How one trainee architect refurbished a flat on a budget of just £12,500
PUBLISHED: 10:30 02 March 2016
Copyright Tom de Gay
Working with a tiny budget needn't put a limit on your creativity, as one architect in training shows. We find out how he refashioned an 'unfashionable' post-war flat for under £13k
“Working to a restricted budget really focuses the mind and fosters creativity,” says Adrian Manea, 26, a trainee architect who worked as designer, developer and project manager of a one-bedroom 1960s flat in north London.
Located in Romney Court, Belsize Park, the 50sq m flat was transformed and modernised for as little as £12,500, by building on its existing structures and design.
The flat, which is part of a post-war housing block, was designed by architects Dinerman, Davison & Hillman.
It is one of many purpose-built blocks that were built across London in the decades after the Second World War.While these post-war buildings suffered a period of being ‘unfashionable’ in recent decades, the Modernist revival that has taken place over the last few years is slowly turning things around.
Manea hopes projects like this will help others understand the potential of modern housing.
“From my point of view, I find it somewhat amusing how fixated we can be with period property,” he says. “Moreover, I think it is safe to say that most of us are largely uninspired by new builds.”
Manea instead found inspiration in the building’s characterful design, its distinctive elements such as the enormous dark stained timber frame windows and the views to the trees outside.
“Perhaps for the growing number of Modernism enthusiasts, we are provided with an opportunity to rediscover inspiring architecture by living in it,” he says.
“Post-war housing has gone through decades of vilification and I would be delighted if this modest project could play a small part in creating a new generation of appreciation.”
The process of refurbishing the Romney Court flat had this appreciation of post-War architecture at its heart. The brief was to retain and restore the key elements that added to the flat’s intrinsic value. “We recognised from the outset that the intrinsic qualities of this block were incredibly charming, with its straight lines, built-in cupboards and functional modest spaces,” says Manea.
Although he was working on a tight budget, Manea was given full creative licence. Yet, rather than going for a full remodelling, he opted to restore and update central elements of the house, borne from a belief that there is an important balance to be struck between innovation and restoration. “Architecture and development are two areas of interest for me and I truly believe that everyone within the design industry should give it a go – the results could be terrific!”
Manea preserved the flat’s original five-finger teak parquet floor in the living room and bedroom and kept the cork tiles in both the kitchen and bathroom. He also restored the elegant sliding door that offers the apartment a semi-open plan living space, treasuring its character rather than getting rid of it to create a more conventional open plan space.
The most labour intensive yet gratifying intervention was the restoration of the existing kitchen cabinets removing all cabinet doors, side panels and shelves in order to have them carefully sanded and oiled. The incredibly thin and beautiful cabinet handles were refitted together with the entire kitchen.
The property was also fitted with a new central heating system, an upgraded bathroom and secondary glazing.
The flat was refurbished in bright mid-century colours, referencing Charles and Ray Eames on more than one occasion. Colour is dotted around in the furniture and accessories, while several tones of grey are used to pull out particular architectural elements such as the architraves.
“The intention was to contrast the architectural minimalism of the space with piercing bright colours against a backdrop of rich natural colours derived from the oiled wood and dark brick.”