A bachelor pad designed to party

A boxy little Maida Vale flat became a light and airy apartment with a smart roof terrace after a space-creative makeover that even came in on budget, discovers Ruth Bloomfield
Mezzanine
The mezzanine, above the kitchen and dining room, is a perfect space to relax after dinner parties
There are many clichés that spring to mind when you imagine a London bachelor pad - giant flat-screen TVs erupting from every surface, anonymous hotel room style and fearsomely complex music systems.

Felix von Bechtolsheim's bachelor pad avoids every single one of these stereotypes, and shatters a few other expectations, too. Flowers, candles and even a chandelier - admittedly a very modern interpretation of a chandelier - have found their way in to his Maida Vale duplex.

He has also worked on the principle that less is sometimes more, and so the £100,000 refurbishment project he carried out on the once run-down flat was not focused on maximising square footage.

'I think quality is making a bit of a comeback and you can make more money on a good two-bedroom flat than a poky three-bedroom one'



In fact he has sacrificed space for style - to very persuasive effect. What could have been a boring, but useful, loft extension has been elevated into a visual statement of intent: Felix, an architect, opted for creating a mezzanine above his kitchen and dining room, the perfect relaxing space to retire after dinner parties. And he reduced the number of bedrooms in the flat from three to two in order to create a spacious room for himself, large enough for a roll-top bath. He also made use of an ugly flat roof, now a sun trap of a terrace with views of the treetops of west London.

The roof terrace
What was once an ugly flat roof now has a sun trap terrace
Which all sounds lovely, but it is surely not a template for other young buyers hoping to build up a little equity in their homes? "At one point development was all about creating little boxes," says Felix, 34. "There are shedloads of that kind of thing on the market, but I think quality is making a bit of a comeback and you can make more money on a good two-bedroom flat than a poky three-bedroom one."

He bought the apartment back in 2009 for £450,000 - the purchase was funded by remortgaging his first flat, in Notting Hill, which he also comprehensively remodelled and is now being let.

Felix, an associate director at architects Collado Collins (current projects include the redevelopment of the Olympia arena), chose to move to the less fashionable end of Maida Vale - it is uncomfortably close to the Harrow Road.

The flat is in a grand Victorian terrace but was in a shabby state. "It had been rented out to a bunch of guys and there were lots of small, poky spaces," says Felix. "I don't want to call it a dump but it was not amazing." What attracted him was the location on the fringes of a more desirable area - it is always a clever move to invest as close to a really good address as you can. The fact that it was on the top floor of a building with an attic was the clincher.

the view from the mezzanine
What could have been a loft extension has been turned into a visual statement of intent
As soon as he had secured the property Felix set about charming his neighbours. The flat came with a share of the freehold, so all the owners had a stake in the loft. Felix's plans hinged on being able to appropriate the space. The deal the neighbours eventually agreed was to allow him to build into the attic in return for refurbishing the communal areas, which cost him about £5,000. They also stood to benefit from the repair work he would need to carry out to the roof.

Despite the extensive reconfiguration of the property Felix wanted to carry out, only the terrace required planning permission. Since several neighbours had already done the same, Westminster council made no objection and planning consent was secured quickly. Work on the six-month project began last June.

Felix moved out to stay with his parents because the flat had to be gutted, leaving his neighbours to bear the full impact of the building work. "The neighbour below suffered immensely," says Felix. In order to maintain good relations he - voluntarily - offered to pay their rent during the most disruptive part of the works and also paid for cleaners to tackle the dust and mess that permeated adjoining homes.

"There is no planning requirement for any of that stuff, or building regulations," he said. "Why did I do it? Ultimately I am going to live here."

The project cost six figures but Felix believes his home is now worth between £650,000 and £680,000 - representing a decent return during a recession. He has tried to retain original features where possible and kept the palette simple with plain white walls throughout, but there are also a couple of strategic sections of bare brick left as a "memory" of the original building.

'I like things that have some sort of history behind them. I don't want everything minimal. That can be so bland'



Having a mezzanine "ledge" means that Felix also has a double-height dining room leading out to the terrace, with the kitchen area tucked beneath the mezzanine.

the bedroom with a bath
Losing a bedroom meant Felix was able to fit a bath into his own room
The living room is reached via a flight of surprisingly effective plywood stairs fitted with a glass balustrade. A glazed rectangle has been cut in the floor, giving a view down those paint-splattered stairs, and another allowing people to peep down into his bedroom, which is also double-height.

Not only has the mezzanine got a lot more wow factor than a traditional loft, but Felix points out it was cheaper to create, too. "It would also have been pretty poky with flat ceilings," he says. "For me, this is my bachelor pad. I have got a really good entertaining space. I can seat 15 people around the table and my bedroom is huge, too."

The bedroom also has the only boy's toy in evidence: a projector that descends from the pitched ceiling so that he can watch films in bed (or, indeed, in the bath).

The decision to opt for spacious rooms extends to the monochrome bathroom and the second bedroom, which Felix rents to a friend. The flat is furnished with a collection of heirlooms, gifts and junk shop finds. Hanging over the dining table, for example, is a yellow chandelier - a birdcage with crystals suspended within it - created by the Fulham-based designer Rolf Sachs (rolfsachs.com); his sister Valerie works at the studio.

The kitchen
The kitchen units are from Ikea, and the table was once in a pub
The kitchen work surface is reclaimed iroko hardwood, sourced from architectural salvage specialists Retrouvius (retrouvius.com), while the white units are good old Ikea. The long, skinny dining table has been positioned at an angle ("more relaxed" than standing it straight), and was once in a pub; and Felix's first job on getting it home was to scrape off years of abandoned chewing gum from its underside.

The grey-painted Victorian radiators are from UK Architectural Antiques (ukarchitecturalantiques.com), while the monochrome floor tiles for the bathroom were sourced from a German firm, Via (via-finest-tiles.de), and the vanity unit for his twin sinks is in fact a reinvented metal table discovered in Portobello Road.

double sinks
The vanity unit for twin sinks is a reinvented metal table found in Portobello Road
Many of the paintings are by people Felix knows, including his brother-in-law Andrew Bentham (bennybooksetc.wordpress.com), and ex-girlfriend Silje Vallevik (siljevallevik.com). "I like things that have some sort of history behind them," he says. "I don't want everything minimal. That can be so bland." For more information about Felix's work and interiors projects, visit designbyfelix.com

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