Grand designers Audrey and Jeff Lovelock, who appeared on Grand Designs back in 2012, connected a warren of rooms split across 13 levels to create this secluded urban sanctuary.
Image: White gloss units in the kitchen along with white marble flooring help to reflect natural light from the roof lantern. Lighting design was an important part of the build – uplights, downlights and fittings under the stairs prevent the interior from looking dark. Photo: Jefferson Smith
Only partly visible from the leafy west London street, Audrey and Jeff Lovelock’s huge four-floor home is something of an iceberg. Its top storey protrudes above street level, with several residential flats on top, but the bulk of the property stretches beneath the surface in a complex footprint of staircases, walkways and spacious rooms.
Formerly a recording studio and squash court, the finished home was created by joining four separate properties and weaving a path through a maze of 25 rooms spread over more than 13 different levels. But despite its labyrinthine floor plan, the layout devised by Audrey just three weeks after the first viewing has stayed more or less identical.
Watch the episode: West London, 2012
Image: Overlooking the ground-floor living room is a mezzanine level which used to be a kitchen but now contains an office and guest bedroom. Photo: Jefferson Smith
An unlikely home
The property was a far cry from the urban townhouse and garden that she and husband Jeff had been searching for. They had settled on west London as it was an area they’d both lived in before moving to their five-bedroom detached house in Hertfordshire, and they were drawn to its low-key atmosphere, the proximity to Jeff’s work and its easy connections to Reading, where youngest son Andrew is at school.
The pair had found a perfect property in Maida Vale and sold their house, but then their desired new place went into lengthy probate. With the buyers of their Hertfordshire property anxious to move in, having already waited for six months, Jeff and Audrey decided to look for other options.
‘I had seen this place on the market and had immediately dismissed it, but there was nothing else available that was a good size, so I decided to come and have a look. That was my doom really,’ Audrey laughs.
At that point, in 2006, the building was still a working recording studio, meaning all the light was blocked out and the sizes of the rooms were deceptive as they were filled with sound insulation.
Image: Audrey took charge of the interior design, using parquet flooring reclaimed from several rooms in the building to create the livingroom floor. Photo: Jefferson Smith
Making the change
Moving in to the upper floors of the property, Audrey and Jeff then started gutting it in 2008, but it wasn’t until the following year that the project really got under way. Despite its previous commercial usage, getting planning permission to develop the lower floors of the building into a residential property was surprisingly easy as, with other domestic tenants above, the planners could see the logic of giving over the whole block to residential use. The aim was to create a home that flows and feels comfortable, and to introduce natural light into every room – no mean feat considering most of the spaces are below ground level.
As a result of the complex nature of the property, Audrey and Jeff ended up with a multitude of architectural drawings, many of which were repeatedly amended before they employed an architect to produce the final plans. And the build itself was far from straightforward. Despite having some experience project managing renovations of their Hertfordshire home, Audrey decided that overseeing the transformation of the west London property was a step too far, as its many levels meant getting services into each floor would require technical know-how. She hired a professional contractor, but disagreements over some of the architectural details spiralled out of control until the project finally ground to a halt.
Having lost six months and not wanting to wait any longer, Audrey decided to let the contractor go and changed most of he project team bar the mechanical engineer. She brought in site manager Mark Gidley and between them they put together a team of tradesmen to finish the project. This enabled them to make decisions straight away, and the pace of the build picked up considerably, with the final snagging phase completed just before Christmas 2012.
Image: The double-height dining room is lit by a specially made roof lantern fitted with glass that becomes opaque at the flick of a switch. An oversized mirror by Dominic Schuster reflects light into the space Photo: Jefferson Smith
Just as Audrey was heavily involved with the build, she also undertook most of the interior design, concentrating on a neutral palette that highlights the building’s impressive spaces. Keen to restore many of the building’s original features, she used parquet reclaimed from throughout the building for the flooring in the ground-floor living room, stripped layers of paint from the stone windows of the first-floor mezzanine (which now houses an en-suite guest bedroom and office) and revealed original wooden panelling in the ground-floor conservatory at the other end of the building.
Audrey also designed bespoke units to fit the unconventional spaces in the main bedroom and open-plan kitchen. She has introduced features and finishes all over the building to cope with the apartment’s basement floor plan, including iridescent paint in key areas to reflect light and brighten rooms, privacy glass in the kitchen roof lantern, which clouds over at the flick of a switch, and bespoke lighting design throughout the property.
Image: This west London home sits at the bottom of a residential block and was formerly a recording studio. Photo: Jefferson Smith
Cutting into the double-height kitchen and dining area is a mezzanine seating area, which sits on top of the cinema room and a small room containing the extensive homeautomation system. Two more bedrooms lie behind winding corridors (taking the total up to four), as well as a gym, sauna, wet room and then up to the ground-floor conservatory.
Audrey took a lot of time to select the right colours for each area of the house, choosing a warm, brown-black and white palette that was specially mixed to pick up the hues in the variety of different stones used throughout the building. Audrey’s vision is just as obvious in these small textural details as in her speed in creating a workable floor plan; natural stone, hammered silver bricks, teak and copper panels have been expertly combined to create a warm and surprisingly bright interior.
‘It’s really subtle, but that’s what we wanted,’ says Audrey. ‘We didn’t want things that were really in your face. You don’t notice it because it’s comfortable and that’s the beauty of design when it works.’