Buy Of The Week: South Kensington

A once poky central London flat has been opened up and given the ultimate makeover by its developer owner, as Mary Wilson discovers
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The Independent Online

When Amanda Hayles contemplated the refurbishment of a 2,387 sq ft ground-floor apartment on the corner of Gloucester Road and Brompton Road in SW7, she felt quite daunted. Although she could see it had great potential, the flat was in a dreadful state.

When Amanda Hayles contemplated the refurbishment of a 2,387 sq ft ground-floor apartment on the corner of Gloucester Road and Brompton Road in SW7, she felt quite daunted. Although she could see it had great potential, the flat was in a dreadful state.

"It had been owned by a lady who was born there, and nothing had been done to it for the last 50 years," she says. "There were piles of 50s and 60s newspapers and magazines at the top of the cupboards and the tiny kitchen at the back was disgusting, with a rusty old cooker, cracked lino and evidence of vermin. It was very gloomy, poky and smelly, but I loved the location of the apartment, as well as its wonderful high ceilings and great proportions."

The first thing she had to do was to open up the flat, to bring in the light, taking out all the cupboards in the hallway to enlarge it and removing the wall dividing the dining room from the reception room to make one large, and impressive, entertaining area.

"All the internal doors, which were horrid, had glass panels over them," she says. "I ripped all those out and replaced them with huge solid American black walnut doors, three metres high. But because the ceilings are so high, there is still a metre above them."

To bring more light into the central hallway, the large folding doors leading into the drawing room have thick walnut frames with glazed centres and for the kitchen, which used to be a bedroom and was particularly gloomy, Hayles came up with a nifty idea.

It now looks as if daylight pours through the large glass etched sash window.

"That window looked onto a small lightwell, which was why the kitchen was so dark," she says. "So I made a double window with a light box in between. In the day time the light is white, but at night you can switch it to a soft blue glow, which is much nicer if you want to go to the kitchen in the night."

Throughout the apartment, she has added contemporary features such as uplighting and low level lighting in the hallway, but Hayles decided to leave the deep cornicing and skirtings to keep some of the building's integrity.

"I have also put in the wiring and support for chandeliers in the drawing room, hallway and master bedroom should a purchaser want them," she says.

And because of the depth of the architrave around the windows, she has been able to put secondary glazing in front of the original sash windows without it looking out of place. This is a good thing, as the flat is on a busy corner.

At the rear of the apartment, she has turned the old, grubby kitchen into a bedroom with en-suite bathroom and where a former bedroom and bathroom was, Hayles has created a stunning en-suite dressing room and bathroom for the master bedroom.

"I have never spent so much on a bathroom before, but I found the free standing Agape double ended bath and matching circular basins, which look fabulous here. These cost £7,000," she says. She put in a raised limestone floor, so that all the plumbing could go underneath without disturbing the flat below, and had bespoke walnut furniture built in the dressing area.

Hayles has been a builder/developer for 12 years, running her company from Balham, but found the requirements of purchasers north of the river quite different to those she is used to catering for in Wandsworth and Clapham.

"South of the river, I would have put in oak rather than walnut flooring, used Neff appliances rather than Gaggenau and never spent so much on the bathrooms. But the selling agents have been very helpful in advising me on what people are looking for in this part of London."

Even her electrician had to take a course before he could install the wiring for the plasma TVs and lighting circuits. There is also a music system wired to all the principal rooms and because she did not want music from the flat spreading throughout the building, she has put little freestanding speakers in the corners of the rooms instead of built-in ones.

One of her neatest ideas was to hide the 42in plasma screen in the drawing room behind a picture over the limestone fireplace, which is also new. With a touch of a button, the painting slides away to reveal the screen. If you do not like the painting you can change it.

Hayles has also furnished the apartment, something she has done in all her projects - whether new build or refurbishment.

"I feel it gives people a better idea of the lifestyle. Empty spaces can be very difficult to visualise how they will look like once furnished," she says.

So the rooms have an uncluttered feel, decorated in muted colours - a soft sandy colour on the walls with white everywhere else and with furnishings in browns and creams with touches of black to tone in with the black American walnut on the floors. In the bedrooms, there are soft cream carpets and limestone in all the bath and shower rooms.

"I have a lock-up, where I keep a store of furniture, but I had to buy quite a lot of new stuff for this flat. I normally don't bother to look in style magazines or look round furniture shops as I knew the market backwards south of the river. But this time, I had to do a bit more research," she says.

The result is the occasional period piece, with most of the furniture modern or retro, including some funky touches such as a clear perspex chair in one bathroom and two white tulip-shaped seats and a matching table in the kitchen.

Number 1, Cranley Mansions at 160 Gloucester Road, SW7 is on the market for £2.25m. Through John D Wood (020 7835 0000) and Savills (020 7730 0822)