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Once inside the flat, the lower level — which held bedrooms — was outdated.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.
A swish roof terrace transforms this former dressmaking workshop
A swish roof terrace transforms this former dressmaking workshop
1/10 Up on the roof
Every flat should have one – the rooftop terrace with a glass balustrade, 360-degree views over London and artificial grass – just the spot for relaxing in a deckchair.
2/10 Master stroke
Strategy consultant Nic and his banker wife Tiff added two floors to the two-storey flat they bought near the Barbican and Whitecross Street Market, increasing living space as well as light. It was once a dressmaking workshop and the mainly open-plan upper floor had a real warehouse feel and “potential”.
3/10 City views
The old kitchen – mouldy and grotty – had to go. The sunny new kitchen has a big triple-sliding window going the full width of the room, out to a small but pretty terrace, and fabulous views towards the Gherkin.
4/10 Food for thought
Generous in size, the top-floor, bespoke kitchen, accessed by a neat run of narrow stairs, has a black granite island and long dining table.
5/10 Room at the top
The couple had previously rented a flat with a roof terrace and got used to enjoying barbecues and skyline views, so that had to be part of their vision for their home.
6/10 Our project
Work on the flat went on while the couple prepared for their wedding and then honeymooned. “Some evenings we sat surfing for wedding table decorations and light fittings at the same time,” says Nic.
7/10 Going up
The lower floor holds two bedrooms, a dressing room and storage, while the next floor, accessed by an open-tread, gently spiralling timber staircase, has a guest bedroom and bathroom.
8/10 Shed chic
The architect covered the stair housing in timber lapping. It looks like a cute shed, and holds a concealed shallow cupboard for deckchairs.
9/10 Above the bustle
From the vantage point of the roof terrace you can see the pretty kitchen terrace and the street below.
10/10 Job done
The couple bought their flat in 2012 for £1.1 million, putting in a sealed bid. Their ambitious transformation involved a £400,000 spend including furnishing, and their home is now valued at £2.1 million
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.
CALLING IN THE EXPERTS
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.”
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.
WHAT IT COST
Flat in 2012: £1.1 million
Total spend including furnishing: £400,000
Value now (estimate): £2.1 million
GET THE LOOK
- Architect: Robert Rhodes
- Builder: Bondsbury Construction
- White goods from CP Hart
- Dar Lighting’s Zaragoza 3 red drum lampshades in sitting room from suppliers such as wayfair.co.uk
- Triple-sliding kitchen window from Culmax
- Kitchen extractor by Falmec
- Kubrick armchairs at made.com
- Terrace bistro set at John Lewis
- Dining chairs at John Lewis
- Pendant lamps over kitchen island from lightingstyles.co.uk
- Keller Kitchen from London Kitchen Shop
- Artificial grass, which has a drainage system so it doesn’t get soggy, from Easigrass