A masterclass in adding £1-million value to your property: from a bargain bakery into a beautiful home

A photographic agent transformed an old bakery to sell but loved it so much she just had to move in.

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Some buyers might feel a flip of excitement in the stomach when they see the property they want. Others might feel a tingling across the skin. But for photographic agent Katy Barker, her nose twitches.
“I just know when a property’s right, just like I do about photographs,” says the 49-year-old as she sits curled up on her sofa drinking strong coffee.
Restless and an unstoppable traveller “through being an Army brat” — her father, Captain Basil Barker, was a Gurkha — she’s just returned from Lamu Island, Kenya, where she has a holiday home.
Back in London, home is a five-storey, 1,600sq ft early Victorian terrace in Battersea — although there are a few African hints inside, such as the antique zebra skin slung over the banisters.


This chic place started life as a bakery, with several ovens crammed into a low, sweltering basement. One oven has been kept, though decommissioned, creating a focal point in the living room that hints at the home’s past.
Barker bought her first property, a maisonette with a garden in Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, in 1989 after moving all over the city with her then-husband, Damon — whom she married when they were both in their early twenties.
“I was so proud,” she says of taking her first step on the property ladder. She then set up and ran her photography agency in Soho for 17 years, building a client base while raising two children — Alexander, now 24, and Oliver, 22.
In 2009 she felt it was time for a seismic change. She had parted ways with Damon, sold the business, and bought rights to a book, which is currently in production as a movie, and moved to a country house in Witney, Oxfordshire.
Buying a crooked house
Barker says the Witney house was spooky and isolated. Not surprisingly, the self-imposed exile didn’t last long.
“I wasn’t meeting anyone and I was getting fat, so it was time to look for a little property,” she says. So, when the former bakery came up, she was in like an arrow. “I knew I was going to buy it the minute I walked through the door, but I tried to hide my excitement from the agent.”
The place was pretty much falling down and, says Barker, “everything was crooked”. The roof was rotting and leaking, while the cellar stairs and the original banisters were on the verge of collapse. It would all have to go.


Nod to the past: the big decommissioned baker’s oven creates a focal point in the open-plan living room

Having knocked the price down by a stonking £250,000, Barker called architect Ralf Eikelberg, who worked on her previous house, and found he had just set up on his own. She offered him the chance on the spot for it to become his new firm’s first project. “He was my secret weapon,” she laughs. “He’s so ... German. His attention to detail is incredible.”
One of his major triumphs was the double-height open space between the ground floor and basement. These were completely separate floors, but while works were going on, the rotten floors all had to be taken up and replaced.
“They’d ripped up the entire floor and made a huge hole between the two levels. Ralf sent me a photo and said, ‘What about keeping the hole open, like that, with a balustrade round it?’”
Because the house had no real foundations, they had already discovered that the low-ceiling basement couldn’t be excavated to give it more height, so this was a perfect alternative. The opening draws light into the small basement and creates grandeur — an effect enhanced by a Sixties chandelier hanging in the double-height void.
Client and architect say they worked well together. Eikelberg suggested raw plaster finishes throughout, an idea Barker loved — “It’s very African,” she says. The house is beguiling, furnished with a mixture of modern and bespoke pieces, plus a whiff of 18th-century boudoir here and a call of the wild there.
“It was all done so quickly,” says Barker. “I had to rebuild the entire house, but we started in late spring 2012 and finished in March 2013. I put it straight on the market because I’d originally seen it as an investment. But then I thought, ‘I can’t do that, I love it’. So I took it off and I moved in.”
What it cost: £999,000 asking price in 2011, but sold for £749,000
Cost of works: £120,000
Value now: £1.85 million (estimate)
Get the look

  • Architect: London Atelier 
  • Builder: Peter Hababiki at info@stella-rossa.co.uk
  • Vintage midcentury modern chandelier: try eBay 
  • Furnishings: such as sage green velvet sofa, sourced and made by Pamela Lord 
  • Arne-Jacobsen-designed classic Swan chair: from Aram 
  • One-coat plaster: from suppliers including Wickes 
  • Vertical radiators: Zehnder
  • Large painting in drawing room: by Callum Innes 

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