The florist Paula Pryke, 46, whose client list includes Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor, lives in The Flower House, a live/work space in Islington and has a house in Suffolk.
have lived at The Flower House since 1994. It is on the site of a disused garage that we pulled down. My husband, Peter, an architect, designed and built a live/work space.
We had been living in Islington and I was looking for more space for work and Peter wanted to build something. This site came up and we decided to put the two things together.
It was easy to get planning and the property took 18 months to build. The Flower House has three storeys: a workshop at street level and then two floors of living space. The original plan was based around a grid pattern. The steel columns supporting the property were spaced so that vehicles could be driven into the workshop. A van, funnily enough, needs the same amount of space as a double bed.
The steel-frame structure has Durox concrete blocks in between, which you can see because the walls are unplastered. The ceilings are the crinkly metal deck you get in petrol stations. There are floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the entire space. Houses like this were built in the US in the Fifties by Richard Neutra and were seen as a subversive way to live. A lot of his houses had amazing views of California - we look out on the Pentonville Road!
Downstairs is open-plan with a dining area at one end, a work area at the other and a sitting room and stainless-steel kitchen in the middle. Upstairs used to be open-plan, too. When The Flower House was first constructed, there were three bedrooms and two open bathrooms. Lengths of blue and white canvas made by sail-makers were suspended from the three circular roof lights and attached to the floor to give a degree of privacy, but it was radical. Over time, we changed upstairs, because guests found it intimidating. The toilets were behind glass doors, but even though the glass was frosted, people found them difficult. It's funny, people like to have a lock on the door, even if they know you! So five or six years ago, we compartmentalised the bathrooms. Houses that are very designed often end up being adapted.
Peter likes neutrals, so everything was white and grey at first. We added splashes of colour with the furniture and, as time's gone on, Peter's mellowed. I love floral patterns, but they are hard to live with and you can quickly tire of them. Even in our country place, I prefer stripes or spots. Some of our furniture came from The Conran Shop, or the direct-supply companies that architects have connections with. Most are classic design pieces, which are easy to get on websites at good prices. The two red sofas and the coffee table came from a shop called Aero in Westbourne Grove, which has now closed.
If there was a fire, I'd save my collection of cartoons by Mel Calman, the newspaper cartoonist, which are above my bed. Mel was a friend - he's dead now - and they have sentimental value. I'd also save my bespoke dressing table, which has lots of drawers and a secret compartment. A guy with the same surname as me, Nicholas Pryke, contacted me because he was having a private view. I went along and he made me several things including some vases, and the semicircular dressing table, which cost about £3,500. It's positioned under the circular roof light, in what used to be the third bedroom, which is now full of clothes.
Good storage is very important when you live in an open-plan house and both upstairs and down we have huge floor-to-ceiling cupboards with doors of etched glass. In the early days, the place was very uncluttered. The problem is, as life goes on, you get more stuff. To live in this kind of house successfully, you have to constantly declutter, which I'm not very good at.
The house is very warm and soon heats up like a greenhouse. We've electric fan heaters downstairs and under-floor heating upstairs. Under-floor heating is great unless you have moths. Moths love heat and in one of the bedrooms they've ruined the carpet.
The roof terrace needs replanting. The original scheme was by Dan Pearson, and included rosemary, bamboo and silver birches in containers. The silver birches are amazingly tall considering how much earth they are in. But when you put huge plants in containers, it's hard to get them out again! We used Iroko wood flooring on the terrace, the same as on the ground floor, the idea being that the terrace is an extension of the inside. Butthe wood outside is starting to crack up badly.
We bought our house near Newmarket in Suffolk three years ago. After nearly 10 years, the live/work space got a bit stressful. With both of us living and working here, we needed to have another place to escape to and began looking in Suffolk, which is where I'm from. Peter was anti the idea, but we began doing it up and going down for weekends. The weekends got longer, particularly for Peter, because his work's more flexible than mine, until he had a complete change of heart about the country and never really came back!
I spend about three nights a week at The Flower House, often over the weekend when I'm busy with weddings. Over time, my living situation has reversed, and now I am a London weekender.Reuse content