Buy Of The Week: Little Venice

Two theatre producers have turned a drab 1960s pub into an Austin Powers-style home. Rosalind Russell reports
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The Independent Online

The Millers had bought a 1960s pub, The Gondolier, in west London, and had planned to gut it and redevelop it as an office. At the time they were living in a Georgian house in Islington, just down the road from the Blairs (pre their move to No 10). John had already renovated that property from the ground up.

"The pub was still running right up to the end to the end of its lease," says John, "so the customers drank up until Friday night and left, and we had the keys on the Monday morning. What is now our sitting room had walls panelled in mahogany tongue-and-groove, with carpets running up the bar and the walls, and a fake brass chandelier hanging from the ceiling."

The Millers had already decided on a contemporary refit when they saw the inspirational structure at the theatre. "The chap who built the set told us as it was toughened glass it couldn't be cut to a different size, so our screens had to be built to order. He also helped to design our dining table."

The opaque screens now divide the main living area from John and Danya's work area, and their bedroom from that of their four-year-old daughter, Sofie.

The family occupies the whole building, which serves as both a living and working space. Their renovation efforts were helped by the fact that they both work in the theatre – they produced, co-wrote and co-directed All You Need Is Love in the West End, and John took Blood Brothers to Broadway, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. As a result, they had many designer contacts to call on for help.

"Restoring property is very similar to producing theatre shows," says Danya. "You get in a good design team and a good building team. There is something immensely satisfying about bringing something to life. We also bought, renovated and sold a flat in Paris."

Their heavy, lined silver crushed velvet curtains were made by a company that designs and makes curtains for the stage. John took the concept behind the traditional theatre curtain and came up with a solution for windows that have a radiator underneath. To avoid losing heat when the curtains are closed, he had another pair made to hang inside. The long ones remain closed while the short ones glide together to skim the top of the radiator and keep the heat in.

The street-level rooms are private but full of light, which filters in through clear glass bricks and bounces off walls of silvered white. More dramatic are the tracks of theatre lighting running around the ceiling. Made by Stage Electrics and controlled by a chrome touch-panel on the wall, they can be programmed to change colour and shape. The panel also includes a control for the mirrored ball which hangs from the ceiling.

To avoid the intrusion of a television set, a huge screen rolls down from the ceiling. Programmes are routed from a receiver via an overhead projector to the screen. "It means when you're watching the rugby, you can stand beside the screen and be the same height as Jonny Wilkinson," says John. "We are very popular when the rugby is on TV and get lots of calls from friends." The room is also big enough to hold a 21-piece black leather sofa bought in Switzerland. But it probably won't be going to the Millers' next home.

"When I sold the Islington house, I sold all the furniture apart from a railway regulator clock," says John. "I'm not a hoarder. I'd sell everything in this building. If I was buying this house, I wouldn't want to put my own furniture in because everything here feels right for the room. It was made for it."

That includes a Bisque radiator/mirror called, appropriately The Hollywood, an arched Art Deco-style piece designed for bathrooms. It would normally have shelving behind the mirror, but John replaced it with a blue light strip, to echo the dark blue of the ceiling. It's a restful spot for the family collie, Fluke.

The Millers' house is enormous (more than 4,800 sq ft over four floors) and has a large roof garden, a terrace and a recording studio. John has made three albums with Beatles' producer George Martin, and done many shows with theatre impresario Bill Kenwright.

The Millers' next renovation project will mean that they have to leave London. "We have seen a farm in Warwickshire that we're interested in that has six acres of land. We will miss the immediacy of London – everything is so close. We are only 20 minutes from the West End. But we will be closer to family and it will be good for Sofie to be brought up in the country."

2 Lord Hills Road, London W2, with five bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a sound studio, two kitchens, a roof garden and parking, is for sale at £1.25m through Hamptons International (020 7586 9595)

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