South London converted dairy

This run-down industrial plot was refashioned into a family home

By Hugh Metcalf | 4 December 2020

With its peeling paint, rusting metal bits and crumbling brick walls, interior designer Beth and graphic designer Andrew’s home-to-be had definitely seen better days. But, for the creative couple, these imperfections were the very features that appealed, and they were keen to preserve and celebrate them when converting their Grand Designs dairy in London.

Grand Designs dairy in London with steel roof left in situ as pergola

The original roof was an American barn shape, which Beth and Andrew were keen to retain. Photo: Darren Chung

The serial renovators had been looking for the right property for more than a year and had nearly found it a few times,  but were still on the hunt the day they’d been working on a fashion shoot in a cafe in Herne Hill. ‘We saw a ‘for sale’ sign on these big, blue industrial gates, peeked through the crack and thought, “This looks amazing”,’ says Beth.

Behind the gates was a courtyard with steel girders and a plastic roof overhead, situated in front of a brick building that was more or less a giant refrigerator when the site was used as a dairy. The dilapidated space came complete with switches, gauges, remnants of machinery and other indicators of its past life. It was love at first sight. 

Watch the episode: South east London, 2017

grand designs tv house - victorian dairy in london, living room

Exposed blockwork in the living space helps to create the raw and unrefined look Tracy desired. Photo: Matt Chisnall

Modest designs 

The previous owner had been refused planning for a much larger conversion. So, when the couple put in their offer of £925,000, it was on the condition that the seller waited until they were granted planning permission for a more modest design. This included two bedrooms upstairs at the back, three bathrooms, a study, and an open-plan kitchen and living space at the front. This meant it would be big enough for the couple and their son, Louis, 12.

Out front, the steel girders would remain as a kind of industrial pergola over an urban garden with vertical planting. This is an ode to the couple’s love of secret courtyards in French townhouses.

The couple sketched out how they envisioned the spaces working in the Grand Designs dairy in London before enlisting friend and architect Takero Shimazaki to create professional drawings to submit for planning. There was to be a small extension to the front of the building, housing the living, dining and kitchen area. On the other hand, the back was to be divided into a study, created by punching a hole through the roof on one side, overlooking the courtyard.

grand designs tv house - victorian dairy in london, kitchen

Pearlescent Zellige glazed clay tile and limewash paint in the kitchen create texture within the space. Photo: Darren Chung