This apartment in a Victorian villa in London has the feel of a graceful members' club

One couple transformed a dark and gloomy listed apartment in a Victorian villa in London into a chic family home

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

THE PROPERTY

A ground-floor apartment in an early Victorian villa in north London. The modern home comprises of a living/dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, study, two bedrooms – one with an en suite shower room – a family bathroom and a playroom.

When the couple bought the north London apartment, set within an elegant, 19th-century red-brick villa, they inherited – by default – an inefficient use of space. No one ever used the glorious, but dark, living room and their six-year-old twin girls played together in the hallway while their mother cooked in the cramped kitchen.

The owners surmised that their predecessors didn't like sunshine, because the main living areas were arranged on the wrong side of the house. And they certainly didn't cook...

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HALLWAY AND LIBRARY

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

To achieve the look they wanted, the couple brought in architects Gregory Phillips and Tim Wylie, who happily took on the challenge of updating the Grade-II listed apartment. 'They enjoyed introducing contemporary elements to a traditional space.'

Original mouldings aren't an obvious starting point for clutter-free living living, but these classic features give the clean lines and minimalist pieces warmth and elegance.

The result is a home with the feel of a graceful members' club – all cool whites and subdued greys, as well as the wonderful moulded ceilings. The library-cum-office, which peeks out behind one of the original arched doorways, adds a bookish touch, along with a shot of colour – thanks to the spines in the library.

OPEN-PLAN LIVING/DINING ROOM

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Starting again is a brave thing to do, especially if you've spent a lifetime accumulating precious pieces for your home. 'But when we found this apartment, it's exactly what we were inspired to do,' says the owner. 'We felt that the incredible mouldings and opulent original features deserved a style that paid tribute to them. Creating this home has been a journey of finding out what we really love about design.'

So out went the traditional Japanese Step Tansu cabinet, a lacquered coffee table and, much to the shock and surprise of her husband's parents, all of the family's framed photos. In their place came B&B Italia furniture and a relaxed way of living where the doors are always open.

See Also: Living room ideas -24 decorating tricks to inspire

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The couple were particularly keen on getting the floor right. As soon as architect Gregory Phillips showed them the engineered walnut, they decided to run it through the apartment.

KITCHEN

A minimal and functional kitchen was of paramount importance. Italian specialist Modulnova more than fulfilled the brief. There is even a hidden drinks cabinet for serious Sunday morning coffee-making and an ingenious cutaway worktop to lend lightness and delicacy.

MASTER BEDROOM

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The cupboards here don't quite reach the ceiling. A design suggested by the architects means the ornate cornicing remains intact.

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

BATHROOM

apartment in a Victorian villa in London

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Large-format tiles in a pale shade accentuate the height of the space. A design suggested by the architect means the ornate cornicing remains intact and the owner has somewhere to put their speakers.

Although the flat is sophisticated, it's very much a home for the whole family. Recently, the couple pushed back the dining table, arranged the chairs into neat rows and invited friends over for a piano recital from the girls – complete with post-concert canapés – an idea unthinkable the way the apartment was previously configured.

It just proves how a thoughtful alteration of space and light can have so many unseen advantages.

Photography / James Merrell

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Livingetc

Shining a spotlight on the now and the next in home design and decor, Livingetc is the UK's best selling high end and contemporary home design magazine. As a brand, showcases the world's very best homes, and has access to leading international designers for insight and ideas. it was first published in 1998, and is currently edited by Pip McCormac.