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Squeezing extra:this one to two bed conversion in north-west London is a masterclass in making the most of what youve got

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Wed 24 Oct 2018

Squeezing extra:this one to two bed conversion in north-west London is a masterclass in making the most of what youve got

Take a Victorian conversion, extend it by a third and add a second bedroom, a romantic low-maintenance garden and generous contemporary living space.


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This London flat is a masterclass in making the most of existing space


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A talk by renowned architect and masterplanner Sir Terry Farrell inspired Ian Dollamore to think hard about what sort of housing Londoners need more of today.

Ian’s own architecture firm, set up in 2009, focuses on squeezing extra from what is already there.

“It’s all about making the most out of existing space,” he says. “Sir Terry argues for intensification rather than urban sprawl and I completely agree with that. We can do a lot more with what’s there. The fact that Kensington & Chelsea is the densest borough, yet is so well designed, proves it.”

Extending small flats to get more out of them, as well as improving them in design terms, is a chip off the same block as building a new home on an infill site.

Ian’s transformation of his one-bedroom Victorian garden flat into a glamorous two-bedroom flat is a perfect example.

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Now there’s ample room for him and his girlfriend, make-up artist Charlotte Cowen, 36, and her Maltipoo dog, Maud.

Ian added 200sq ft to the 560sq ft flat in Kensal Rise, north-west London, and the visual difference and feel of extra space is striking, while a lovely garden has replaced a long-overgrown space.

This new low-maintenance outdoor room has three mature olive trees, with lavender and astrantia to add a cottage garden softness to its urban styling.

What it cost


Ground-floor one-bedroom flat, 580sq ft, in 2015: £585,000

Cost of conversion to two-bedroom 860sq ft flat: £185k

Value now (estimate):£880,000-£890,000

The spacious living-diner looks out at the garden through slim-framed sliding doors. A back wall of antique-mirror fronted cupboards hazily reflects the garden while concealing essentials including the vacuum cleaner.

A lean white kitchen with a wall-long splashback and a worktop that looks like marble but is actually quartz “that you can spill wine on”, with reeded glass cupboards above, runs down the side of the expanded, skylit side return.

There are different areas for lounging and dining at the oval marble table Ian designed, beneath a stunning Murano chandelier. The whole thing is magazine-stylish but very comfy.

The smartly tiled bathroom in the core of the flat gets a big boost of glamour from its very dark green ceiling.

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At the front of the home, two rooms connect through a wide opening — the former sitting and dining rooms of a classic Victorian terrace.

The front one, now the bedroom, enjoys the romance of a period bay window. This light, bright room has attractive original cornicing patched in by Ian, plus an airy, contemporary feel that is aided by a glass door from the encaustic-tiled hall.

The second room is a large walk-in dressing room but it’s fully wired and could convert instantly to anything from bedroom to office, while the opening has been kept the right size for double doors if the couple ever want them.

While in essence, Ian went over the side return and out at the back, a really intelligent twist was to make a break halfway down the side return, creating a tiny courtyard.

It’s accessed from the back of the dressing room via a French window, and also has a full-height fixed glass pane to the kitchen-diner, for long views through the house. This dinky yard adds style and light, while only using a metre of space.

Ian, 38, was already living locally, in a one-bedroom flat near Kensal Rise. The area has been opened up by the Overground and he enjoys its vibrant mix of ages, cultures, boutique-style shops, cafés and strong sense of community.

During 2014 he went looking for a project with a garden to work on, and bought the ground-floor flat in 2015.


He lived in it while he drew up plans. One of the first things to go was a tiny galley kitchen in the centre.

He wanted to do something modern in the extension but keep the traditional style at the front — the cornice, the encaustic tiling and the old panelled doors were lovely, so why waste them?

The couple got together around this time, so Ian had the benefit of Charlotte’s stylish eye. The build began in October 2016, with the go-ahead from Brent planners.

When Charlotte saw it finished in spring last year, she thought: “Wow, he has really good taste!”

For anyone thinking of converting a similar one-floor flat, Ian advises: “If you opt for open-plan living at the back, which a lot of us do, the bedroom has to go at the front, so think about the street, privacy and binmen. Top-quality double-glazed, well-fitting windows are a must, they really reduce noise. Thick curtains, or shutters, can help, too.

“People think that a light colour opens up a bathroom ceiling. But by making it disappear, a dark colour does the same, as well as adding warmth and luxury.”