Me And My Home: Lorenzo Apicella

An architect has transformed this gloomy terrace into a surprisingly spacious home, discovers Mary Wilson
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The Independent Online

I bought the house in the summer of 1999 and in spring 2000 I moved in. It had a typical two-up, two-down lay-out. The couple who owned it had the rear bedroom on the first floor and their daughter the bedroom at the front. But to get to the bathroom, she had to go through her parents' room, which was very strange.

I was living nearby in a flat, but wanted a place big enough to be a family home, but also which had space that was easily managed. My 12-year-old son comes to stay with me every weekend, but during the week I travel a lot and am hardly ever there.

I was looking for a small house, where I could connect two living rooms into one. I wanted to put a pool table in one area, as my son loves playing it. I also wanted a roof terrace, which I prefer as a space to enjoy, rather than the garden, which I use for football.

The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, so it is very quiet, and it's easy to get into my office in Notting Hill. I wanted to stay in the area as my son and ex-wife live a mile away and I have always liked Chiswick because of Chiswick Park, Kew and Strand on the Green. I walk to Strand on the Green in the evening and it's beautiful. It feels like you have left London behind, like the sea when the tide goes out. I can really relax here.

The house had very economical dimensions, but was struggling to draw light into it. But these little cottages have the ability to transform themselves. They are like a Tardis - they look small from the outside, but once you're inside, they open themselves up. The whole exercise in converting it was about bringing in light, which is why I designed and put in full height glass doors. These are actually fire doors with laminated frames and a white interlayer between two pieces of glass, so it is shiny on both sides. They work very nicely, I think.

Because the ground floor of the house was the darkest part, I turned the living rooms into two bedrooms, but as these have 10ft-high ceilings, they still have a generous feel to them. I have put the living space on the first floor because the light is so much better there. Also, I could scoop into the roof space to make it double height and it enabled me to design a large room with interesting angles and shapes.

I put in a new staircase, which divides the room into two, and I kept the chimney breasts, as they animate the space. I like the structural look they give to the walls, and I shaped the staircase to match the angles created by the chimneys. The sloping ceiling also has four Velux windows, and even on an overcast day the room is very bright.

The light bounces off the pale oak flooring, which is everywhere except in the bathroom, making the white walls warm rather than cold. I come from Italy, and the light is so much better there. It does exist in London, but it is difficult to find because you're low down.

Here, it's wonderful because when you wake up, you wake up to light every morning. There's a lovely cherry tree outside the living-room window, which is magical when it's in bloom. The room is great bathed in moonlight, too. I also collect art in a modest way when I can and I like to have the pictures lit by real, rather than artificial, light. One I bought from a gallery in Turnham Green, another from Moira McConnell, who is the wife of my partner. Another is a maquette from an Italian artist, of which my brother has the original.

The sculpture on the wall is, in fact, a wing tip made out of super-vacuum-formed aluminium, made for an exhibition I designed for British Airways. I used to have it in my office, but here it catches and throws the light rather dramatically. The shelving system was designed in the 1970s by Dieter Rams. It's sold through Vitsoe in Wigmore Street, London W1, and it looks as good now as it did all those years ago. Most of my furniture I have acquired through projects I've worked on.

The bathroom is the only room I have kept for its original use, although I have changed it a little. Now it has studded rubber flooring, new fittings and an original Victorian bath. I have also kept the two Victorian cast-iron fireplaces, which were in the bedrooms. That's what I like about the house - the fact that I haven't done a complete make-over. It is easy to deplete any memory of a house or to gut it and give it a completely new look, but I wanted a balance of new with old.

The garden, which is quite secluded because of the silver birches I planted at the end, is mainly lawn with honeysuckle on one side and bamboo on the other, so I can play football and cricket with my son. Flowerbeds don't withstand balls being kicked around very well.

I didn't intend to do so much to the house, but like every old property, you think you can restrict work to a small area, but once you start you are compelled to carry on going. I replaced all the windows, replastered all the walls, built a new roof, new parapets and built out at the back on the first floor to make the kitchen/dining room and the roof terrace. The roof terrace is lovely at the end of the day. Because it faces west, it gets every last drop of light.

This was the first comprehensive project I've done for myself, and the only reason I am selling is because I have bought a plot close by, where I am going to build a new house. It's difficult working for yourself because you have to weigh up all your ambitions with what is possible and strike a happy balance.

Lorenzo Apicella's Chiswick house is for sale through Faron Sutaria (020-8994 4111) for £550,000.