Perfect extensions: we added not one, but two floors to the roof of our Clerkenwell flat

Extending a grotty Clerkenwell flat up by two floors created a light-filled kitchen-diner and a roof terrace with stunning City views.

What about adding not one, but two floors on to the roof of a flat? It’s a smart way to increase space as well as light. But in 2011, when Nic Farhi and his wife Tiff first viewed the two-storey brick flat that Rolling Stones rocker Ronnie Wood used to rent, it didn’t look a very promising prospect.

The Victorian flat — once a dressmaking workshop, located in Clerkenwell near Barbican and increasingly trendy Whitecross Street Market — was reached by a run of stairs covered with unopened letters and a dodgy carpet.

Once inside the flat, the lower level — which held bedrooms — was outdated. Grubby old futons didn’t help. But, says Nic, upstairs was a surprise.

The mainly open-plan upper floor had attractive timber joists and cross-braces, floorboards, exposed brick walls and plentiful windows along two sides, combining to give a real warehouse feel. “I was excited. It obviously had potential,” says Nic, a strategy consultant.


And that wasn’t all. Some time in the Nineties, a small extra floor had been built across almost half of the flat roof above, reached by a spiral iron stair. This addition just held a kitchen, which was mouldy and grotty.

The rest of the roof was used as a large terrace, which was “covered in cigarette butts”, with a fridge and a clumsy pergola. At the time the market was on fire in this up-and-coming area, so the couple, who had been looking for a year, made a sealed-bid offer.

Nic, 36, and Tiff, 34, a banker, both studied at Oxford, but only met in 2007 when they went to visit a mutual friend’s new baby. “We bonded over not knowing which way up to hold it,” Nic laughs.

Having rented at different ends of town, they decided to rent a flat together with a roof terrace and got used to enjoying barbecues and skyline views. So when they saw this flat for sale, they knew it was the one.

Nic wondered if the floor with the kitchen could be enlarged and whether it would be possible to put another smaller floor on top of that — a pretty substantial vertical addition.

Before exchanging, they decided to call in an architect for advice. It was another smart move. They found Robert Rhodes online. “His office was just round the corner,” Nic says. “It seemed sensible to have someone who could just pop round.”

Left: the handsome timber open-tread staircase gently spirals to the first floor. Right: the stair housing on the terrace is protected by timber lapping and contains storage for deckchairs


They met and everyone got on. The couple found that Rhodes was of a similar age, had a good sense of humour, and he was thorough. He was at home with the idea of a historic flat with modern additions, and he was sure they could add an extra floor. So in July 2012 the couple exchanged and Rhodes put out to tender for builders and got cracking on the designs.

“It was all very collaborative,” says Nic. The application that Rhodes put in to the planners was, according to Nic, so well-written that it went through without much of a quibble.

Work started before Christmas and took six months, finishing in July 2013 while the couple were on honeymoon. “Preparing our wedding while building did get stressful,” Nic says. “We sourced everything online. Some evenings we sat surfing for wedding table decorations and light fittings at the same time.”

The flat’s lower floor was completely gutted. Two bedrooms went back in at this level, with a dressing room built into the master bedroom, two smart bathrooms and lots of storage.


“I’m a storage freak,” says Nic. “What’s the point of having something bespoke and not getting what you want?” At which point he flips up their bed, revealing a space underneath that’s big enough to store even his bicycle.

The next floor — accessed by a beautiful, open-tread, gently spiralling timber staircase — still has a warehouse feel, but now has a neat guest bedroom and a bathroom. It’s what’s above, though, that is really special.

Emerging from the wooden stairs, you are struck by a sunny, very large kitchen-diner with a massive triple-sliding window that goes the full width of the room, out to a smaller but still lovely terrace.

The bespoke kitchen, with its black granite island and long dining table, has fabulous views towards the Gherkin.

And if this wasn’t enough, up a neat run of narrow stairs is the second big surprise — a rooftop terrace with artificial grass, a glass balustrade and 360-degree views around the city. It’s simply breathtaking.

As a finishing touch, the architect covered the stair housing in timber lapping, so it looks like a cute shed — in which there’s even a concealed shallow cupboard for two deckchairs.


Flat in 2012: £1.1 million

Total spend including furnishing: £400,000

Value now (estimate): £2.1 million



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