Standing on the terrace of this canal-side home, all is as peaceful as a scene from Wind in the Willows and there is barely a murmur of traffic. Ducks quack; an oar splashes the water; a flower-strewn canal boat chuffs past, rippling the green water. “Its a secret world with a secret life in the middle of London”.
However, this idyllic vision was not the first impression that the owners had of the 1970s, end-of-terrace house. "Wed looked at lots of properties: the good, the bad, the ugly. This was definitely ugly, but I knew that any house that backs on to water had to be a good thing." An ugly duckling now transformed, the 1970s façade conceals a surprisingly light interior.
The owners lived in the house for a year ("always a good idea") before they commissioned a local firm, Living in Space, to unlock the propertys potential. "By then we knew what we wanted. A white cube: minimal, modern, filled with light and views of the water. Because the house was hideous, we could be ruthless; there was nothing we wanted to save." The owners wanted to make fire, light and water the key elements of their home, and in the entrance a glazed panel by the specially commissioned front door allows for maximum illumination. The fireplace is sleek, flueless and strategically sited to lure you towards the canal. "The fire in the entrance hall is directly echoed by the one on the terrace: you cant resist being drawn towards it. Everything is designed to draw you to the water."
Since the house is relatively new, planning permission was not needed for a radical overhaul. So in came the contractors to knock down walls, banish awkward corners, enlarge windows and open up the once-fusty interior to the water. To achieve the owners vision of a home "where water and interior meet", the ground floor was extended at the front and back. Now instead of a small hall, visitors step into a double-height entrance that soars to the landing above. From the hall, your gaze is drawn, unimpeded, towards the canal at the back of the house. It all flows.
White-walled and serene, the house exudes simplicity. In reality, its construction was anything but basic. This is an architect-designed home where not a detail has escaped the drawing board. Floors were lowered and ceilings raised to create this open plan kitchen and dining area, where the Poggenpohl cabinetry was chosen for its deep cupboards, "Im naturally untidy so I needed lots of storage". The graceful Swiss Pro tap adds an architectural flourish ("Ive always wanted this tap") and straight lines draw the eye towards the canal with its quiet traffic of barges and boats.
Like the canal, this is a house that flows quietly. It is an effect that derives from the minimal architecture and the pared-down, unfussy decoration. The furniture used is as versatile as the open-plan space and like props in an avant-garde play, the owners favour sets of furniture that can be moved from room to room. Pairs of milkmaids stools appear on each floor, and these white dining chairs are also found in a bedroom upstairs.
From the kitchen, folding doors lead seamlessly outside to the waterside terraced garden. Here too, nothing has escaped the architects eye; guests can perch by the gel fire, while the canopy provides year-round cover. "All the elements of the house - fire, light and water - come together here."
A specially designed hatch from the canal-side garden gives the family easy access on to the towpath.
Upstairs, in the first floor living room, the family can relax on sprawling leather sofas and French windows lead onto a terrace; "its relaxed, peaceful and simple". In another example of the free-flowing nature of the interior, the cube leather seating is replicated in a weatherproof version outside. A step on to the terrace has been extended to create a comfortable window seat, and one of the terrace walls has been glazed in order to maximise views of the canal.
In this clever use of space, a ledge in the corner of the sitting room doubles as a handy workstation, positioned carefully to make the most of natural light in the day and a ceiling lamp at night. Treasured antiques sit happily in the Modernist setting.
"I told my daughter that she could have any colour as long as it was white." Careful attention to detail is found throughout the design of the house and a teenage daughters bedroom is no exception, where clutter and a study area are niftily concealed in this tall capacious cupboard, "I like the idea that my daughter can shut away her homework at the end of the day."
The over-sized panelled headboard, so large it had to be inched inside the home, and bedside tables were specially commissioned for this peaceful top-floor main bedroom, from which "there are wonderfully hazy views of the canal".
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