Chamber pot of gold: the story of a modern makeover

PUBLISHED: 16:24 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:24 03 March 2017

You'd never guess that this contemporary family home was once a gold plated Art Deco nightmare

You'd never guess that this contemporary family home was once a gold plated Art Deco nightmare


Art Deco drama is fine up to a point, but most people have to draw the line at a bling-tastic gold toilet. Discover how this Crouch End home went from gaudy to great.

The house looks standard from street level but behind the front door lies a whopping extensionThe house looks standard from street level but behind the front door lies a whopping extension

It is not unusual that a property you buy might not be exactly to your taste. Perhaps the former owners were very into their fuschia carpets, or had a particular penchant for wall-to-wall murals of their pets. Most people, however, don’t look to do a full re-do of the entire property. For Clare Leavenworth-Bakali, there wasn’t really much choice when it came to creating their perfect family home.

“The previous owner had a very weird taste,” says Leavenworth-Bakali. “He turned the second bedroom into a gold bathroom with a Thomas Crapper toilet. It was really, really ugly.”

She enlisted the help of architect and friend Robert Dye to help restore balance and good taste.

“The guy that owned it before fancied himself as an Art Deco connoisseur,” says Leavenworth-Bakali. “I was an art major so I know that that was not very attractive. I sold off the bits I didn’t like and the rest of it I just chucked.”

Split level spaces allow for open plan family livingSplit level spaces allow for open plan family living

Now it is hard to imagine the property’s questionable past. The substantial five bed house in Crouch End was Leavenworth-Bakali’s project to create an ideal setup for them and their children.

On the market for £2,495,000, the 3,000sq foot house not only went from Art Deco nightmare to modern gem, but also increased its square footage thanks to unique staggered flooring.

The basement, ground floor and first floor are all interlinked, creating a spacious, family-friendly property.

“We wanted to make it a bit more livable for us and the way that we like to live, which is quite open,” says Leavenworth-Bakali.

The large garden is great for younger childrenThe large garden is great for younger children

“We created an open plan living space on the ground floor, with stairs that came down to the TV room. It was about the circulation of the ground floor.”

The large and well lit house has other features that make it great for a family. The big, south facing garden is ideal for small children to explore and the basement has an extra, semi-independent room that would be perfect for a moody teenager.

The central space evokes a continual sense of community within the house. By making an active decision to reverse the traditional Edwardian layout and put the kitchen at the front, the family made socialising and spending time together a core component of their home.

“It is really nice and open, but I don’t think that is everyone’s cup of tea,” says Leavenworth-Bakali. “We used to sit in the centre island in the kitchen pretty much all of the time. We ate there, we socialised there, had parties there and that was our main space.”

Womersley Road Clare Leavenworth-Bakali Modern HouseWomersley Road Clare Leavenworth-Bakali Modern House

Making sure the property was environmentally sound was also an important issue for Leavenworth-Bakali. However, the green features she wanted to introduce encountered delays after the unwelcome surprise that the roof was structurally unstable and needed to be entirely redone.

Her green grand designs had to wait until they had saved enough money, but now the home has all the environmental mod cons. The solar panels finally made it on to the new roof, and the whole house - including the sash windows - has been fully insulated. A solar-ready boiler was installed in 2007, as was a rainwater collection tank.

As a result, the house is warmer and the large glass windows and cut-out skylight means that light bulbs almost never have to be turned on.

“It’s more affordable because you’re getting help heating the water and the electricity,” says Leavenworth-Bakali.

There are enough bedrooms to keep everyone happyThere are enough bedrooms to keep everyone happy

“It was at a time when the heating tariffs were really good, so we got a really great return on that.”

After all the changes and improvements, why leave? It comes down to being more central for their son. “I guess you would put it down to lifestyle change,” she says. “It’s sad because all our friends live in Crouch End.”

When it comes to who the property would be suitable for, Leavenworth-Bakali has a good idea. “I would love a family,” she says. “The house is pretty much ready to go and it would be great to see a family living there. It’s got a really great garden, and Crouch End is a fantastic place to raise a family. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Any families in Crouch End looking for a turnkey modern home? Grumpy teenagers not required.

Womersley Road is on the market with The Modern House for £2,495,000

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