Period home with eco-credentials in Muswell Hill

PUBLISHED: 07:22 19 March 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 19 March 2015

Max (10) with parents Tatiana and James Tanner and brother Daniel (7) at the re-claimed wood dining room table

Max (10) with parents Tatiana and James Tanner and brother Daniel (7) at the re-claimed wood dining room table


Stepping into James and Tatiana Tanner’s freshly renovated Edwardian family home in Muswell Hill, it’s hard to see the link between this light, warm and modern environment and a post-apocalyptic vision of the world in 2055.

Muswell Hill eco home, N10Muswell Hill eco home, N10

The film The Age of Stupid stars Pete Postlethwaite as an archivist living alone in a world devastated by climate change, looking back over years of footage and asking why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance.

It was a date to a screening of the 2009 docu-drama that provided a wake-up call to child psychotherapist Tatiana Tanner, causing her and her husband to re-evaluate the environmental impact of their comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

“Our kids were two and four at the time and getting frightened like that, thinking that the world will end in 50 years makes you wonder how the planet’s going to be when they’re our age.

Sitting room in Muswell Hill eco houseSitting room in Muswell Hill eco house

“A lot of people with young children don’t really know about this problem, most people don’t realise that the solution is in their hands. What we’re doing is very hopeful. We’re saying let’s change now, using the same science.

“It can be very empowering: 50 per cent of CO2 emissions are really in our hands – they come from households and from transport. That’s what we’re trying to focus on.”

The couple now describe themselves as “part-time environmentalists” and Tatiana and James, a property developer, run workshops in local primary schools, teaching children about small, everyday changes they can make to be more sustainable.

The wooden floors are insulated with wood fibre sandwiched between two layers of air-tightness membraneThe wooden floors are insulated with wood fibre sandwiched between two layers of air-tightness membrane

When the couple bought the five-bedroom terraced house a year and a half ago, it made sense to make sure that the house would be as low carbon as possible, principally for environmental reasons, but with financial benefits too.

As Tatiana jokes “James is very happy saving money, I’m very happy saving the planet.”

This type of project is a fairly substantial investment of both money and time.

Exact replicas of the original windows have been double glazed and draft-proofedExact replicas of the original windows have been double glazed and draft-proofed

The full eco refurbishment while retaining or restoring original features took a year and the couple only moved in with their two sons, Max now 10 and Daniel, 7, six months ago.

Insulation and new double-glazed sash windows throughout the house cost £35,000, but they have reduced their gas bill by £1,900 per annum. Having only recently moved in, they are yet to receive an electricity bill, but their PV panels on the roof cost £4,890 with an estimated payback period of nine years.

However, as Tatiana points out, “Our last house we renovated when we didn’t know anything about climate change so we just made it beautiful and we ended up spending more than we have on this house where we’ve tried to do both.”

Retained and restored original features include the fireplaces throughout the homeRetained and restored original features include the fireplaces throughout the home

They’ve certainly achieved a beautiful home, with a house that looks smart and new, but fits in perfectly with the rest of the street, which is in a Muswell Hill conservation area.

From the outside, they ensured that the windows kept their curved patterning in line with the neighbouring houses, while the stained glass panel in the front door was sourced from a local stained glass workshop that specialises in restoration work.

Inside, their one working fireplace in the living room is decorated with new tiles that have a period feel inspired by the original period decorations in the upstairs ones, which have been blocked to minimise drafts. The mantelpiece was bought second hand from Gumtree.

The kitchen is an ex-showroom modelThe kitchen is an ex-showroom model

Even the dining table was built from reclaimed wood, “because we didn’t like the idea of somebody chopping down trees for us.”

So, what’s next for this grand project, surely there are no avenues left to explore.

“The only thing we haven’t done is plant lots of fruits and vegetables,” says James. “We want to create a bug hotel in the garden and a wildflower garden at the front, which will be bee-friendly and organic, because pesticides kill bees.”

PV panels on roofPV panels on roof

Anyone who wants to find out more about low carbon homes should attend the 21st Century Homes workshop and open homes event this weekend. Find out more and book places at the open homes tours at 21stcenturyhomes.org.uk


Recommended suppliers

Dhanya Gangitano
ecocarpentry@btinternet.com, 07590 294 416

Centre for Alternative Technology
“It’s really hard for end users to get good advice on the subject,” says James. “We used a consultant from CAT Wales to help us with planning. They have a free helpline that you can call for advice. They also make a brilliant book The Home Energy Handbook.”

A Touch of Glass
Stained glass workshop

Fired Earth
Fireplace tiles

Cambridge Farmhouse Furniture
Re-claimed wood dining table

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