Waking to dazzling views of sky and water, with your own tidal beach below the bedroom window, is just part of the daily magic of living in a flat in a masterful conversion of a warehouse in Rotherhithe.
That magic led the flat’s entrepreneur owner Sophie Bush, 33, to turn loft living into a business, first producing a magazine celebrating its pleasures, and now a book that examines its distinctive style.
The warehouse phenomenon began in the Fifties in New York. In Eighties London, developers cottoned on. The solid, brick-and-timber, square-angled construction, steel columns and trusses, high ceilings and big metal windows, often with loading bays, pulleys and jaw-dropping river views, were at last seen as highly desirable.
Shad Thames near Tower Bridge, Wapping and Docklands all threw up the chance of glorious conversions. These warehouses in London, and around the world, feature in Sophie’s new book, Warehouse Home.
In 2011 she worked for publisher Condé Nast, ending up at Wired magazine. With her fiancé Oliver, an economist, she was looking to buy a flat to get married from. They were already renting in Wapping, charmed by its old buildings and cobbles, but the search engine kept throwing up Rotherhithe, a mile south and across the river.
So they took the recently opened Overground — and Sophie realised it was where she wanted to be. She viewed an 880sq ft two-bedroom flat in a huge, 19th-century former grain warehouse on the river that had been converted to 138 homes in the Eighties. “Her” flat had a cute balcony. The owners wanted a quick sale. Sophie and Oliver pounced, moving in during spring 2012.
Little structural work was required, though inside mirrored wardrobes in one bedroom an original listed Victorian column had been boxed in, so they immediately exposed it.
Sourcing furniture and lighting, Sophie saw a huge gap in the market for the growing band of warehouse flat owners who wanted homeware to suit this distinctive environment. Artists, film-makers and architects like touches of reclaimed or industrial style, she says, particularly men — though Oliver, now her husband, left the look of their own loft very much up to her.
In 2014, she left Wired and started Warehouse Home, a twice-yearly magazine that’s delivered free to people who live in warehouse conversions. There’s also now an online shop, which sells looks that Sophie recommends.
She is very clear about what works best in these distinctive industrial spaces, but also insists that people need to develop a personal interior. She advises: “You have to find a way to honour the heritage of the building without making it look like a theme pub, so put some modern pieces alongside vintage finds.”
SIX TOP STYLING TIPS FOR WAREHOUSE HOMES:
1. Get real
Any items that originated in an old factory or other industrial setting usually work well.
3. Rework it
Talented designer-makers rework industrial pieces — making quirky tables out of old wood and so on — visit Ursh Stevens at Refunked
4. Brick walls work
Brick makes a great, very versatile backdrop for bold modern colour, monochromes, metal, and even for a soft pastel look.
Think natural — handwoven linens, cottons, hemps; stamped or screened patterns; anything that speaks of craft and industry.
6. Everything on castors
From tables to bookcases or metal lockers, anything on wheels works in an industrial space.
WHAT IT COST
Flat in 2012: £350,000
Value now (estimate): £650,000
GET THE LOOK
- Red linen-covered sofa, oversize armchair and task light: made.com
- Clock: Newgate Clocks
- Vintage print cloth for blinds: Cloth House
- Stationers sign: Marc Kitchen-Smith
- Old library trolley: Retrouvius
- Lampe Gras lamps: Lampe Gras
- Long filament light bulb: Buster + Punch
- Mill bobbin coasters: Forget Me Not
- Old French kitchen table: eBay
- Flip-up row of vintage wooden cinema seats: Vintage Matters
- Wall lamps in living room and bedroom: Garden Trading
- Cast-iron bedframe: John Lewis
- Bed linen: from Clarissa Hulse at John Lewis
- Lockers in bedroom: Made in Design
- Small bedside filing cabinet: vintage, try eBay
For more about Warehouse Home and to order the book, published by Thames & Hudson at £24.95, go to mywarehousehome.com