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    Architect Ben Ridley, Photography by Simon Maxwell.

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    Architect Ben Ridley, Photography by Simon Maxwell.

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    Architect Ben Ridley, Photography by Simon Maxwell.

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    Architect Ben Ridley, Photography by Simon Maxwell.

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    Architect Ben Ridley, Photography by Simon Maxwell.


11th September 2014

Transforming a listed building to a modern home

When it came to the daunting task of refurbishing a grade 2 listed Victorian townhouse flat in Islington, London, architect Ben Ridley was excited about what he could achieve. With a love for clean, contemporary styles, he set out to use his design ethos to complement existing period features.

Ben talked us through the project and results. “We bought the flat at auction, and I think that the fact the building was listed discouraged many in the room from bidding, due to the associated more complex renovation approval process. In fact on the day there was only one other bidder! I run an architecture practice that specialises in works to period and listed buildings in London, so I was aware of the possibilities and the limitations, allowing us to be fairly confident in the auction room.

The flat was previously owned by a housing association, and was generally in a poor decorative state, with old lino floor coverings, original timber boards, a very basic kitchen (that lacked an oven!) and a bathroom that did not have any showering facilities. There were a few challenges during both design and construction. The listed status of the building meant that consent had to be gained and every element of the design agreed in detail, and this meant an extended design programme. We also discovered asbestos during the works; this was from building work that had been completed in the 1970’s, when the house was converted to flats. This further delayed our programme and a specialist team had to brought in for removal.

We altered the flat to provide an open plan kitchen in the living room, allowing the creation of an additional bedroom. The listed building consents required the replacement of the low quality hollow doors with period style panelled doors and architraves throughout. This was complemented with new carrara marble period style fireplaces, with a contemporary kitchen in matching marble. The original cornices were carefully repaired, with layers of paint being removed to reveal the original plasterwork detail, whilst heavily varnished and damaged original floorboards were sanded and soap stained to restore their original attractiveness.

Our friends and family seem to like the contrast between the contemporary furniture and fittings and the listed period features of the building. They also love the effect of our dark bedroom, although I’m not sure they would all be brave enough to do the same! Visitors also like the tranquility of the flat; we have a small woodland to the rear, and a church and garden square to the front, both of which also give lovely green views - which are sometimes rare in central London!

When asked which is my favourite room, I have to answer with the bathroom! The honed natural slate tiles have a beautiful sheen and I love the herringbone laying pattern. But when it comes to possessions our prized piece is our dining table, a ‘peggy’ table in Ash from SCP. It is designed by PearsonLloyd, who are based nearby.

I think that although our style is clean and contemporary, it was important to work with the design features of the building. For example, the original windows have lovely fine mullions, whose beauty is in their apparent light, delicate nature; so we opted for String System shelves, which have similarly fine lines and a very light touch on the walls. We also didn’t want the flat to be too minimalist and serious, so hopefully spots of colour in furniture and fabrics give a little joy.”

If you would like to view more of Ben's work visit


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