The home that changes colour

What do you do if you live in a gloomy basement flat? You could steal some ideas from architect Ian Hogarth and transform it into a radically different sort of family apartment
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The Independent Online

It is quite an feat to transform a gloomy, dank, two-bedroom basement flat, of which at least a third is corridor, into a light and funky apartment with three bedrooms, oodles of light and an even larger quota of fun. But this is exactly what architect Ian Hogarth has done in his extraordinary home in Courtfield Gardens, in Kensington, London. Although most people would have blanched at the thought of it, Hogarth was not overly daunted, having done several similarly miraculous conversions in the past, including a smaller basement flat in Ifield Road which was his and and his wife's previous home.

"I realised I had to open out part of the corridor and to do this I had to put in a huge steel support, like a massive picture frame. Taking away a chunk of wall has made all the difference," he says. "There was no problem with planning, just a little persuasion needed to get the open-plan room through fire regulations".

As soon as you step through the oversize front door and turn right into the apartment, you are aware that only someone with an eye to the best use of space could have designed the apartment to be the way it is now. At the end of the corridor - all 63 feet of it - is a mirrored door, lit by lights which alter as if by magic from pink to blue to green. Ian calls it the "colour change corridor".

Could this door be the end of the property, you think? But no, the whole apartment is like a Tardis, with hidden doors giving way to more rooms. Behind the mirrored door is the children's bedroom, with metal bunk beds, plenty of cupboard space and a blue ceiling.

In fact, one of the features of this apartment is the amount of cupboard space. Ian's wife, Claire Farrow, is passionate about tidiness and everything can be put away behind sliding, folding or ordinarily opening cupboard doors. Even the toaster and the kettle live neatly tucked away and most of the plugs are in cupboards, rather than on the wall.

"Ian is completely the opposite - very untidy. So is our daughter, Tilly, who is four years old. But Gilean, who is seven, takes after me," she says. The children have a whole section of flat to themselves, behind another large door that stays open most of the time so you can see the mirrored end of the corridor, but can be shut when necessary.

In this part, there is a large grey and beige mosaic-tiled bathroom with a frosted-glass sliding door and a sloping and draining floor which means water can be slopped everywhere without causing undue hassle. Along the opposite side of the corridor are oodles of cupboards and shelves where the children's toys and books are neatly stacked. Part of the wall into their bedroom is made of circular glass so the moving lights shine through, having the required soporific effect.

To the right of the bedroom is another cunningly hidden door, behind which is the third bedroom with a bright fuchsia wall and small internal courtyard. The living room is large, with a huge L-shaped orange sofa, a dining table simply made out of a wooden top resting on wooden trestles, a 'Platonic' fire with pebbles and false flames and under slate shelves, rows of - yes, you've guessed it - more cupboards. Above are large sliding cupboard doors behind which hide the plasma TV and more shelves.

The floor of most of the flat is unusual too; it is covered in poured white rubber. "Ian has used this flat to experiment with cutting-edge products," says Claire. "He wanted to push as far as he could. Now he can bring his clients here and show them exactly what he is talking about." Does it work? Yes, it does. The floor looks good and is easy to look after, as well as being toasty to walk on with stockinged or socked feet, because of the under-floor heating.

Further down the corridor is the kitchen on one side, with turquoise cupboard doors and a fitted double-oven and fridge/freezer. Then there is a wall of bright orange and turquoise glass mosaic tiles with a Corian work surface and five-burner gas hob. On the other side is a breakfast bar with hanging lights and really comfortable bar seats.

A little further down, just before the children's area, is another door leading into the master bedroom. This is in white, purple and red with a glass door into a fantastic red-and-white tiled "wet" room with a huge shower at one end, and a basin and loo at the other.

Ian and Claire have also installed a highly sophisticated electronic system which controls the lighting, heating and security from a small screen on the wall. "Just press 'TV evening or Dinner Party' and you get exactly the right mood," says Claire. And if someone breaks in, wherever they are, it rings the owners up and tells them exactly where the break-in has occurred.

The apartment, which has been featured in several publications and will be shown later in the year on Channel 4's Britain's Best Home, is for sale through Faron Sutaria (020-7590 0300) for £750,000. And if anyone fancies giving their small space a complete make-over, they can contact Ian Hogarth at Littman Goddard Hogarth on 020-7351 7871.