Ideal Home, March 2013
In March 2013, I wrote my first home feature, for Ideal Home magazine. I worked with an amazing photographer called Bruce Hemming and a fabulous stylist called Sally Maton. The gorgeous apartment belonged to editor of Midcentury Magazine Tabitha Teuma.
When Tabitha met her husband Tom, he was already living in the flat they now share. He had rented in the same building and leapt at the chance to buy the penthouse flat when he heard from a neighbour that it had come onto the market. He had been looking for a two-bedroom flat but was immediately struck by the light and the incredible views, so decided to sacrifice a second bedroom for a roof terrace.
Tabitha loved the space as soon as she saw it too. “It’s seeing the London skyline and feeling part of London. Although you’re all the way out in Crystal Palace, you feel very connected to the city because you can see everything.”
She moved in two years after Tom had bought the flat, but was in for a bit of a surprise. “I moved in, but what Tom hadn’t told me was that he’d already started the work,” she says. “He’d taken the bathroom door off its hinges and unplumbed the toilet! So it was a bit of a baptism of fire – we got to know each other quite well, quite quickly!”
Apart from the addition of a wall shortly after it was built, turning it from a studio flat into the one-bedroom flat it is now, and the addition of a new kitchen and bathroom suite in the 1980s, little had been done to the flat since the 1960s. Tabitha and Tom wanted to celebrate the original features, and at the same time update it for modern living.
“The bathroom was so small,” says Tabitha, “because in the 1960s kitchens and bathrooms tended to be tiny and all the space was given to living areas. You could barely get yourself in and close the door. There was a miniature bath that went from wall to wall – and the showerhead blocked the window. It was really quite cramped.”
Starting with the bathroom, they spent every weekend for the best part of 18 months renovating the flat. They removed a fitted wardrobe in the bedroom and a cupboard on the same wall in the bathroom, pushing the wall back to create an extra three feet of space.
At the other end of the bathroom were an enormous boiler and a 100 gallon water tank with two copper water heaters underneath, all hidden behind removable plasterboard. “It was archaic and failing,” says Tabitha. They took it all out and installed a new combi boiler and a stud wall.
Having created the space, they then set about decorating it. The large wall tiles were to prove one of their biggest challenges. Being porcelain, they required a wet tile cutter, which Tabitha and Tom hired over weekends. Tabitha says, “Tom would be out on the roof terrace on a Sunday evening as it was getting dark, knowing he had to finish cutting the tiles. It was so noisy – like nails down a chalkboard, and it was so cold that the water was freezing!”
The kitchen was the next project. There was a washing machine and dishwasher in front of the original larders. The doors had been cut in half so the top section could still be used, but the bottom halves were completely inaccessible. “We decided to pare it back a bit, so we had a new kitchen which we fitted ourselves, and Tom made new doors and surrounds for the cupboards, so we could use them as they had been intended. Our washing machine, a space efficient top loader, is in one of them and the other one is a larder again.”
The kitchen design started with cappuccino units, which they got at an amazing price “because nobody else wanted a cappuccino kitchen” and everything else was chosen to complement them.
While the kitchen was being renovated the only running water was in the bathroom, so Tabitha and Tom had to wash up in the bath using a complex system of washing and rinsing bowls.
The size of the bedroom was reduced when the bathroom was extended, so Tom built a fitted wardrobe in an existing alcove to make the best use of the remaining space.
The hallway was dominated by a built-in cupboard. Tabitha says, “It was huge and it stuck out into the space. When you walked in it totally blocked the light.” They removed it and created a neat coat and shoe storage area, opening the space right out.
“We also had the floors sanded. When I moved in, they looked as though they were pine they were so sun-bleached, and they’re actually Jarrah, which is a tropical hardwood used a lot in the 60s,” Tabitha says.
And finally, they stripped back all the walls and redecorated throughout. Tabitha says, “We went to Jasper Road Antiques in Crystal Palace and the Midcentury Modern fairs at Dulwich College and we started buying pieces of furniture from that period. I would never have thought of buying a G-Plan coffee table until we moved into this flat and it just fits. The furniture needs to be quite narrow because of the proportions of the rooms, and the fact it’s lifted off the floor gives a feeling of light and space,” says Tabitha. “We mixed it up with some contemporary pieces. We didn’t want to be too purist about it.”
Tabitha was so inspired by the flat that she set up Midcentury Magazine. “Living here and getting to know the space made me realise how wonderful 1960s spaces are to live in. There wasn’t a UK-based magazine for enthusiasts like us who wanted to get more knowledge and some inspiration.”
And now? “We spend most time in the living room. It’s a nice light room, with light coming from two directions and the floor to ceiling windows. You get the most amazing sunsets, where the whole sky goes pink – and downstairs it’s dark already. It’s quite extraordinary.
“And the roof terrace feels very secluded and private – you can get home from work in the evening, step out there with a gin and tonic, and look out across London. It’s so peaceful and calm.”
All copy is reproduced here as it was supplied by Katie Treggiden to the client or publication.