WHAT IT COST
the plans passed. Now it is built, there is more greenery than before. Not only does a blackbird rummage for worms on the roof, but a bold robin comes most days to admire himself in the wall of mirrored cupboards at the end of the courtyard.
To form the curvaceous roof around the yard, layers of plywood were cut on a CNC machine. The couple assembled it themselves, using waterproof glue and stapling it to a frame made by a boat builder. The veranda runs down one side and across the far end, uniting house and courtyard, and is in constant use.
There were once five historic communal loos at the end of the yard, which made it bigger than other yards nearby. The couple raised the back wall a bit for the roof to swoop from, and replaced the lavatories with mirrored cupboards that hold recycling, a barbecue and garden tools.
When you cross the yard, you don’t notice the cracks between the slabs. This is where water swirls up from, giving the blissful illusion of a pond. Rainwater collects in a long, narrow tank that’s filled via a bespoke pipe and gutter, ready to pump.
The veranda roof itself is punctuated with stepped openings, which bring in light and add charm, especially glowing up through the sedum at night. Before First flat in 1998: £230,000 Remainder of house bought bit by bit: about £700,000 Money spent: £235,000 excluding all fees Value of house now: £2.75 million (estimate)
GET THE LOOK
Architecture: by Anna Liu and Mike Tonkin at Tonkin Liu in Clerkenwell (tonkinliu.co.uk) Engineer: Rodrigues Associates (rodriguesassociates.com) Landscaping: by Tonkin Liu (as before) Builder: Camden Carpenters (camdencarpenters.co.uk) Plywood: CNC-cut by Grymsdyke Farm (grymsdykefarm.com) Plaster specialist: Edgar Fernandez via Camden Carpenters (as before) Curved, double-glazed wall around the courtyard: by Cantifix (cantifix.co.uk) Glass staircase: by Tim McFarlane of Glass Light and Special Structures (glasslimited.com) Pond-fill system: developed by Tonkin Liu (as before) Dieter Rams’ classic 606 Universal Shelving: by Vitsoe (vitsoe.com) Blinds: hallmarkblinds.co.uk Sedum roof: sky-garden.co.uk a sky garden of sedum and trees on the veranda roof attracts birds
the year-long build began in April 2016, the couple gently renovated the whole house. One by one, they reunited the flats, redid the plumbing and wiring, patched and limed the floors, restored cornices and repaired shutters — a textbook restoration.
The va-va-voomed basement flat now has a sexy new second bedroom with a curving back wall done in pine under the Sun Rain Room, and original tongue-and groove panelling and fireplace in its sitting room. The mix of old and new works well. It even has its own tiny courtyard.
This is a tale of two parts: conservative, feather-light restoration, enhanced by boldness and daring in the true spirit of the Georgians who built the house almost 200 years ago. Yet children who glimpse the courtyard, oblivious to its technical daring, just call it the house with a swimming pool — even though its depth would only take a tadpole.