Jemima Garthwaite used her quirky style and architectural knowhow to update and extend her Victorian terrace
Had Jemima got her timings right, she could have ended up buying the house next door to the one where she now lives in Hackney, London. The beautiful Victorian terrace caught her eye a few months before she began her property search, but by the time she started going on viewings, it was off the market. However, this ‘dream home’ inspired Jemima to target the same area in her property search. When her current home appeared, she seized her chance and was the first to view it and make an offer. After some back and forth, the house was hers.
The property was on the market for a reasonable price because the previous owners had made very few changes to its fabric, and, thankfully, all the original features remained intact. However, this also had its downsides. ‘It had the most basic kitchen and bathroom possible,’ Jemima explains. ‘It was still the rather cold, dark house it’d been since 1860.’
To remedy this, Jemima decided to extend the kitchen at the rear of the house to create a light and airy space that is perfect for socialising, while the original 19th-century living room at the front, with its fireplace and exposed brick walls, would remain untouched. The result would be two ‘seasonal’ spaces – a comfortable area in the centre of her home for the colder months, and a bright extension that opened up to the back garden for the spring and summer.
Jemima enlisted the help of her close friend, architect Tom Kaneko, whom she met while studying architecture at the University of Edinburgh, to get her new home up to scratch. He set about designing the extension, using a pitched roof to give height to the middle of the room and create a light, open space. To bring the garden into the addition, the pair decided on bi-fold doors that can be swept open to allow a seamless flow between indoors and out.
Tom and Jemima also made use of any opportunities they could find to add extra details to the extension. A study sits in an alcove, and Tom added a small cloakroom in the space between the stairs and the kitchen units. One of Jemima’s favourite areas, the cosy reading nook, is nestled against a window to make the most of the garden view.
Because of her background in architecture, Jemima was quite a hands-on client. ‘I spent many work lunchtimes with my roll of tracing paper, sketching out infinite new layouts,’ she says. ‘Despite Tom’s protestations and continual reminders about my tiny budget, we opted to stick with ambition – the missing money would surely appear from somewhere.’
Thanks to the pair’s architectural know-how and Tom’s contacts, they managed to complete the renovation on a very tight budget. Tom negotiated with builders and carefully selected materials in order to keep down prices, but eventually, they had to take on some of the work on their own. ‘When the money ran out, there was no plasterboard on the walls, just rough screed on the floor, and the kitchen was a few pipes sticking out of the walls and floors,’ Jemima recalls. ‘To take it from this to completion relied upon a balance of my blind lack of fear and Tom’s coaching and practical solutions. Essentially, it was an epic DIY job, with Tom even stepping in to hand pour the cement floor.’
Jemima’s proactive approach and cautious spending meant she was thrown into the world of building. ‘For a couple of years, me and the B&Q staff were on first ➤
name terms, as well as the chaps running the local dump – I don’t think my beloved car will ever recover from the infinite times she was loaded up with rubble,’ she laughs. ‘I embraced the challenge of learning new skills, and dedicated most evenings and weekends to it. The only downside was a fairly broken back from all the lifting, and unshiftable dirt in my rough builder’s hands, which I frequently sat on in client meetings at work to avoid detection.’
For Jemima, the most arduous part of the renovation was the physical work. ‘For a period of weeks I had to manually shift waste water into a drain, so after every shower, I’d be downstairs dressed for the office, lifting a huge bucket across the room,’ she explains. ‘No wonder my back went! I actually really enjoyed the challenges, and I’m now the go-to-girl for DIY advice, so
I’ll be helping out lots of my friends with their own projects.’
Much of the furniture in Jemima’s house has been passed down or collected over the years, and her interest in interior design seems to be a family trait.
‘I’m very lucky that my parents and grandparents have all had a very good eye for design, and I’ve enjoyed taking on old family pieces and adding modern touches,’ she explains. Recently, she worked with independent upholsterers 7Upholstery in Shoreditch to update an assortment of armchairs and sofas with leather and linen. ‘I’m trying to make decisions that will survive the test of time,’ she says. ‘While I’ve also picked up a few pieces along the way, I’ve tried to avoid trendy bits, though they have snuck in – copper’s all the rage these days, and it just happens to be one of my favourite things. Fingers crossed those items don’t look dated in years to come.’
After investing so much in her home, Jemima sees herself living there for the foreseeable future. ‘I hope to be here a very long time – it’s big enough for a teeny tiny family, and when that grows up, I’d be keener to go up into the roof than move anywhere else. All in good time, though.’
exposed steel beams add a splash of green To This Copper-led scheme