A stunning remodel and refurbishment of a four-storey townhouse in Notting Hill. The home now features a luxurious kitchen-dining-living room basement.
After 15 years of silence, the partners at Stiff & Trevillion were probably not expecting to hear from Ian and Jill Mukherjee. In 1995, they had turned a warren of housing association bedsits in up-and-coming Notting Hill into a four storey family home for the couple. In 2010, the Mukherjees decided that the house no longer met their needs and rang the practice again. “Ian felt it would be disloyal to go to anyone else,” says Jill with touching scrupulousness.
“We’d had three children by then and we spent a lot of time in the kitchen (on the lower ground floor) but my husband always felt very claustrophobic down there,” says Jill. The brief to the architects was simple: make the kitchen floor more Ian-friendly and think of ways to entice the family into the under-used ground floor reception room. Since moving in, the fortunes of the family and their neighbourhood had both been on the up: Ian had established his own hedge fund and Notting Hill had had the full Richard Curtis treatment with their road at the heart of the area’s buzz.
Yet, despite the engineering-no-object renovations that were going on all around them, their own build was quite subtle: a barely perceptible extension, a tiny basement under the front garden but lots of rethinking of how the house was to be used. So, the ignored reception room had its dining table removed and became a TV room; the utility room that contributed to Ian’s feeling of claustrophobia was relocated and the bedroom floors, while structurally unaltered, were reworked to feel more spacious.
Some of the subtlety of the project is undoubtedly down to Jill. She had very clear ideas of what would work and sourced nearly all the materials herself . “I was specific about what I wanted and I was prepared to stand my ground with the architects when I didn’t agree,” she says. Although the house is immaculate, this has perhaps contributed to it feeling like a home rather than a piece of refurbishment bling.
If the lower-ground floor was once claustrophobic, it would be hard to tell now. The kitchen-diner-living room-office runs the whole length and width of the house — and slightly beyond thanks to the subtlest of extensions at the rear. This added just a couple of metres in length — enough to unobtrusively site a desk and give the dining table room to breathe. The structural work has been hidden within walls, floors and ceiling voids to create a seamless flow. “Keeping those elements hidden while not compromising on ceiling height was one of the biggest challenges,” says Lee Hopwood, project architect.
Accessed via a dark-oak staircase enclosed by huge panels of glass, the room is bathed in light from the wide run of folding sliding doors at the rear. The faint sheen from the huge stone floor creates an extra gleam of light all around.
“Ian and I are very tidy people,” says Jill. Their secret is copious amounts of storage. Undoubtedly, the most flamboyant piece of storage is the set of cupboards that have been built under the staircase on the lower ground floor. The wooden doors have been treated by a specialist company and coated in a resin that gives them a wonderfully deep, bronze glow.