Reinventing a Victorian terrace to become a house with a defining architectural style statement is always a challenge in a city such as London where there is no shortage of period properties, many of them the world's best homes. Yet with the help of Flower Michelin Architects and interior design practice Salvesen Graham, Nina and Lorne Balfe have found themselves the owners of a highly original and deeply considered family home.
‘We’d rented in the same area for a few years and when this house came on the market we fell in love with the footprint. Properties on this road don’t come up very often, so I came to view it while Lorne was working in LA,’ Nina explains.
‘The lady who owned it had lived here for 20 years and while it was very stylish, there was a certain amount of work we knew would have to be done,’ she explains. ‘I wrote it off but sent Lorne the particulars and when he saw it, he loved all the beautiful features and was the one who encouraged us to buy it.’
Deciding to live in the house for a year while planning permission was sought and with an architect and builder enlisted, the couple quickly realized the scale of their ambition was greater than they had first anticipated.
A full-length basement with a music studio for Lorne’s work as a film composer would be dug as well as adding an extra bedroom and bathroom for the children and extending the kitchen. To enable the scope of the project, the house was stripped back to its shell.
‘We were surprised that many of the details we loved, such as the original floorboards, weren’t going to be practical and were lost but our team felt it would be best to start from scratch,’ Nina explains.
Daunted by the sheer scale of the renovation, yet with strong interior design ideas, the couple engaged Salvesen Graham as interior decorators.
‘Nina and Lorne asked us to take them out of their comfort zone and give them a strong hand to help them feel more confident with color and pattern,’ says Nicole Salvesen. ‘It can be difficult to keep reinventing the wheel with Victorian terraced houses, but we found Flower Michelin Architects to be great collaborators and together we were able to come up with details to make the home feel unique.’
With the builders improving the strength of the house while adding plenty of insulation, the team found themselves with a solid foundation on which to layer their details.
One of Nicole's hallway ideas was to incorporate fluted edged ceramic wall panelling in the hall, which is reflective of the round arches on the door. The motif is repeated throughout the house including the rear windows in the kitchen extension and details in the floor tiles.
‘We wanted to create a house that was classic but not a slave to Victorian style,’ Nicole explains. ‘It was fun to work with clients who kept pushing us to reinvent.’
Dining room ideas include lacquered elements that are key to the space’s sumptuous aesthetic.
Nicole's living room ideas include curves, from the back of the sofa to the table’s edging, to link the modern and classic elements.
The architects came up with kitchen ideas such as the arched doors to add dramatic statements.
Bathroom ideas include gold-leaf wallpaper to ensure this space impresses.
A mix of eclectic prints strike an informal note.
Plaid curtains lend character to the cupboard doors. The alcove seat is where Nina reads bedtime stories.
Fabric-clad walls are among the bedroom ideas that give this scheme a cosseting feel.
Marble and brass create hotel-style luxury in the main bathroom.
Shades of blue and brown combine for a grounded feel.
The rug in the bathroom is a great contrast to the high-glam fitting.
With the renovation completed and the family installed, the winter months have been welcomed with relish. ‘We didn’t have fires in our rental property so we love lighting them, even in our bedroom,’ says Nina. ‘This is such a great house for entertaining so we look forward to plenty of dinner parties and the place being full of guests,’ she adds.
So beautifully modernized and with such a unique character, it’s certain this house will become a defining backdrop in Balfe family life.
Interior designer/ Salvesen Graham (opens in new tab)
Architect/ Flower Michelin Architects
Photography/ Simon Brown
Text/ Juliet Benning
Interiors have always been Vivienne's passion – from bold and bright to Scandi white. After studying at Leeds University, she worked at the Financial Times, before moving to Radio Times. She did an interior design course and then worked for Homes & Gardens, Country Living and House Beautiful. Vivienne’s always enjoyed reader homes and loves to spot a house she knows is perfect for a magazine (she has even knocked on the doors of houses with curb appeal!), so she became a houses editor, commissioning reader homes, writing features and styling and art directing photo shoots. She worked on Country Homes & Interiors for 15 years, before returning to Homes & Gardens as houses editor four years ago.
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