eat­ing in the mid­dle of the kitchen. “The in­te­rior de­sign as a whole re­volves around the stor­age so­lu­tions, which was made nec­es­sary by the lim­ited space,” she says.

Cab­i­nets were fit­ted down the full length of the room and ap­pear as an ex­ten­sion of the kitchen when the slid­ing doors are left open. Th­ese also cover the height of the mez­za­nine, with fur­ther shelv­ing added for books and a lad­der for ac­cess that can be moved back and forth.

The kitchen is be­low the mez­za­nine level and fea­tures Nero Por­toro mar­ble work­top and splash­backs. The tex­tured mar­ble pro­vides a rich, dark tone to an al­ready very dark room, which has been painted matte black and set against slid­ing doors in high gloss black. The glossy sur­face adds a lovely ef­fect to the space and the light that hits it, while the doors of­fer the op­tion of open­ing to the en­tire kitchen, or clos­ing and cre­at­ing the feel­ing of sit­ting in a din­ing room, with a Mu­rano glass chan­de­lier above to en­hance the ef­fect. Di­rectly above this is

Natcheva’s bed­room, where she en­joys a view of the en­tire flat be­low. Stairs be­hind the cab­i­nets con­nect the two spa­ces. “The many de­sign op­tions that were avail­able de­spite the lim­ited space are a re­sult of the gen­er­ous ceil­ing height. It’s also the defin­ing fac­tor in what makes the space feel big or small,” says Natcheva, who painted the ceil­ing off-white to fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ate its height.

The flow of nat­u­ral light in a place with lim­ited win­dows pre­sented its own chal­lenge. Again, ev­ery­thing had to be care­fully con­sid­ered down to the very last de­tail. The so­lu­tion to in­creas­ing the avail­able light flow was found through the use of the many mir­rors, which do a stel­lar job. A large full-length mir­ror was added to the back wall of the kitchen, for ex­am­ple, where it re­flects the en­tire flat, es­sen­tially dou­bling its vis­ual im­pres­sion when stand­ing at the end of the flat with the large win­dow. When you look down the full length of the kitchen, it ap­pears as though the green plants by the win­dow con­tinue and the out­door space is re­flected in­def­i­nitely.

“It’s less about the size of the space and more about how you use it,” says Natcheva, who has mas­tered the art of liv­ing in a very small space, where ev­ery­thing has its des­ig­nated place. Rare ob­jects col­lected over time cre­ate a strik­ing con­trast against the dark mar­ble. “I only sur­round my­self with things I re­ally care about and I don’t hang onto things that won’t get used,” she says. “Ev­ery­thing here serves a pur­pose, or it gets re­moved.”

One of the most im­por­tant things for Natcheva was the fact that the flat is a bit re­moved from the street, which re­duces the city noise while still be­ing in the heart of Lon­don. If she could have any­thing more it would be the flat next door, she says, but in re­al­ity, she has ev­ery­thing she needs – even enough space on her bal­cony for a small ta­ble and chairs, to en­joy when the weather per­mits.

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