Meet the Londoners who added £200k to their Islington flat in one year:complete overhaul of former bedsit is a black-and-white masterclass

Part of an 1870s building in Canonbury, this second-floor flat was given a total overhaul in off-white and black to create a mostly modern monochrome family home with some period touches. 

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When Gary and Claire Tynan were ready to buy a flat, they looked for something lateral, with no space-gobbling staircases. Gary, an Irishman, and his Paris-born wife, 34, both architects, met in Australia but settled in London, working at different practices.

But it was hard to save while renting in north London, and although they looked for a plot to build on, it was beyond their budget. They decided to do up a flat instead.

The one they remodelled is 1,000sq ft, now modern in style with some historic detail, all done in black and off-white. Half of it is a huge living room that holds a sleek kitchen behind a deep central partition. There’s an equally striking black-and-white bathroom, both off a dramatic blue-black hall.

Open plan: the Tynans carved one large central living space out of the existing tired living room

The flat is stylish, smart and practical, with lots of considered ideas to share, and lots of storage — Gary, 35, who set up his own practice in 2014, is good at detail. 

Renovating in a conservation area

The couple viewed the second-floor flat in October 2015. It was in a stately 1870s house that had been divided into bedsits near Canonbury — 30ft wide, with four windows across its west-facing front. Soil pipes from upstairs ran across the ceiling of the flat’s huge living room. This fine room had a warehouse feel, with a kitchen on one side wall, but it was tired and old-fashioned. Off the small hall, the bathroom was “revolting” with mouldy grout and rotting joists. But it was light and had potential.

The Tynans bought in January 2016, by then expecting a baby. Though the flat is in a conservation area, you don’t need planning permission for most internal works and as they needed to move in, the builders stripped out the flat first and sorted out the bedrooms — carving a small third bedroom off one for a nursery. Then Gary and Claire camped in the bedroom side of the flat while work continued on the living space and bathroom. “I’d never recommend it, sometimes we came home and there was no electricity,” Gary says.

Getting rid of those pipes was a priority, “but we had a lot of plumbing issues”. Not only were there leaks from above, but while sanding and repairing the floorboards a nail went through a pipe, so water leaked downwards. 

Period touches in a modern home

The couple focused hard on transforming the main living space, and Claire did much of the sourcing. Off-white MDF that resembles tongue-and-groove is used as a theme, for bespoke cupboard fronts and for the kitchen island that divides the room into zones. 

Gary likes old radiators and put in black ones under the windows, deepening the window recesses and adding dramatic mouldings round them that run down to the black-stained floor.


Industrial chic: the black and white bathroom references the flat's Victorian heritage with metro tiles and encaustic

On top of these key designs strokes are laid zoned lighting, black steel knobs, well-placed switches, and black kitchen fittings under a white composite top. In the bathroom, the black-and-white geometric floor harks back to Victorian encaustic, and with black fittings, even down to the shower heads, it all holds together in a good, metropolitan look. 

Gary varied the lighting effects in different areas. “I don’t like the hard light of spotlights. Such harsh light is best kept to targeted areas such as task lighting in kitchens.”

Elsewhere, he has hung softly glowing globes over the bespoke, microcement-topped dining table, put a posh designer globe wall lamp in the living area and used another, smaller globe on a mirror in the bathroom to give excellent make-up and shaving light. 

As I said , Gary is good at detail.

For project costs, see the gallery.


Architect: Gary Tynan at

Engineered Caesarstone quartz worktop:

Black Blue hall paint:

Kitchen parts:

Black steel cupboard knobs:

Wall hooks:

Built-in oven:

Induction hob:

Microcement table top:

Pendant globe lamp over dining table:

IC globe wall lamp:

Black-and-white porcelain bathroom floor tiles:

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