Art Deco house

A bold new extension has transformed this Art Deco house into a statement home for the 21st-century family.
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The Independent Online

This stunning Art Deco house, in the leafy suburbs of Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire, was originally built in 1936. It's unusual in many ways.

"A lot of Art Deco houses have been demolished and redeveloped," says the current owner, Louise Kelvey. "Most of the ones still standing are found around the coastline, where they often change hands for millions. It's quite rare to find affordable Art Deco housing, especially this far inland."

That depends a little on your definition of affordable, but she has a point. This is high design that a family can live with. The house sits secluded amid large gardens opposite the local public school, with a cricket club behind it. It is one of a pair of houses standing next to one another in the same style, but the name of the architect responsible for them has been forgotten. It's a 10-minute stroll into the market town itself, from where trains to London Liverpool Street take 35 minutes.

Kelvey found the house five years ago. She's a designer who specialises in restoring period properties, buying up places in need of extensive work, doing them up, selling them and then moving on to the next project. "It's hard work, stressful and often inconvenient, but I love the whole process," she says. "It's like being a sculptor. You start with a pile of bricks and then you transform it into something new and exciting. It's immensely rewarding work."

Kelvey has been working full time at renovating since the late 1980s. Past projects have included warehouses, loft conversions and a 16th-century cottage.

When Kelvey bought this house, the place hadn't been touched for 30 years. She'd always been a fan of the Art Deco style but had never had the opportunity to work on a building of that style.

The house wasn't listed, but for Kelvey that was an advantage, as it gave her a freer range when planning structural alterations. Her overall plan was to double the size of the existing living space.

First, she knocked through the back of the house and added on a substantial extension. A study and sitting room now occupy one side of this floor, while the rest has been totally knocked through and opened up to create two vast open-plan living spaces, which serve as the main family living room and kitchen/dining-room areas.

"It was specifically designed to be family friendly, and with children in mind," says Kelvey. "Wherever you happen to be in those two rooms, you can see right through the house and out into the garden, so it's magic for when you've got lots of kids around."

The flat roof of this new extension, meanwhile, provided Kelvey with the opportunity to create a vast first-floor roof terrace on it. All four bedrooms on that level now enjoy direct access to the terrace as well as sharing the main family bathroom on the landing.

The house's original roof terrace had been one floor further up, on the second level, which was reached by a flight of stairs.

Kelvey now had the brainwave of adding an additional master bedroom suite at the apex of these stairs, jutting out from the top of the house and flanked on both sides by what remained of the original terrace. The work was seamlessly done and blended in perfectly with the original lines of the house. At night, both sets of terraces are illuminated, and the master bedroom glows like a beacon above the rest of the house.

A stand-alone garage was added to the side of the house with a toilet and kitchenette at the back. This (subject to planning permission) could fairly easily be converted into an additional self-contained living unit or office block, still leaving plenty of parking space in the driveway. The whole property is ringed by security fences, and it has an electronically operated front gate.

Similar attention to detail is noticeable in the house's internal fittings and fixtures. The kitchen and dining room area is floored with slate, while the rest of the ground level and the second-floor master bedroom is floored with dark wenge hardwood. The four first-floor bedrooms all have fitted carpets, and there is under-floor heating throughout the house. The windows are all new and, although they look remarkably like the Crittals that were probably originally fitted, are in fact double-glazed Clements. The kitchen is Bulthaup, all of the bathroom sanitary ware is by Duravit, and the taps are from Dornbracht.

The indefatigable Kelvey is now off to tackle yet another restoration job - she says she is "exploring several possibilities, but nothing definite yet" - but has nevertheless finally decided to sell up the beloved Art Deco house that she's been working on for the past five years.

She thinks one of the house's prime attractions for potential buyers will be its combination of Art Deco splendour, open-plan family-friendly ground-floor layout, the cosiness of its upstairs bedrooms and its tranquil surroundings. "Because we're in a conservation area, we are surrounded by trees and all of the bedrooms enjoy fine views," she says.

Kelvey also thinks that prospective buyers will be attracted by the house's immaculate condition. "Whoever ends up buying this place will acquire a highly distinguished period property, but one that is in perfect nick," she says. "All I have retained of the original building is the bricks and mortar. The rest has either been fully restored or replaced. I have completely overhauled the place - in terms of fixtures, fittings and contents, this is literally new-build."

Get the spec

What's for sale: a five-bedroom Art Deco house with four reception rooms, five bedrooms (one en-suite), detached garage, security fences and electronically operated gates, set in about one-third of an acre of land on the outskirts of Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire.

Serious kit: slate and hardwood flooring; vast open-plan living areas on the ground floor; original Art Deco fireplaces, panelling, trim and decorative timberwork, all fully restored.

Extras: a fully fitted Bulthaup kitchen; massive illuminated roof terraces set on two levels; a stand-alone garage has been added at the side, with built-in kitchen and toilet, with planning potential to convert into a self-contained granny flat or work area.

How big? about 2,200 square feet of living area, set in secluded large gardens.

Buy it: 114 Hadham Road, Bishop's Stortford, Herts, is for sale through Fine & Country (01279 757 500) for £795,000.