Buy Of The Week: Islington

Alice Black visits a stunning townhouse in one of Islington's quieter backwaters - and finds herself charmed by its sense of space and light
Click to follow
The Independent Online

he spiritual home of New Labour and the scene of endless pretty Georgian and Victorian terraces, Islington is one of London's most diverse areas - from the edgy De Beauvoir Town and up-and-coming Hoxton to the more traditional and refined neighbourhoods of Barnsbury and Canonbury.

Upper Street has been transformed over the past few decades into a mecca for upmarket shops, bars and restaurants - and its gradual but relentless gentrification means an N1 postcode has become extremely expensive.

This stunning four-bedroomed period property, combining striking contemporary design with a wealth of opulent original character, is situated on Liverpool Road in the Barnsbury Conservation area of N1. Despite its closeness to Islington, Barnsbury is still relatively unknown to outsiders. It's just moments away from a variety of local shops and amenities, while the bars and restaurants of Upper Street are also within easy reach. The nearest Underground is Holloway Road (Piccadilly Line) for easy access to Central London, while the A1 provides motorists a direct line up to the North.

The house is being sold by the magazine publisher Maribeth Parker, who bought it 1996. "Although the house wasn't in great need of work doing to it, it had been decorated in a very different taste to ours - and so over the next seven years we made many improvements," she says. And so she stamped her style on the house - the end result of which is a large, light-filled living and entertaining space which is in excellent condition.

The first thing Parker did was to make a substantial alteration to the conservatory, originally separated from the kitchen by a solid wall and accessed via steps. She opened up the whole space, merging the kitchen and conservatory, as well as increasing the height of the roof to encompass the floor above, so that the French doors from the sitting room now open on to a dramatic glass-floored balcony within the conservatory.

"As I'm originally from North America,' says Parker, "I grew up in homes with a lot of space. My aim has been to maximise and open up spaces, creating height and letting in the light wherever possible." The kitchen has also been transformed into a practical but subtly beautiful space, with functional, easy to clean Amtico floors, a Britannia double oven, a huge stainless steel fridge and Pronorm kitchen units.

The conservatory also doubles up as a playroom, which leads out to the pretty 85' garden - so the fact that the three spaces are linked makes it an ideal living space for a family with young children.

As well as creating spaces for the children to play in, Parker has made sure there is ample storage for all their paraphernalia. She has created a clever and carefully planned space for pushchairs, boots and coats, which are all housed downstairs in a utility room under the front of the house with its own separate entrance, disguising the clutter of everyday family life.

On the raised ground floor, taupe is the predominant colour. "Taupe has always been a very important colour in North American decorative schemes, but it was a colour rarely used here ten years ago," she points out. "I think it makes a beautiful backdrop for the silk curtains and textured upholstery fabrics in rich burgundy, purples, black and cream, as well as the art that we love to collect." Her curtains were made by Stuart Hands - "the best curtain maker in the world." On this floor there is also a study and a bathroom.

It is on the first floor, however, that Parker reckons she has been most successful. The ensuite bathroom has been featured in Bathrooms International magazine (another recommendation is that "Sue Kennon from Bathrooms International is a design genius") and has been opened up into a large, dramatic space, with a huge shower enclosed within three low walls with a large glass door. The fact that the walls are not full height allows the steam to escape, and makes the space feel much less oppressive, as well as allowing the lighting to reach the shower.

The lighting above the bathroom cupboards can be controlled to create a bright room for daytime or a more subdued, romantic atmosphere for late afternoons and evenings. "It's an incredibly indulgent room," she admits, "It's the room that I originally fell in love with when we first found the house. I particularly love the French doors opening from the bedroom."

Leading off from the bathroom is the bedroom, which still has the original sliding shutters on the windows; they are so beautifully made that the handles slide right back into the mouldings. The windows in here have been replaced with replicas of the originals with double panes, so they are completely draught- and sound-proof.

On the top floor there had been two large bedrooms, but Parker has created three smaller rooms, which has made space for a linen closet and a small WC, as well as changing the layout to open up the staircase.

Structurally, the house is in excellent shape. All the ceilings have been replaced and the lighting has been carefully planned to fit the needs and moods of each room, with halogen spots throughout. Electrics, plumbing and central heating and all the windows have all been renewed as they went along.

The family is moving out to the west of London because they would like to be nearer to their cottage in the Cotswolds. Parker says that her transformation of the house has been driven more by the desire to create "a really comfortable family home" than trying to make it saleable. But the combination of her inimitable style and the location of the house makes it likely that it will shift pretty quickly.

Get the spec

Floorplan: 206 square metres

What's for sale: four-bedroom house, two bathrooms, conservatory, utility room, study, 85 foot garden,

Serious Kit: original ornate cornicing, windows, spacious living areas.

Buy it: £995,000, Foxton's Islington office (020 7704 5000)