Why be bor­ing?

Zingy or­ange, lime green, bright red, sky blue — de­signer shades of white have no place in this daz­zling fam­ily home. By

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

JU­LIA and Andy Bell were un­trou­bled by the fa­mil­iar Lon­doner’s prob­lem of which Far­row & Ball shade of white to use for their new home im­prove­ments. They solved the de­bate by go­ing bold. Re­ally bold. Think lime green liv­ing room floor, deep red stair­case, with bed­room floors rang­ing from zingy or­ange to sky blue. And kooky colours for the bed­rooms of their daugh­ters Harper, six, and Juno, three, which the girls chose.

“It all started with the kitchen,” ex­plains Ju­lia, stand­ing at the pol­ished con­crete work­top. “I was def­i­nite that I didn’t want a white kitchen. You can get a white kitchen from Ikea. If we spent a bit more we could have some­thing dif­fer­ent. We have stepped out­side the safe zone, and we re­ally like it.”

By the time Ju­lia, 40, and Andy,42, were ready to start work on ex­tend­ing and ren­o­vat­ing the run-down semi in Ken­ning­ton, their shared think­ing was to turn the three-bed­room house into a modern, joy­ful fam­ily home with five bed­rooms. The colour scheme was all part of the grand plan, which took seven months to com­plete.


The fam­ily pre­vi­ously lived in a Ber­mond­sey town­house which they sold for £670,000. Andy, who works in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, and Ju­lia, who runs a busi­ness soft­ware com­pany, rented in Herne Hill, where Harper went to school, while they searched for a new home.

An es­tate agent men­tioned that a house was about to come up close to Ken­ning­ton Tube. It was a pro­bate sale. “It was an ab­so­lute dump,” says Ju­lia. Nonethe­less it was a dump with po­ten­tial. “It was a good lo­ca­tion, and we knew we could make the house work.”

Pro­bate sales are no­to­ri­ously slow, and by the time the Bells paid £775,000 for the 1,345sq ft house in May 2015, they’d al­ready hired Fred­erik Ris­som, founder of R2 Stu­dio Ar­chi­tects, and be­gun the re­design of the place. They turned to the in­ter­net to find their ar­chi­tect, ask­ing for rec­om­men­da­tions on the Lon­don SE1 fo­rum (lon­don-se1.co.uk). They chose Ris­som be­cause they liked his at­ti­tude. “I felt the pro­ject mat­tered to him as much as it did to me,” says Ju­lia.

They wanted a loft ex­ten­sion to add two spare rooms and a sec­ond bath­room, ex­tend­ing the prop­erty to 1,775sq ft. They also wanted to open up the ground floor, and as Ju­lia works from home, she wanted a “prac­ti­cal and com­fort­able” of­fice.

Be­cause they were not al­ter­ing the foot­print they did not need plan­ning per­mis­sion, and used per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment rights. Visit plan­ning­por­tal.gov.uk to find out what works are cov­ered un­der per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment. They did, how­ever, need de­tailed plans so that builders could ten­der for the pro­ject.

Even with an ar­chi­tect’s help, de­cid­ing the fine de­tails of the de­sign of ev­ery room is very time con­sum­ing. “I was very, very or­gan­ised and spent a lot of time pre-plan­ning ex­actly what ev­ery room needed, right down to plugs and where the sock­ets should be,” says Ju­lia.


She care­fully as­sessed the num­ber of kitchen cup­boards and draw­ers she needed, and went through the same process with stor­age for clothes, toi­letries, books and toys. She even mea­sured the height of the chil­dren’s wellies and then de­signed the en­trance hall cup­board with a shelf to store them. It also has a sun­glasses drawer, mea­sured in ad­vance. “I spent a lot of time mak­ing sure it was right but if you put in 80 per cent of the ef­fort, you get 80 per cent of the re­sult.”

The cou­ple in­cluded tech meth­ods for turn­ing on the lights and en­try cam­eras from their phones. Harper and Juno par­tic­u­larly de­light in an app which lets them change the colour of the lights re­motely. The smart heat­ing sys­tem re­sponds to weather con­di­tions, au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just- ing the heat, mak­ing this highly in­su­lated house very en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Fire alarms link to Andy and Ju­lia’s phones, broad­cast­ing a warn­ing if smoke is de­tected.

Their builder was rec­om­mended by Ris­som, who acted as pro­ject man­ager. His quote was also the most com­pet­i­tive. “We asked sev­eral builders for de­tailed quotes, with cost­ings for ev­ery item. Al­though his fixed fee was the most com­pet­i­tive over­all we went through all the quotes, and where an in­di­vid­ual item was more ex­pen­sive than the others we ne­go­ti­ated it down,” ex­plains Ju­lia.

When the work be­gan the cou­ple were well pre­pared and they es­sen­tially paid weekly vis­its from their rented flat, mak­ing fi­nal de­ci­sions on things such as the right shade for the colour scheme ac­cord­ing to the light. They wanted prac­ti­cal rub­ber floor­ing, and chose lime green for the kitchen and liv­ing room. The cab­i­netry was built from a lam­i­nate made by Polyrey (en.polyrey.com). They se­lected a deep olive green for built-in cup­boards

Care­ful plann Ju­lia and Andy above with daugh­ters Ha and Juno, put time and ef­for into their wac decor, but it’s prac­ti­cal as w as eye-catchin with rub­ber floor­ing and ex­actly measu stor­age — the even a spe­cial drawer for sun­glasses

Com­pare and con­trast: red, green and blue make a paint­box ef­fect that works

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