TV PRESENTER Pips Taylor and fiancé Tom, a virtual reality entrepreneur, decided to move from rented accommodation and buy their own place in 2014 — but like many first-time buyers discovered that buying something they liked, and could afford, was a bit of a challenge.
‘We knew we wanted to live in the Islington or Canonbury area, and were prepared to look at all sorts of things,’ says Pips, 32. They looked at properties being sold at auction — and had visited a flat they were keen on. ‘The drawback was it was up eight flights of stairs — and it sold for three times the amount it was listed at, so we couldn’t have afforded it anyway.’
But soon afterwards they found their current home in nearby Newington Green — a two-bedroom flat in a converted cat food factory. ‘We realised how lucky we were to see it and put an offer in almost straight away.’
They set about making changes immediately. The flat was originally all plastered and painted white. Pips decided to sandblast the walls to expose the brickwork. ‘It was a bit too much having it all white,’ she says. ‘You want textures and colours in a room to anchor it.’
They also decided to rewire the place, put in a new kitchen, window frames and underfloor heating. They went for an eco-friendly type of heating, involving recycled car tyres, from UK Warm Floor. To keep with the environmental theme, the new flooring is all from a reclamation yard, while the kitchen worktops were previously tabletops from a school chemistry laboratory.
The work took several months and the couple were living in the house at the time. ‘I wouldn’t recommend living in a place while you’re sandblasting it,’ laughs Pips. ‘The only thing that worked was the bathroom. We were sleeping on a camp bed and every morning we’d have to get up and wrap our stuff up in plastic. It took two weeks just to sandblast the walls.
‘I enjoyed it but after a while you just want to be able to sit down somewhere comfortable. We only had two garden chairs.’ The kitchen, in a large alcove in the open-plan living room, is neatly designed. Storage has been maximised with cupboards that stretch up to the ceiling — although Pips jokes that at 5ft 1in tall she can’t reach the higher shelves.
It was built by a carpenter, who was just about to retire, and recommended by a relative and the paint is a custom-made colour from Papers And Paints in Chelsea. The trendy industrial style hanging lights were bought on eBay.
The living room is an unusual shape — with one wall jutting out at an angle to accommodate the large windows.
Pips overcame layout problems using a curved sofa at the centre of the room. She’s still chuffed with her purchase. ‘It’s a B&B Italia sofa, we got it at an auction house and it was an absolute steal. We built the room around it.’ The silver metal storage boxes Pips uses as bedside tables were also bought at auction.
The brickwork in the living room has been broken up with a lot of artwork — Pips aims to eventually have one wall completely covered in pictures. There’s a large Hockney print above a wooden side unit bought from a local second-hand shop, a Picasso print of a bullfighter that Pips bought on holiday when she was 16, and pop art by Warhol and Lichtenstein.
Further colour has been added in the bathroom — Pips painted it purple. ‘It looks a bit hectic but it’s actually relaxing — and it looks different to the rest of the place,’ she says. Butterfly art was from a jumble sale and put in a frame from Ikea.
‘I guess the theme is quite loft-y, even though it isn’t a loft,’ says Pips. ‘I’m from the Lancashire moors so I like the country cottage look but that wouldn’t have worked in this space.’
Her concession to the countryside is her collection of Emma Bridgewater mugs. ‘Tom says they don’t go with the flat but I love them,’ she says.
After doing so much work to the place how long does think she’ll stay here? ‘Maybe five to ten years,’ she says. ‘If we’re blessed to have a family we’d outgrow it.
‘I love London but don’t want to be here forever. I’m from the country and want to have a house there one day. But if money was no object I’d like to have a house there and keep this.’