TELEVISION producer David Williams stumbled upon quite the gem when he found this lofty apartment in a former boys, girls and infants’ Victorian school in Bethnal Green. The old red brick building is close to the leafy Regent’s Canal, within spitting distance of east London’s trendiest bars and restaurants, yet is tucked away inside a gated area, almost out of sight.
When David bought it 14 years ago, the East End had yet to undergo its dramatic regeneration. But with the area now arguably the trendiest in London, Bow Brook’s almost secret location is even more of an asset today.
And David and his partner Hannah’s highly creative renovations to their 1,052sq ft, two-bedroom, airy apartment have only added to its appeal.
The entrance is through one of the original doors to the boys’ school, where the ancient plaque still sits above the door. But inside is an eclectic blend of art, style, history and contemporary living.
‘The building was converted in the 1980s and was a bit tired. There was a country style kitchen and pale pine floorboards,’ says David. ‘I remember the master bedroom was purple. It felt as if you were in a womb.
‘It was divided up — there were more walls than we have now — and had a big, wooden staircase. Basically it was a very traditional two-bedroom flat.’
Not any more. After a redesign by David and Hannah, in collaboration with London and Berlin-based design studio Vandelvelt, a white metal mesh spiral staircase leads from the entrance foyer up to the kitchen, office and second bedroom (which is now dressed as a snug) and allows light to flood through the metal’s perforated surface.
The floors upstairs are now painted white and there are windows everywhere throughout the apartment, from the one in the pretty bathroom (downstairs) with its slate and green tiles, shower and standalone roll-top bath, to another in the streamlined kitchen with its Belfast sink and some quirky steel uplighting.
A second set of wooden stairs leads down to the living room on the ground floor, which has double-height ceilings and enormous, arched windows offering glimpses of the canal. Warm-hued, original oak parquet floors and two-toned exposed brickwork give a nod to the building’s previous incarnation.
There are splashes of colour and creativity everywhere. The living room boasts huge replica factory lights, the master bedroom has a bold and fabulous feature wall of gold flock wallpaper, while inside the remodelled entrance there are walls of deep blue in stark contrast to the white metal spiral staircase. Shutters that open onto the landing/office area from the second bedroom are painted in teal and mustard hues.
The master bedroom, with built-in wardrobes, and the bathroom are both downstairs with windows overlooking quiet, landscaped, private grounds and a private parking area. It’s unusual for an apartment to have such an appealing dual aspect.
There’s oodles of storage, too, cleverly tucked under the stairs, while near the entrance of the apartment, steel mesh bookshelves echo the design of the steel spiral staircase.
David and Hannah have used the lofty walls as a gallery for their collection of prints, paintings, pop art and neon signs, giving this apartment a cool East End-meets-Manhattan loft vibe, while the whole roof of the building has been converted to a spacious communal terrace with far-reaching views across east London.
David says: ‘The greatest achievement in our apartment was the renovation and the steel staircase, with a mesh which lets in light. There was an element of risk in the steel addition. We didn’t want to move away from the history or integrity of the building, but it works perfectly and has given us a lot of extra light and space.’
Bow Brook is one of the few large Victorian buildings to remain in this area after the war, and the building occupies a wonderfully quiet spot with Victoria Park, Broadway Market and Columbia Road all within easy walking distance.
Bethnal Green is now one of east London’s most established neighbourhoods, home to a thriving range of pubs, cafés and restaurants such as E Pellicci, Tayyabs and The Approach Tavern, together with a new wave of bars and eating places on Paradise Row.
David says he and Hannah have fallen in love with the East End and will look for a new property in the area, but he admits it won’t be easy to find something as stylish as this one.
‘We’ve just loved it here,’ he says. ‘It’s a great flat in a great location. But we’ve been here 14 years. It’s simply time for a change.’
■ Bow Brook, Gathorne Street, £730,000, leasehold with a share of freehold, themodernhouse.com
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