Most Londoners juggle work and tight budgets but if you have children, making major changes to your home gets pushed even further down the list.
Busy couple Rosa Moratiel, 47, and her husband, John Cryer, 41, who both work in the film industry, saved for years before finally making dramatic and much-needed changes to the house they'd bought.
"We met 20 years ago in Maidstone working for a new satellite channel," says John. "I fell in love at first sight." Rosa arrived in England from Spain at the age of one and grew up in Wood Green — "not the loveliest part of London" she says — but took the bus to school through Muswell Hill, and thought it was beautiful.
IMAGE GALLERY: TAKE A TOUR OF THE BRIGHT AND SPACIOUS FAMILY HOME IN MUSWELL HILL
Muswell Hill: a winning formula
Muswell Hill: a winning formula
1/7 Project details:
House in 2006: cost £670,000
Money spent: £80,000
Estimated value now: £1.3 million
All images by David Butler
2/7 Don't Move, Improve!
John Cryer with Rosa, Ruben and Ines. A makeover of their Muswell home means Rosa can now do three things at once "while also keeping an eye on the children".
A glossy white kitchen-diner with a useful island replaced the gloomy old galley kitchen which John and Rosa especially disliked.
A study desk sits in a cheerful, well-lit, child-friendly corner.
The back of the 1910 house in Muswell Hill has characterful doors that lead out to raised decking and patio seating.
Another clever idea was putting shelving with bespoke concertina fronts either side of the fireplace in the old dining room, now the study area.
There's a snug that the children love, with their own storage bench.
The family home won second place in the interior design category of New London Architecture's Don't Move, Improve! awards. Visit www.newlondonarchitecture.org
Eventually she bought a flat in the area and after courting for years, the couple moved in there. But when Ines, now nine, was born, they decided it was time to find a house locally. "It's easier to move with one child than two," Rosa says, "and I was still on maternity leave, so it was a good time to look."
They viewed the split-level house on a blisteringly hot day in early September 2006, exchanged in October, and moved in just before Ines's first birthday. Ruben, now six, was born three years later.
This part of north London is adored by its loyal inhabitants, who often stay for decades or even generations. While Rosa didn't love the house they chose, she was smitten by the street and the neighbourhood.
"The street was wide and quiet, and has a street party every year. The neighbours know each other and look out for each other's children," she says.
Rosa and John wanted a big kitchen-diner where the family could connect with each other. The architects gave them three options, but even though Rosa wasn't sure at first about opening everything up, they went for a plan with zones in it. To unify the space they ran parquet throughout, "which worked out cheaper than engineered boards", says John.
Where the level dropped, the architects solved it with "bookcase stairs", which are both attractive and practical. Another clever idea was putting shelving with bespoke concertina fronts either side of the fireplace in the old dining room, now the study area.
These hide not only tons of storage, but the boiler too, while below there's a snug that the children love, with their own storage bench. A built-in desk opposite is useful for all the family.
The kitchen-diner area is a huge success. It has a glossy white island kitchen from Wickes, with grey quartz tops, with a family-size table near the French windows, and where there was once a dingy side window peering on to the side return, there's now a full-height, opaque picture window.
So light comes in from three sides and the family spend most of their time in this bright space, where it is easy now to move around.
"Like all working mums I spend a lot of time doing three things at once," says Rosa. "But now I can also keep an eye on the children at the same time.
"We're just a normal working family. This has really improved life for all of us. It makes us much more cheerful, and it makes everything more fun."
Get this look:
Architects: Hanna and Richard at Zminkowska De Boise (www.zdbarchitects.com)
Builder and joiner: Irek Maduzia (07738 201830)
Parquet flooring: stained by the contractor, from Havwoods (www.havwoods.co.uk)
Handleless white gloss kitchen units: from www.wickes.co.uk
Ceniza Compac quartz worksurfaces: installed by Blue Pearl Granite (www.bluepearl-granite.com)
Concert P1 lamp (over kitchen table): designed by Jørn Utzon from suppliers including www.hauslondon.com for £235.70 (Prices may vary)
Clara O'Neill Spine pendant lamp in living area: £250 from www.johnlewis.com
Rosa and John's house won second place in the interior design category of New London Architecture's Don't Move, Improve! awards (www.newlondonarchitecture.org).