Marketing guru Kevin Twittey knows all about taking on huge projects — in 2012 he helped organise the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Describing himself as a consummate risk-taker — having broken numerous bones skiing off-piste and from falling off horses — he is no stranger to jumping in at the deep end. So the idea of transforming a grotty old office building in Covent Garden into a modern home wasn’t daunting in the slightest.
Eighteen months after work began, the building is unrecognisable and the 65-year-old has a fabulous home, which is elegant and peaceful, despite being in a bustling area of town. Twittey credits tried-and-trusted architects Form Studio for the transformation, saying he just allowed them to “get on with it”.
“In creative industries, you have to give people space,” he explains. “They’ll then make it their own project, and make an extra effort.”
Life wasn’t always so glamorous for Twittey. Raised in County Durham, he won a scholarship to art school in Birmingham, then came to London in 1971, where his first home in Belsize Park came complete with a “battleaxe landlady and a cooking ring on the carpet”. Noticing that his artist friends were all impoverished, he went into advertising, getting a job with McCann-Erickson, and never looked back.
Since then, he has been building and selling businesses. Triangle, his consultancy, whose clients included Sainsbury’s, was bought by Publicis in 2001, and Twittey joined the board. “Having founded a family business, I became director of a company with 60,000 employees,” he says. He went on to set up Initials, which he sold in 2011.
Meanwhile, he was working his way up the property ladder, from a mews in Maida Vale, to a modern house in Primrose Hill, where a burglary led him to sell up and rent in Mayfair.
While living there, he heard about a big lateral conversion in Clerkenwell that was for sale because its developer had gone bust. Twittey bought it for £700,000 and it was through this that he met his architects, Form Studio, who were already on the job.
“It was very James Bond: all white and steel, with 360-degree views,” he says. However, he didn’t like living in a flat, so moved on again, this time to a Nash house in Regent’s Park.
In 2013, while looking for new offices for his current business, Sense London, he instructed an agent to seek out anything with 5,000 square feet within a 10-minute walk of Charlotte Street, W1. The agent came up with a narrow, vertical, five-storey-plus basement brick terrace in Covent Garden, with a lift and stairs right up the centre, cutting the spaces in half. Twittey recalls the sorry state of the place: “Small, dark rooms, corridors, damp, musty, and so old it probably broke every law in the land.” He bought it anyway.
But then his architects suggested turning it into a home instead. “I said, ‘It’s too narrow, it’s too this, it’s too that,’ but they said, ‘Why not try for planning permission anyway?’”
At that time local planners were keen for more houses in the area and Form Studio’s proposals went through without any problem. They included stripping out the interior and creating a soaring, striking, double-height kitchen-diner. This room was to have folding doors on to a new walled courtyard with bamboo screens and a mirrored back wall. Form also planned to add a light-filled top floor with two roof terraces.
The plans were bold — but in contrast to Twittey’s appetite for risk, Form is methodical and does everything by the book. Surprisingly, Twittey had only one request: “I told the boys I wanted parking built in for my little electric car, but they said no.” It’s his only regret. The four-bedroom house is cool and calm, with immaculate finishes, from solid oak floors to marble-floored bathrooms. It isn’t flashy... except, perhaps, the red-leather-lined lift with mirrored doors. And even that’s more Art Deco than decadent.
Given that this home is in bustling Covent Garden, it is unexpectedly peaceful. In the top rooms, triple-glazed windows look out over roofs and treetops. At night, the private courtyard lights up. “You wouldn’t believe it was right in the centre of town,” Twittey says. “I can walk anywhere from here.”
What it cost: office building in 2013 in the region of £1.9 million
Money spent: £2 million
Value now (estimate): £6.95 million
Get the look:
Architect: Malcolm Crayton and Mike Neale of Formstudio
Interior design: Elizabeth Bowman. Visit elizabethbowman.co.uk
Concrete-look porcelain floor tiles: Grestec at grestec.co.uk
Mirror in diner: Coach House at coachhouse.com
Eames’s DSW dining chairs and Magis Déjà vu polished aluminium bar stools: Aram at aram.co.uk
Moooi Random light: moooi.com
Tube lights over kitchen island: martinilight.com
Carrara marble floor tiles in bathrooms: Domus at domustiles.co.uk
Leather dogs in sitting room: Liberty at liberty.co.uk
Stressless Space highback chairs in cinema: Ekornes at ekornes.co.uk