Creating light and space - and doubling the value: Camden bungalow transformed by soaring pitched roof

Nothing prepares you for the size of the room and the soaring pitched roof that now tops this former bungalow in Camden.
Hard slog and imagination can take you a long way — and that has certainly been the case for Will Slater, 39, who started out as a designer and painter but now runs his own building and design company.
He has created a beautiful, modern house bathed in light for himself, his partner, commercial estate agent Kinga Drzewiecka, and their six-month-old daughter, Zoya.
Their home in Camden was originally a cute but small bungalow designed in 1984 by RIBA Gold Medal-winning architect Ted Cullinan on a tight plot for a relative who used a wheelchair.
The couple moved in last winter in the nick of time to get Kinga, who is Polish, settled in a few months before Zoya was born.
Slater, who hails from north London and whose family all live nearby, studied languages at Leeds but was always artistic, so went into commercial art — he even painted a portrait of Ray Liotta for the Goodfellas star.
Then someone asked him to help design a bathroom, and one thing led to another. While he was in his twenties Slater continued in art and, increasingly, design and building work, initially helping out a friend who was a builder and learning as he went along. By his early thirties, the arrival of more building contracts persuaded him which career path to choose.

By 2009, in a rented flat in Tufnell Park, Slater was on the lookout for something to build for himself. “I wanted a project. The market had dipped, and I was a first-time buyer with a deposit,” he says. He registered with all the agents and one showed him the bungalow. Essentially a box with an extending leg, a tiny yard, a felt roof and a skylight, it was well designed, but small and quite dark.
It was being sold by its second disabled owner, who had planning permission to put on another floor designed in 2001 by Cullinan’s practice, but had then decided to move to the country. Originally on the market for £500,000, the price had been dropped, and Slater finally got it for £379,000.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew I’d enjoy living in it,” he says. So he carried on working, saving and imagining how he would interpret the existing plans when he could finally afford to build the second floor.
He met his partner in Ibiza in 2011 and they carried on a long-distance relationship, until Slater decided it was time to start building in spring last year.
After “finally scraping the money together” he was ready to start. The overall striking shape and mass had been determined in the plans — which were renewed again in 2013 — including the idea of a timber lining. But within that envelope, with its very high, steeply pitched roof, which included a triangular skylight, he was able to design the insides how he wanted. He would also, of course, be the builder.
In his twenties, he had been inspired by a lecture given by the designer Sir Terence Conran on how well European homes used light and space, and that was his driving aim for the new house. “I gutted it,” he says. “Really, the only thing that’s been reused from inside the original house is the AEG oven.”
Chilling out: sliding doors let light stream into the house and open on to the terrace
The oven is now installed in the big upstairs living room. He worked on other projects while his team worked on the house, checking in every day.
Even so, Slater admits to being nostalgic as he ripped things out. “I’d fallen in love with that bungalow,” he admits. “It was very well designed.”

Given how small this house is, totalling just 900sq ft, the key things you see when you walk through the front door are the roomy hall, the fact that there are two bedrooms, the snazzy bathroom with its Japanese sunken bath and room-for-two walk-in steam room and shower. But the big surprise is at the top of the wide, nicely set oak staircase with its glass balustrade.
Come out at the top and light and space hit you. Nothing from the outside prepares you for the size of this room, with its soaring pitched roof. Two walls/roof pitches are completely clad in cedar tongue-and-groove, like the ceiling of the ground floor below.
Combine that with pale fawn-grey ceramic floor tiles, white and light grey walls, and an all-white spacious kitchen, it feels modern — and, yes, very European. The room looks out through a huge sliding window wall on to a substantial terrace, with the same ceramic tiling.
It’s certainly a success, and a really nice housing model that could also work as a terrace, as there are no windows on the side walls. Slater finished it in seven months, bar a bit of snagging, and his partner moved in during November.
“Every time you come up the stairs,” says Slater, “you get this blade of light coming in from that skylight. It is so bright and clear, I love it. It doesn’t feel like London, and it goes back to that Conran thing, that there are different ways to organise your space and life.”

What it cost
  • Bought in December 2009 for £379,000, with planning permission to extend
  • Money spent: £165,000 — at trade prices and with no design fees
  • Value now: £1.2-£1.3 million
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