Property: Stepping Stones - One family's property story

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The Independent Online
IT WAS the usual things that prompted designer Charlotte and trompe l'oeil artist Adam Calkin's first purchase back in 1987: "Everyone else was buying. We'd got married, I was pregnant and we needed more space. It was all settling-down type stuff."

Because of their professions the Calkins needed workspace, so their choice of home was unconventional: a pounds 70,000 shop in Camberwell.

After getting planning permission to convert it from commercial to residential use and at a cost of around pounds 10,000, they turned it into two flats: "We couldn't afford to live in the whole thing, so we bought it partly as a speculative venture."

The speculation paid off. In 1990 they sold the top- floor flat for pounds 30,000 and their own flat for pounds 75,000 - Charlotte was again pregnant and they had decided to move out of London: "We couldn't afford a house with a garden in a good area."

They chose Wiltshire, where Charlotte's family live, for its easy access to London, but moved to a town not a village: "That would have been too great a shock to my system." They paid pounds 80,000 for a three-bedroomed, detached Edwardian house with an 80ft garden and apple tree. They restored the house which "hadn't been touched for 40 years" and settled down to a new life.

By January 1995 the couple felt secure enough for the next step: village life. They sold for pounds 87,000 and rented while they searched for an "unusual house with lots of space". In February they found it: a Georgian, double- fronted former antiques shop. There was no kitchen, bathroom or any of the normal prerequisites of a growing family but it was "incredibly cheap for the space" at pounds 135,000.

After getting change of use for the shop, Charlotte set about turning it into a home. The raw nature of the building allowed them to site rooms where they liked, including putting the kitchen in the heart of the house rather than at the back: "We spend all our time in here and the children can play while I cook."

Two children later, the attic space was made into rooms for the eldest children, creating a six-bedroomed, two-bathroomed house. The restoration was costly, at around pounds 30,000, but the house is unrecognisable thanks to Adam's inventiveness. His work takes him all over the world but his own home has given him the opportunity to try out his wilder ideas.

There are many surprises; a trail of footprints leads from the bathroom to a hall where Adam has decorated the staircase with Chinese symbols inspired by a takeaway menu.

The house is very special; so Charlotte believes that any future buyers would also need to be special. But it's hard to see why they would ever want to sell: "It's been a big financial risk but we didn't do this for re-sale value."

Adam Calkin's trompe l'oeil: 01225 702177

Ginetta Vedrickas

Those moves in brief:

1987 - bought Camberwell shop for pounds 70,000, sold two flats for pounds 30,000 & pounds 75,000.

1990 - bought Wiltshire Edwardian house for pounds 80,000, sold for pounds 87,500.

1995 - bought former antiques shop for pounds 135,000, now worth pounds 250,000.

If you would like your moves to be featured write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 will be awarded for the best story printed by 31 June