Seventies style: turning a hideous townhouse into a vibrant family home

A couple who met online transformed a Seventies home into a colourful showpiece, right down to the exotic fish.

Attention to detail and clever use of colour have helped Viki and Mike Lander turn their house, in Wandsworth’s exclusive Spencer Park, into something rather special.
 
It’s unusual to walk into a London home and come face to face with a sparkling aquarium wall full of glistening exotic fish. But it’s even more amazing that the fish match the bespoke, lacquered TV surround visible through the tank.
 
“It’s not amazing really,” says Viki, “because I chose the fish to go with it.”
 
Vicki, 42, and her 50-year-old husband have completely remodelled the property, adding half as much space again.

TAKE A LOOK AROUND THE REMODELLED PROPERTY: 


 
“People use so much white because they’re afraid of going wrong,” says Viki, “but a home needs colour.”
 
As if to demonstrate that fact, sharp lime green Ligne Roset Pop chairs in the sitting area seem to match the spring grass outside.

You could say that Viki and Mike matched themselves, too. In 2006, Viki, who was running her own graphic design agency while doing up her home as a sideline, was bored with being single. So her brother said that if she would roast a chicken, over supper he would post online dating profiles for Viki as well as himself.
 

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A home needs colour: lime green chairs echo the spring grass in the garden

 
Not long after that, Viki arranged to meet Mike. “We were inseparable from that moment. My friends all said, ‘He’s the one’,” she says. The new couple owned their flats in Chiswick and Clapham, but a year after getting married in 2007, they bought a house in Clapham Common that had been hacked into five bedsits, and set about turning it back into a single home.
 
Mike, who had a consultancy business, loved doing this as much as Viki. The couple had already completed six refurbishments between them, so they hatched the idea of turning their passion into a joint career. Viki would handle design and Mike, with his project management background, the process. But when should they make the leap? Life is always about timing, and their son Leo’s birth at the end of 2012 was the turning point.
 
They wanted a property to turn into a family home, with a generous garden as a priority. In early summer 2013 they saw a plain-looking Seventies townhouse advertised by Knight Frank.
 
“Within 72 hours we bought it,” says Viki. “I’d already designed a basement while we were viewing.” Desirable Spencer Park is surrounded by a big loop of grand Victorian houses. In 1972, a speculator demolished one mansion and replaced it with a terrace of four modern houses, one of which the Landers bought.
 
“It was hideous,” says Viki. “There was a tired white kitchen, nonsensical room divisions, a stupid staircase stuck in the middle and a plastic extension on the back, complete with plastic windows, that the neighbours called the Taj Mahal.
 
“The garden was a thicket of overgrown climbers and rotten decking.”
 
Since the house was set on a deep concrete slab, Viki had the bold idea of carving out a 16ft-deep basement under the garden to make a playroom for Leo and a top-of-the range gym for her and Mike. “Everyone said that was mad,” she says.
 
They sailed through planning without a hitch, broke ground in March last year, and finished just nine months later, moving in two days before Christmas.
 

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The den: friends thought the couple were “mad” to have a 16ft basement carved out of the garden but it created space for a gym for Viki and Mike and a playroom (above) for their son, Leo

 
That sort of excavation comes at a price, of course — not to mention 250 skips full of rock and subsoil that thundered relentlessly out of the front door on a conveyor belt. The family sensibly decamped to a rented flat.

On the ground floor the house has been opened up and the staircase shifted to one side, making a huge, bright living space, with the former garage turned into an office for the couple’s new design business. This sleek space flows through to the garden, which has an impressive light oak deck that turns out to be a modern composite — no splinters for tiny feet — and three big Portuguese pom pom laurels.
 
Right down to the coffee maker, everything in this home has been considered, particularly for colour. Against the grey wool carpet and soft Little Greene Limestone paint that runs throughout, Viki has used strong, contemporary colours, but these are softened by the luxurious, heavy, shot silk curtains in the bedrooms, and interesting bespoke feature wallpapers.
 
In the third bedroom, for example, the wall the bed sits against is covered in a photographic paper of vivid birds perching on the boughs of trees.
 
In the couple’s own large en suite bathroom, the floor is patinated block parquet — a surprise against the imitation marble ceramic tiles, but it works well, and adds a hint of Versailles ballroom to the overall boutique look.
 
What is particularly nice about this house is that this Seventies building, which once seemed a fish out of water in such a historic area, now has the right interior to help it stand out.
 
WHAT IT COST
House in 2013: £2.05 million
Money spent (if all fees had been included): £1.49 million
Value now: £4 million (estimate)
 
GET THE LOOK

  • Design and interior architecture by www.ensoul.co.uk
  • Builder: Marcin Grzyb at Eco Home Constructions 
  • Dinosaur wallpaper in basement by Sian Zeng 
  • Kitchen by TM Italia from Hub Kitchens 
  • Lamps over kitchen table: Heracleum II by Bertjan Pot for Moooi 
  • Ligne Roset Pop chairs now collectable, try www.ebay.co.uk etc; for Ligne Roset current range see www.ligne-roset.co.uk
  • Oven, fridge, dishwasher from Miele 
  • Square Edge 12 bath in master bedroom by Villeroy & Boch 
  • Porcelain Carrara-style tiles in master bathroom from Style! 
  • Gare Du Nord Vintage Oak Parquet from Broadleaf Timber 
  • Pattern Jay wallpaper with birds by Photowall 
  • Limestone paint by Little Greene 
  • Hand-painted Pooh Bear mural by Carren Lu at www.artistic-touch.co.uk

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