Men behaving proudly: Creating an airy masculine space without a beer can in sight
Friday 17 June 2011
There are many clichés that spring to mind when you imagine a London bachelor pad – giant flat-screen televisions erupting from every surface, anonymous hotel room style and very complex music systems.
Felix von Bechtolsheim's bachelor pad avoids every one of these stereotypes, and shatters a few other expectations, too. Flowers, candles and even a chandelier have found their way in to his Maida Vale duplex.
He has also worked on the principle that less is sometimes more, and so the £100,000 refurbishment project he carried out on the once run-down flat was not focused on maximising square footage.
In fact, he has sacrificed space for style. A loft extension has been elevated into a visual statement of intent: Von Bechtolsheim, an architect, created a mezzanine above his kitchen and dining room, the perfect relaxing space to retire after dinner parties. And he reduced the number of bedrooms from three to two to create a spacious room for himself, large enough for a roll-top bath.
He also made use of an ugly flat roof, now a sun trap of a terrace with views of the treetops of west London. Which all sounds lovely, but it is surely not a template for other young buyers hoping to build up a little equity in their homes?
"At one point development was all about creating little boxes," says Von Bechtolsheim, 34. "There are shedloads of that kind of thing on the market, but I think quality is making a bit of a comeback and you can make more money on a good two-bedroom flat than a poky three-bedroom one."
He bought the apartment back in 2009 for £450,000. Von Bechtolsheim, an associate director at architects Collado Collins, chose to move to the less fashionable end of Maida Vale – it is uncomfortably close to the Harrow Road.
The flat is in a grand Victorian terrace but was in a shabby state. "It had been rented out to a bunch of guys," says Von Bechtolsheim. "I don't want to call it a dump, but it was not amazing." What attracted him was the location on the fringes of a more desirable area – it is always a clever move to invest as close to a really good address as you can. That it was on the top floor of a building with an attic was the clincher.
As soon as he had secured the property he set about charming his neighbours. The flat came with a share of the freehold, so all the owners had a stake in the loft. Von Bechtolsheim's plans hinged on being able to appropriate the space.
The deal the neighbours agreed was to allow him to build into the attic in return for refurbishing the communal areas, which cost him about £5,000. They also stood to benefit from the repair work he would need to carry out to the roof. Despite the extensive reconfiguration, only the terrace required planning permission. Westminster council made no objection and planning consent was secured quickly. Work on the six-month project began last June.
The project cost six figures but Von Bechtolsheim believes his home is now worth between £650,000 and £680,000 – representing a decent return during a recession.
Having a mezzanine "ledge" means that he also has a double-height dining room leading out to the terrace, with the kitchen area tucked beneath the mezzanine. The living room is reached via a flight of surprisingly effective plywood stairs fitted with a glass balustrade. A glazed rectangle has been cut in the floor, giving a view down the stairs, and another allowing people to peep into his bedroom.
Not only has the mezzanine got a lot more wow factor than a traditional loft, but it was cheaper to create, too. "It would also have been pretty poky with flat ceilings," he says. "For me, this is my bachelor pad. I have got a really good entertaining space. I can seat 15 people around the table and my bedroom is huge, too."
The bedroom also has the only boy's toy in evidence: a projector that descends from the pitched ceiling so that he can watch films in bed. The decision to opt for spacious rooms extends to the monochrome bathroom and the second bedroom, which Von Bechtolsheim rents to a friend. The flat is furnished with a collection of heirlooms, gifts and junk shop finds.
The kitchen work surface is reclaimed iroko hardwood, sourced from architectural salvage specialists Retrouvius (retrouvius.com), while the white units are Ikea. The long, skinny dining table was once in a pub. Many of the paintings are by people von Bechtolsheim knows. "I like things that have some sort of history behind them," he says. "I don't want everything minimal. That can be so bland."
For more information about Felix von Bechtolsheim's work and interiors projects, visit www.designbyfelix.com
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