Living Etc - - HOMES /ETC -

“The White House” be­cause the pre­vi­ous own­ers had painted ev­ery­thing – in­side and out – in that go-to safe shade,’ says Greg Duke-ambridge of his now-colour­ful home. ‘They did us a favour in giv­ing us such a blank can­vas and made it easy to visu­alise how we could turn it into some­thing we would want to live in. It may have been a lit­tle harder if it had been wall-to-wall swirls and chintz.’

Greg and his hus­band Nick have his­tory when it comes to the chal­lenge of turn­ing a lack­lus­tre prop­erty into a place with piz­zazz. Their four-storey Vic­to­rian ter­race is the third home they’ve cre­ated to­gether in eight years. ‘We started with a small two-bed­room flat, ren­o­vated it and loved the whole ex­pe­ri­ence,’ ex­plains Greg. ‘Then, four years later, we sold it, bought an­other place and did it all over again.’

You could say they’re be­com­ing hooked on the ren­o­va­tion process which, en­vi­ably, they seem to have down to a fine art. The build­ing work on this con­sid­er­able project took a mere six months and in­cluded a kitchen ex­ten­sion, loft con­ver­sion and major re­work­ing of the rest of the space. What’s their se­cret? ‘Plan­ning, in a word,’ says Greg. ‘We worked out ev­ery inch of space to the last mil­lime­tre and sourced major items – from taps and win­dows to floors and cup­boards – be­fore work be­gan.’ Hav­ing a good builder – one that had done work at Greg’s of­fice – was cru­cial too, as was hands-on project man­age­ment. ‘I took Fri­days off dur­ing the whole process so I could over­see the build,’ says Greg. ‘As it pro­gressed, I was work­ing on it for hours in the evenings as well, sourc­ing more ma­te­ri­als and then vis­it­ing the site. But even then it was quite tough.’ That sounds like an un­der­state­ment, but the pair’s can-do at­ti­tude meant prob­lems stayed as mole­hills rather than mor­ph­ing into moun­tains.

They added two bed­rooms in the loft, ex­tended into the side re­turn, took down walls and re­worked the en­tire lower-ground floor. This had pre­vi­ously been a labyrinth of rooms, but has now given them an ex­tra bed­room, plus an en suite, cloak­room/util­ity room and the big­gest bonus, a spa­cious kitchen-diner, il­lu­mi­nated with sky­lights.

Their play­ful eye for de­sign is re­flected in the colour pops around the house and witty flour­ishes that bounce off the walls. ‘We love the sun­shine and we got mar­ried un­der a palm tree in Ibiza,’ says Greg. ‘So there are lots of palm leaves, flamin­gos and par­rots – we call it “Trop­i­cana Chic”.’ But th­ese items are clev­erly jux­ta­posed with more grown-up pieces, such as the clas­sic so­fas, chairs and touches of an­tique brass, mak­ing the over­all look fun with its feet firmly on the ground. Al­though it’s just the two of them, the cou­ple utilise ev­ery inch of the house. ‘We have peo­ple stay­ing a lot and need no ex­cuse to en­ter­tain,’ says Greg. His mother, who lives in Mex­ico where he was born, was a re­cent guest. ‘She feels very at home here, de­spite the weather, and likes my Mex­i­can touches around the house, like the skulls and Day of the Dead im­ages.’

Not sur­pris­ingly, Greg and Nick haven’t ruled out an­other move be­fore too long. ‘There’s no get­ting away from it; we are def­i­nitely be­com­ing ren­o­va­tion ad­dicts,’ ad­mits Greg. ‘In a year or two, we’ll prob­a­bly do it all over again and fi­nally get a dog. We’ll switch things up a notch but, with­out a doubt, keep a sense of fun.’ Watch this space…

Greg and Nick’s house is avail­able as a lo­ca­tion through shoot­fac­tory.co.uk

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