It’s all about be­ing brave

A wildly stylish fu­tur­is­tic trans­for­ma­tion of a Ge­or­gian ter­race was the dream come true for this cou­ple, dis­cov­ers Philippa Stock­ley

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Our Home -

GUT­TING a Ge­or­gian house is rarely pos­si­ble in Lon­don be­cause so many have been listed, mak­ing al­ter­ations dif­fi­cult. But if you can find one in an un­listed ter­race with no orig­i­nal interiors left, the trans­for­ma­tion can be spec­tac­u­lar — as it has been in the home of Sar­dinia-born Lon­don restau­ra­teur Mauro Sanna and his English wife, Ash­lea.

Even so, once the en­tire in­sides of their prop­erty had gone, and all Ash­lea could see were four walls, sky, and “a bloody great house-sized hole” she couldn’t quite be­lieve it would ever be “home” again.

Mauro, 58, and Ash­lea, 49, bought their 2,150sq ft, five-storey house in a Bel­gravia back street in 2010, lived in it for four years, then in 2015 went for broke with a to­tal trans­for­ma­tion, cre­at­ing some­thing with hints of the Thun­der­birds. It is gung-ho in its tech­no­log­i­cal ad­ven­tures yet still in the spirit of the 18th cen­tury, when grace and light were essentials.

Self-made Mauro came to Lon­don at 18. He wanted to be an ar­chi­tect, but in­stead started his first Olivo res­tau­rant in 1990 in Bel­gravia. He’d met art stu­dent Ash­lea in King’s Road in 1986. They’re a good team. Ash­lea does the so­cial me­dia and de­sign side of things. “Qual­ity of life is a top pri­or­ity for us, and liv­ing near where you work is im­per­a­tive — I love my busi­ness,” Mauro says. The cou­ple lived in Pim­lico, but in 2009 they wanted a big­ger house with a big base­ment for an invit­ing cook­ing/en­ter­tain­ing space.

That’s a tall or­der in Lon­don, where base­ments are usu­ally cramped and dark. But it was their red line. The cou­ple own a Mediter­ranean-mod­ern house in Sar­dinia. Un­der blaz­ing blue skies it’s all about light, with huge pic­ture win­dows and clean, con­tem­po­rary spa­ces, and this light- filled look was what they wanted in Lon­don. Sar­dinia also in­spires the food and de­sign at Mauro’s restau­rants, fre­quented by stars such as Dame Mag­gie Smith.

Mauro and Ash­lea spot­ted the house in 2010. The rooms were tired, but the base­ment had ex­cel­lent height and had al­ready been opened up with an old ex­ten­sion and a walled gar­den be­yond. The cou­ple knew ar­chi­tect Andy Mar­tin and liked his ad­ven­tur­ous, mod­ern style, so they asked him to do the job. Their brief was im­por­tant: con­tem­po­rary, with

top right, the con­crete lobby floor was cast on site; right, a new ex­ten­sion has slid­ing glass doors

Dap­pled de­light: the stair is sided with per­fo­rated steel pan­els on the up­per floors

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