Buy Of The Week: Putney

An architect works his magic on a modern home in Putney
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The Independent Online

When architect Stas Louca and his wife Leslie finally came across their house in Ardshiel Close, Putney, in 2003, they had almost given up hope of finding a contemporary building in the area. Well known for its Victorian and Edwardian architecture, its riverside location and great travel connections, Putney isn't exactly overburdened with modern buildings.

But Louca was adamant that he wanted a modern home, and his choice was based on more than just aesthetics. "Period houses tend to be more fussy in their detailing, but with modern buildings, less is often more. Older properties often have fewer open-plan spaces and were built at a time when children were supposed to be seen but not heard. This is why you see many period houses being totally refurbished."

When Louca first saw the Seventies development in Ardshiel Close, he knew he had found the exception to the rule. "The house seemed to have remained untouched since it was built. In its day, it was obviously an incredibly modern design, incorporating advanced ideas." These include open-treaded stairs, balustrades and a cantilevered top floor.

Unfortunately, the architect who designed the house had decided that his vision of modernity needed preserving, and had imposed a covenant preventing any alterations from being made, inside or out. Before Louca could proceed with the purchase, he needed to have this removed. "I think I can understand why the restriction had been put in place. The cohesiveness of the exterior is important and I appreciate the desire to protect it from alteration. The interiors have to be adapted, though, because we live differently today than we did in 1970."

The house, one of 20 that forms a cul-de-sac, is a three-storey building with a cantilevered second floor and a top storey that forms a mansard to the roof. Originally the ground floor contained a garage and a bedroom/study that led on to the garden. The sitting room and kitchen were on the second floor, with two bedrooms and the bathroom on the top.

"We wanted this modern building because of its clean lines and its uncluttered spaces. Space and light were original key features, which we admired. Our idea was to retain the overall aesthetic, but to make a few additional architectural moves," says Louca.

That the kitchen was on the middle floor had its practical disadvantages, so Louca decided to rearrange the layout, identifying the changes in the way people live 30 years on. "In the 1970s cooking was less important than it is today. The kitchen is now seen as the hub of the home." Having removed the wall of the integral garage, Louca pushed it backwards, leaving a small workshop area in its place, and a large open kitchen area with access to the garden.

The German-made Solarlux doors to the garden can be folded back completely or opened separately, and at their fullest extent, the garden almost becomes part of the kitchen. With the family's computers in the same part of the house, the ground floor is now a space where they can spend evenings together even if they are doing different things.

Storage has been added in the form of long benches containing cupboards, which hold everything from tennis balls to bottles of wine. Louca's choice of understated interior finishes reflect his view that the inhabitants add colour and texture to the environment. Stainless-steel worktops and white painted cupboards combined with a rich walnut floor to provide a warm, subtle background.

"I love the patina that the stainless steel has developed with time. The millions of little scratches really bring it to life - something that is often overlooked with this particular material," says Louca.

Without the kitchen and dining room there was space on the middle floor for the master bedroom, en-suite wet-room and walk-in wardrobe. Louca considered the shower an essential concession to 21st-century life, while the wet room has floor-to-ceiling chocolate-coloured mosaic tiles, with the WC and basin behind a glass baffle. Louca also commissioned a wooden bed with built-in side tables that complements the sleek lines of the house.

Large sliding doors separate the bedroom from the sitting room, which is an adaptable space that could be converted into an extra living area if required. Skylights run along the ceiling that were originally made of opaque wired glass. Unfortunately they were draughty in the winter and stifling in the summer, so were replaced with double glazing. Allowing maximum daylight to reach the interior but minimising solar gain, these replacements also mean that the night sky is now visible from the master bedroom.

Louca has also replaced the glazing in a large floor-to-ceiling window in the bedroom area with a frameless panel of safety glass. The living room is equipped with further storage benches and full-height bookcases on one side. Chrome pendant lights from the 1950s provide delicate highlights.

Lighting is a key element throughout the house, and Louca has used it to illuminate paintings and work areas, while there are recessed lights in the walls enclosing the staircase.

On the top floor the children have a bedroom each, and their own bathroom. "This gives them a sense of autonomy, but we are still close enough to provide security," says Louca.

The family is moving away to New Zealand, and has decided to sell the house. "Naturally we are sad to be leaving," says Louca. "The area is one of the best in London - Richmond Park, Putney Common and the Thames are nearby - but you can't get emotionally attached to buildings. Being an architect, you get used to this, because at the end of every project you hand over the keys to the client."

Ardshiel Close is for sale through Douglas and Gordon's Putney office (020-8788 3000) for £650,000 freehold