Gerard Evanden has worked on a variety of projects for Foster & Partners, including apartments in Sydney and a railway station in Florence and has completely redesigned the three flats in which he lived in Prince of Wales Drive, south-west London
I have lived in the road for 10 years and the flats have evolved as my life has changed. The first I lived in when I was single, the second when I met my wife, Helen. We finished this one in Norfolk Mansions the day before we got married. Now we have a baby, Florence, who is eight months, and we feel we need a larger place.
"I love it here as it is such as beautiful area and must be one of the only places in London that is opposite a park and still be affordable. Foster & Partners is just a few minutes' walk away and Helen works three days a week at the Royal College of Art, so it is perfect in terms of location. I also travel a huge amount, so it's fantastic for Helen because it is very secure and we have very nice neighbours.
"When we moved in, the plan of the flat was all over the place. I have changed this all around, putting the public rooms at the front so they relate to the park and all the private rooms - bedrooms and bathrooms - at the back, where the sun rises. I have moved all the walls, so much so that one of the neighbours knocked on the door to ask if the building was going to fall down - there were so many bricks being taken out through the windows. Some walls have been put back to re-create space. For example, there was no hallway before, you just walked through a small door into the living room, and two other small rooms. Now there is an entrance hall that opens in the large open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen on the side wall.
"We lived with our builders, Martin and Paul Flower, who are father and son and friends of ours, for two months while I did the drawings. It is the only way to understand the space and find out what we liked and didn't like. They slept in the kitchen, we lived in one room at the back. They specialise in refurbishing large stately homes and because we were in the flat all the time, we could think and discuss things like what height the doors and breaks in the walls should be to give the flat a grander feel.
"All the door heights are 2.7m, which makes the space feel more generous and I was also concerned that the doors had weight, as they do in country houses, so I spent a lot of money having them made especially. It is also very important to me the way a door is swung. When you enter a bedroom, the door should open away from the wall, so it gives you a bit of privacy if you are in bed. This is the sort of thing so often forgotten in residential developments.
"We designed the baby's room as a study, but it could easily be another double bedroom if you took the shelves out. The reason that there is a large curved corner is so that we could display our 1929 petrol pump. This was an early roadside pump which I gave it to Helen as a wedding present as she is the expert in the UK on petrol pump design. The concave side of the curve is in the hallway and this makes a perfect alcove for the pump. I think it is very important when you walk into an apartment that you have a surprise, and then to have the view.
"Another thing wrong with the flat was that the bathroom was at the end of the corridor so that from the toilet you could see right across to the neighbours opposite. So I moved around the doors and put in a wall at the end of the corridor.
"You need to have masses of storage, especially if you have a family, so I created floor-to-ceiling wardrobes in the bedroom and in the corner of one room, where there is the old hoist of the building, I boxed that in and used the space around it for all our archive files.
"I have put the washing machine in a deep cupboard in the bathroom - I thought it should be in the kitchen, but Helen insisted it should be there and she was right. The splayed corner left by the old chimney has made a wonderful triangular space to put in a vacuum cleaner and ironing board. To hide all the plumbing, I built a double wall, which also makes fantastic shelf space and because all the buildings here have raised floors, I was able to put the shower tray into floor, so the floor is flush and the whole room becomes a wet room. When you walk into the bathroom, it is very clean and tidy with no clutter. It is all hidden away.
"In the kitchen, we wanted a big fridge so I built out a wall to house it. Then we wondered what to do with the space over it, so we put in a wine rack. Behind that we have a huge space that we can just pour stuff into.
"The success of the flat for us is that we can live in it in an uproar, but if people are coming over it only takes 15 minutes for all the clutter to be put away. Our friends can't believe how we have it so tidy. I don't mind living in chaos for three months or so in terrible conditions, as long as I can live in the property for a couple of years after it's finished and during that time keep it absolutely perfect.
"Doing the three flats has been a learning curve for when we build our own house. One of the things I find so frustrating at the moment is all the programmes on the television that make it seem so easy and so cheap to alter rooms. People get the idea you can do major work for nothing and it is dead easy, but it isn't - you need to know what you are doing."
The three-bedroom first-floor apartment in Norfolk Mansions is for sale at £550,000 through John D Wood (020-7228 0174)Reuse content