A Gracious London Terrace House Is Reborn with Salvaged Materials

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By Sam Eichblatt / Published by Dwell
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Restored along a modern heritage theme, this family home in north London is full of unexpected elements, from beautiful vintage lighting fixtures to pieces of stained glass and laser-etched wooden panels.

The renovation of this five-story terrace house in London's Primrose Hill neighborhood aimed to restore the building to its former grandeur. The staircase had been boxed in on the upper levels, so the entrance hall had lost its sense of soaring space.

Its occupants had initially lived in the downstairs two apartments, and eventually the upper part of the building. Today, it houses a family of five, as well as the owner’s office from which he runs a men’s apparel label, Dashing Tweeds.

Focusing on the building’s public areas, design firm Retrouvius extensively remodeled and opened up the entrance hall and living spaces, and installed a new staircase. The company specializes in salvaged materials and used them throughout this project—particularly the flooring, doors, and fittings—to keep the basic elements of the interior harmonious with the original architecture.

The center of the dining room is marked out by a “carpet” of terracotta, turquoise and green cement tiles from Emery & Cie. They are a practical, hard-wearing floor surface for a high-traffic area.

The bespoke sideboard (hiding the stairway to the basement) and the kitchen table were both built from wood sourced from a school science laboratory, while the sliding door that fronts the sideboard was salvaged from the National Museum of Scotland.

The gray units in the kitchen benefit from the addition of salvaged drawer fronts running in vertical and horizontal strips.

The kitchen island is a mahogany museum display case containing the clients’ inherited snuff-box collection. Now topped with salvaged iroko hardwood from a school science laboratory, it has also been adapted to hold a sink and washer.

A new, wider staircase replaced the original Victorian version, and links the public and living areas; and the kitchen and the subterranean basement office.

Much of the salvaged materials in the house came from the National Museum of Scotland, and their zoological origins have been picked up in the wallpaper created by Danile Heath, which features drawings of birds being stuffed for display.

Leading directly off the entrance hall, this simple but elegant sitting room was originally the kitchen. The room has been redesigned for entertaining, and revolves around a 1946 Decca gramophone on which the owner plays his collection of 78s at cocktail parties.

The décor was deliberately kept unfussy, down to the cool green French chairs. The patterned chair is upholstered in one of the client’s own distinctive tweed designs.

Salvaged oak parquet flooring was used throughout, laid in a Mondrian-esque grid pattern, rather than the traditional herringbone arrangement. Left with its original patina intact, it lends warmth to the area.

The doorways were widened to improve spatial flow. Sliding pocket doors from a 1950s French hotel were installed, and now feed into the living areas.

The cupboards of this bathroom are faced in panels of heavily aged leather, originally used on shelves in The British Library.

The warm, sunny aspect of the room is emphasized by the use of buttery yellow Zellige tiles and coordinating curtain fabric. The siding of the bathtub and the built in shelves are made from the same hardwearing salvaged hardwood as the kitchen surfaces.

The basement space now contains an informal sitting room with a summer dining area that leads out into the garden. Salvaged oak floorboards run up the front of one wall, creating a sliding panel that conceals the television.

The space was extended on the garden side to create a summer dining room. The cement-tile floor extends out to the garden terrace, so with the doors pulled back, the room becomes part of the garden. An inherited Murano chandelier, Murano glass wall lights, and colored, patterned glass panels salvaged from a church soften the otherwise stark modern space.