Anita and Lee have opened up their Victorian villa, which was once a series of grotty bedsits, to create a laid-back space full of light and calm
once a series of run-down bedsits, anita and lee’s restored Victorian villa in london is now a picture of serenity and style
‘When we first came to view the house,
my initial thought was, “My god, nobody else knows that this place is here”,’ recalls Anita Grossman. ‘It was so different from other properties in the surrounding area and stood out like a jewel.’
A hidden gem it may have been, but it was also jaw-droppingly awful in another way, as Anita and her husband Lee Redmond had to contemplate just how much of a project it would be to bring the villa back up to scratch. Inside, it had been sliced up into five bedsits and was dark and dank throughout. ‘Still, some of the rooms were habitable,’ explains Anita, ‘so we camped out there and got down to planning the renovation.’
With the need to level out the ground floor a priority (a set of steps led down from the front of the house to the rear), Lee brought his building expertise to bear, stripping the property back to its bones before reconfiguring its internal layout. While the ground floor was levelled, extra height was added to the loft by lowering the floor below, and, subsequently, the floor below that. ‘Eventually, there was so much work going on that you could stand on the ground floor and see right up through the roof,’ says Anita.
‘Lee was restoring classic cars when we first met – he’s an amazing guy,’ she continues. ‘Although he’s super-intelligent, he’s obsessed with straight lines and is a bit OCD. He likes houses to be really “tight”, especially if they’re old, so he’ll take them apart and redo everything, including the floor joists. This place almost used to wobble when we bought it, but now you can literally jump up and down and nothing will move. In our bedroom suite, the flooring around the bath was especially reinforced – my husband weighs 15 stone, so it needs to take the strain!’
One major factor the couple had to overcome was siting the new kitchen extension at the back of the building so that it didn’t overlook any of the neighbouring gardens. ‘Originally, when you were looking straight out of the house, you would have seen into the neighbour’s plot, and we didn’t want that, so we built the extension on a slant,’ explains Anita. ‘Now, when you’re in the kitchen, you look over our garden instead.’
The beautifully designed kitchen is – like many of the fixtures around the house – all Lee’s work. ‘My husband’s a gadget man, and he’s the main cook in the house, so he’s got two ovens and plenty of room to move around the island – like I said before, he’s a big guy!’ Anita says with a smile. ‘And in the larder unit, we’ve even got electronic switches to move the shelving up and down…’
Exquisite finishes are evident throughout the revamped villa, such as the reinstated cornices and the crafted window shutters that echo the property’s provenance. ‘The design of the windows is original, but we’ve had the panes remade and double glazed – because of its open location, the building is exposed to the elements, and these keep everything snug and warm,’ says Anita.
While Lee has been busy creating a fabulous home for the family, Anita herself has also been exploring new possibilities, adding a locations agency to her raft of creative outlets. ‘It’s called Air Space,’ she says, ‘and this place has been included in its portfolio.’ So how does she cope with bringing up a pair of teenagers, running a business and letting her house out for photographic – including fashion – shoots? ‘We’re a very active family, so there’s plenty of time when we’re not all here,’ explains Anita. ‘I love to ride – my horse is stabled in Essex – and my son Raffi is also an equestrian (he’s the under-16s Team GB captain), while daughter Izzy is a budding musician and songwriter, currently studying at The BRIT School. Lee is always kept busy with his property renovations, particularly when people pop their head through the door and ask who did this place up… He gets quite a few clients that way!’
To learn more about A&R Creative, visit aandrcreative. com. To view Air Space’s portfolio of photographic locations, check out airspacelocations.co.uk. To contact Lee Redmond Interiors, call 07956 223470