IT TAKES VISION
and a large dose of courage to imagine living in a gritty urban space that was once, rather incongruously, occupied by cows. But for serial renovators Beth and Andrew, this unlikely back story only added to the appeal. Sandwiched between a row of south London terraces, their chic home was formerly an unprepossessing dairy, then an ice-cream store, and latterly a down-at-heel workshop.
Nothing indicates to the casual passer-by that beyond a modest metal shuttered frontage lies a jewel of a courtyard inspired by the gardens tucked away behind austere doorways all over central Paris. ‘If there’s an opportunity to take a peek through a gap in a gate, I can’t resist,’ says Beth of her first glimpse of the unusual home she shares with partner Andrew, a graphic designer, and their son Louis, 12. The fashion stylist turned interior designer was on her way home from a shoot when the site caught her eye. ‘I peeked through the gates and saw a derelict courtyard and a crumbling building beyond. I knew we had to take a look.’
The sight that greeted them would have deterred many, but Beth knew exactly how it could be transformed. The faded grandeur of the front yard would be turned into a verdant garden, hidden from the street; the ground floor would be extended out to accommodate flexible living space, while the first floor, with its unique gambrel roof, would be tweaked to house two bedrooms and two shower rooms. ‘The most obvious choice was a double-height extension, but we were determined to preserve the raw beauty of the place and so our approach was less radical,’ says Beth.
That softly industrial aesthetic is evident throughout, from the cracked concrete flooring in the courtyard to the rusty fittings repurposed to train plants up the walls. The building’s former rear refrigeration area has been turned into a multi-functional snug, with Beth’s office beyond, looking over another, smaller courtyard. With less square footage to play with than their previous home, Beth has been clever with her ideas, creating bespoke storage in the living space, installing sliding doors and ensuring that the snug serves variously as a TV room, crash pad for guests and music space for Louis.
The wow factor undoubtedly comes in the form of generous steel framed, tall glass doors that draw the eye from front to back, bringing the evergreen garden into focus throughout the year. ‘Our aesthetic is simple; we like graphic shapes and styles, mid-century furniture and muted colours so that patina and texture stands out,’ says Beth.
Trusted vintage Robin Day chairs and a sofa have travelled with the family from house to house for nearly two decades, slotting effortlessly here. ‘Moving here encouraged us to get rid of superfluous possessions and concentrate instead only on the pieces we love,’ says Beth. ‘Coming downstairs in the morning and seeing that huge expanse of glass never fails to connect me to nature. I could so easily have walked past this diamond in the rough and never known it was here; I guess the lesson is to take time to stop and look. You never know what you might unearth.’ Find out more about Beth’s work at imperfectinteriors.co.uk