Seventies Chiswick townhouse lit up by design
The space age look of designer Ben Rousseau's Chiswick townhouse owes much to the illuminated porthole that links the kitchen to the split-level dining area.
Once a small serving hatch, the now huge circle is edged with white LEDs, a typical feature of Rousseau's quirky approach to interior design. "I've always loved Seventies sci-fi films for what was considered futuristic design then," he says. "And, since the house was built in the Seventies, it works perfectly here."
Rousseau lives with his wife Michele, who works for Apple, and their two-year-old daughter, Renée, in the four-storey terrace home overlooking a small marina close to the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race finishing line. They bought it for £777,000 in 2009 and have spent £60,000 on a two-year refurbishment, much of which Rousseau has tackled at weekends.
"If I hadn't done so much myself it would probably have added another £25,000 in labour costs," he says. "We weren't in a great rush and lived here for a while before deciding what to change, preferring to alter it slowly and get it right." This approach seems to have paid off: a recent valuation suggests the property is now worth £1.2 million.
"When we moved in, the kitchen/living room had pine ceilings and raw brick walls," says Rousseau. "It felt very dark so initially we just painted it all white." Six months later he refitted the kitchen using bespoke, glossy white-laminated units with Blum hinge systems but kept the original granite worktops.
Adding mirrored splash-backs enhanced the sci-fi look while big Italian porcelain floor tiles were laid over underfloor heating. New decking and planters were installed outside the living room's sliding window, and a back-lit, slatted timber fence was built around the small lawn with raised flower-beds.
Dividing the basement garage to create a new guest bedroom below the living room and converting a former utility room into a smart en suite was the next task. As the basement bedroom has no windows, two circular ceiling light wells were installed to draw in daylight from the rear garden. There is now garage space for one car instead of two while the guest bedroom doubles as a viewing room with its 46-inch TV and surround-sound system.
As Rousseau, who designs furniture and lighting, often works from home he turned a first-floor bedroom into his office. This calm room with marina views is, he says, where "most of my creative stuff happens". Everything his firm makes is built in his workshop in Acton.
Rousseau is the master of illumination, framing TV cabinets, shelving, tables, bed frames and headboards. "It's a great way to highlight shapes or design details but I'm not trying to create a disco," he says. "Today's technology is fantastic. You can do so much with LEDs: they don't use much power and can be controlled from an iPad or iPhone."
Many prototypes can be found in the house, including the living room's TV unit, with motorised DVD and CD storage wings that emerge from each side. Rousseau's sinuous white/red leather Caillou chaise longue sits in one corner of the living area.
Upstairs, Renée's bedroom is next to Rousseau's office and a former guest bedroom is now her playroom. A "worthwhile weekend" was spent updating the bathroom on this level, adding walnut cabinetry and a walnut border to the original white tiles to "create a much more sophisticated look".
On the top floor the removal of a partition wall has turned the entire space into a master suite with sliding windows to a decked suntrap overlooking the marina. Built-in American black walnut wardrobes, linked to a dressing table and drawer unit, give the room a warm, rich look and co-ordinate with the bespoke black walnut bed and headboard. Naturally, Rousseau couldn't resist adding LED strips around the headboard and a lip overhanging the under-bed storage.
The en suite bathroom is a shrine to his art. A Corian panel in the bespoke glass shower cubicle is back-lit with a changing sequence of coloured lighting; under-shelf lighting, built into bespoke cabinetry, throws changing colours on to their white surfaces.
"At night, with all the lighting on, the house has a really different feel," says Rousseau. "Visually there's a connection between all the rooms, with spaces either linked together or separated into pockets. It's a lovely place to be creative and I never feel short of ideas here."
Get the look
* Building/plumbing: Greg Building Services (07821 917827).
* Kitchen: Middlesex Trade Kitchens (020 8587 0441; middxkitchens.co.uk)
* Hinges and fittings: Blum UK (01908 285700; blum.com)
* Upholstery: BC Upholstery, E2 (020 7729 4410; bcupholstery.co.uk)
* Radiators: Bisque (020 7328 2225; bisque.co.uk)
* Tiles: The Stone and Ceramic Warehouse, W3 (020 8993 5545; stoneandceramicwarehouse.co.uk)
* Rousseau Design, E1 (020 7953 1259; rousseau.co.uk)
* Ben's blog: benrousseau.com
Photographs by Jake Fitzjones