Judy’s parents lived in Hong Kong for two years as Vietnam war refugees before coming to Ipswich in 1979. Her mother was Vietnamese and her father Chinese. “They didn’t have a pair of chopsticks between them,” she says.
Judy was born in 1980, but her father worked so hard she only saw him on Sundays. In 1988 the family moved to Islington and Judy grew up there, taking a degree in psychology before working in a law firm. In 2006 she met her future husband, and they married in 2009. Lucas was born in 2010.
“We were renting in Chelsea, I spent years looking for the right family home with a big garden and off-street parking,” she says. Judy drew a blank in Chelsea, Gloucester Road and South Kensington. Then, pregnant with Marissa, she widened the net to Barnes, Richmond and Putney. Finally, in 2013, she hired a property searcher.
“One day she rang about a house that wasn’t in our chosen areas and said, ‘You have to see this, it ticks all the boxes, but someone else wants it so you have to move right now.’” Judy set off at once to Maida Vale.
The semi-detached house was in one of the late-Victorian terraces designed for a booming middle class. It was divided into lots of rooms, particularly in the dark basement, which had a low ceiling and an ugly conservatory-extension on the back. This extension butted up clumsily against the brick retaining wall of the overgrown lawn, at the end of which lurked a giant shed.
The house looked as if nothing had been done for 30 years. “It was like Miss Havisham’s house — it was eerie, my skin was crawling. The hall was dark and dingy. The guy had stuck CDs to the ceiling and once answered the door stark naked.” But apart from a crumbling roof the place was structurally sound, so Judy and her husband put in an offer — and completed in June 2013.
She interviewed three architects whose work her husband had read about in design magazines and immediately liked Chris Eaton, who paid a site visit. “I just asked him what he saw, and he pretty much described what I wanted.” So Judy hired him. It was the same with the builder. “I looked at three, met Jon Loveday, and loved him as a person.”
The architects’ design removed unnecessary internal walls and used a grown-up, sophisticated palette of dark wood, black steel, bronze, travertine feature walls and a lot of glass. All the planners rejected was a flat roof over the remodelled extension.
A cramped study at the end of the hall that blocked light went, to be replaced by smart Crittall glass walls — a transformative act that lightens the entire raised ground floor.
Everything else on that floor was streamlined and smoothed. A “library room” looking out to the back garden through a boxy new bay window has a stunning fireplace wall of travertine.
Black-stained engineered oak floorboards echo the black steel of the Crittall frames. The lovely door handles are bronze, and the handrail down to the transformed basement is beautifully crafted bronze: formal and elegant.
The lower floor’s muddle of little dark rooms and a nasty toilet were ripped out, as was the old conservatory. Now a spacious, serene white kitchen with soft grey Corian worktops flows around a central screen of shelves into a top-lit living space. This flows straight out to the garden through floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors.
For the children
The old rose-strewn wilderness has become a chic three-tier affair. The glass doors lead to a smart entertaining area with concealed speakers and stylish planting. There’s a water feature in a long trough, and the middle section is edged with topiary — magnolia stellata, wisteria, alliums and acers. The end part is just for the children, with murals on the side walls, tough fake grass and a climbing tower designed by Judy.
All the building, including remodelling the upper levels and dropping the floors of the attic rooms to give a decent head height, was done in 10 months. The basement is now big and bright. “We thought we would spend most time upstairs, but we spend it here where I can cook and keep an eye on the children.”
This is a very grown-up house, but perhaps most of all Judy loves the children’s garden: “I never had this when I was growing up so really, it is for me.”
Get this look
Project architect: Natalie Benes. Visit www.stiffandtrevillion.com
Sliding doors to garden: from www.finelinealuminium.com
W20 Crittall doors and fixed screens: D&R Design. Visit www.dandrdesign.co.uk
Oak multilayer engineered board: www.parquet-flooring.co.uk
Athens grey marble in library, black travertine in bathroom: from www.thestonecollection.co.uk
3034 bronze door knobs: by Frank Allart. Visit www.allart.co.uk
Builder: Jon Loveday. Visit www.lovedayconstruction.com
Joiner: Conor Manning. Visit www.manningbespoke.ie
Triple pendant Beat lamps in black, in cinema room; Flask pendants over dining table: all from www.tomdixon.net
Hooked lamp in library: by Buster+Punch. Visit www.busterandpunch.com
Globe blown glass pendants in bathroom: from www.hollowaysofludlow.com
Kitchen: by Pedini, at www.pedinilondon.co.uk
Pure linen voile curtains: JAB Anstoetz (www.jab-uk.co.uk) or from Design Centre Chelsea Harbour (www.dcch.co.uk)
Images: Killian O'Sullivan and Adrian Lourie