London-based architect Johan Hybschmann and his girlfriend, Anita, 36, a clinical psychologist, were living in a flat in Hackney.
They loved the area and wanted to stay, but prices there were rising fast in late 2014, and they were outbid repeatedly. Their £400,000 budget just wasn’t enough.
One horrid property had 50 viewers. “Even the estate agent was mystified,” says Hybschmann, 33. After five months they saw a Seventies repossession for sale. On a council estate, it was a two-bedroom 860sq ft upper maisonette.
The bricks were horrible, but it had a little garden, and was well sound-proofed. They went to view. “It was smelly, there was food rotting in the oven, the cheap carpets were filthy.” Hybschmann’s eyes light up. “No one else wanted it.”
He’d set up Archmongers architectural practice in N1 with Margaret Bursa, whom he met at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, and they were looking for Sixties or Seventies townhouses or flats to try out their ideas. The maisonette looked ideal.
Hybschmann bought the place in February last year. Because it was a leasehold, from the council, there were restrictions as to what could be done but since the internal walls were non-structural, some reconfiguring was possible.
There was an entrance lobby, then stairs to the first floor, which had a kitchen and sitting room off the central landing. There were doors between all these rooms, and this pattern repeated upstairs.
Work began. The door openings were widened to create a sense of flow, internal windows were put into landing walls to add light, the staircase was painted and a bespoke balustrade of wood and brass was added.
Out went the grotty carpets and in went a streamlined kitchen. Clean, open spaces were created in an overall design with freshness and plenty of wood. On the upper floor they took out the plasterboard ceiling and opened up into the roof space, giving relatively small rooms soaring ceiling voids and white-painted joists, which is very attractive.
A super-glamorous terrazzo floor was laid and a generous walk-in shower installed. Four months of work created a light, streamlined flat that seems bigger — a brilliant example of what can be done on a tight budget.
WHAT IT COST
Maisonette was £350,000 and £80,000 was spent on it, excluding architects’ fees. Value now: £505,000.
Architects: Margaret Bursa and Johan Hybschmann at Archmongers