Hid­den Gem

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

Living Etc - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy / James Mer­rell Styling / Re­becca de Boehm­ler Words / Steven Ef­s­tathiou

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

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