A Dated Victorian Town House in West London Turns into a Designers’ Family Den

·6 min read

A good home needs to fit like a glove. It needs space for every family member, room for every hobby or work-from-home need, and a design that uplifts and inspires its residents. So when Anna Burles and Chris Trotman, founders of London-based multidisciplinary design studio Run for the Hills, outgrew their 1890s workers’ cottage, they looked for a house with plenty of space for their two young kids but also enough room for grown-up zones.

BEFORE: Originally split into two separate apartments, the house lacked space for the family to hang out.
BEFORE: Originally split into two separate apartments, the house lacked space for the family to hang out.
AFTER: The extended family room opens up to a spacious garden at the back of the house, which is covered with fast-drying Astroturf and terrazzo tiles. “These glazed doors forced us to rush the garden design, because it obviously had to look good from day one," says Anna.
AFTER: The extended family room opens up to a spacious garden at the back of the house, which is covered with fast-drying Astroturf and terrazzo tiles. “These glazed doors forced us to rush the garden design, because it obviously had to look good from day one," says Anna.
Philip Durrant

During their search, they quickly realized that finding a done-up property within their budget wouldn’t allow them to leave their own creative stamp. “We’re designers after all,” Anna says. “We needed a project. Plus, it wouldn’t feel right ripping out a perfectly fine kitchen.” So they started looking for houses at a price point that would leave plenty of budget for a full-on renovation. The search eventually led them to a dated Victorian town house near Queen’s Park in West London that had been split into two apartments. “It wasn’t derelict, but it was in a really bad state,” Anna says. “If we hadn’t been interior designers, it would’ve been difficult to see the potential.”

Once the papers were signed, renovations started from the get-go. While London was largely locked down at the time (August 2020), the government still allowed construction activities, and their preferred construction partners had a gap in their schedule. “It was all hugely stressful,” Anna says. “I was designing almost as they were building.”

BEFORE: The original kitchen was located in the back of the house and was “really quite grim,” says Anna.
BEFORE: The original kitchen was located in the back of the house and was “really quite grim,” says Anna.
AFTER: Taking over the back of the house, including the original kitchen space, the inside-outside family room was widened with a side return extension, while roof lights brighten up the space. Part of the living room was done up in magnetic wallpaper to easily change the look and feel.
AFTER: Taking over the back of the house, including the original kitchen space, the inside-outside family room was widened with a side return extension, while roof lights brighten up the space. Part of the living room was done up in magnetic wallpaper to easily change the look and feel.
Philip Durrant

The team gutted the ground floor and reconfigured the layout to make space for a large family room and kitchen in the back. It was widened with a side return extension and brightened with roof lights and Crittall doors that open onto the garden. Tumbled herringbone floors add an old-timey touch, as do the vintage decorations (flea market finds, including a Batman biscuit tin and a bronze madonna in a glass cloche) and the brass picture rails from which many of Chris’s bespoke typographical artworks are suspended.

BEFORE: The bay-windowed front room. “Almost all of the original details had been stripped out,” says Anna. “We tried to keep the original cornicing, but it’s notoriously difficult to refurbish. We replaced it with something a little more ornate, which cost a fortune, but we felt we had to inject a little bit of heritage back into the building.”
BEFORE: The bay-windowed front room. “Almost all of the original details had been stripped out,” says Anna. “We tried to keep the original cornicing, but it’s notoriously difficult to refurbish. We replaced it with something a little more ornate, which cost a fortune, but we felt we had to inject a little bit of heritage back into the building.”
AFTER: For their “adult” living room. The couple opted for a split-level paint scheme with limewash paint on top to avoid accidental (and hard-to-restore) smudges by playing children. Most of the furniture came from their previous house and was reupholstered with bold-patterned fabrics, while the fireplace is a vintage find.
AFTER: For their “adult” living room. The couple opted for a split-level paint scheme with limewash paint on top to avoid accidental (and hard-to-restore) smudges by playing children. Most of the furniture came from their previous house and was reupholstered with bold-patterned fabrics, while the fireplace is a vintage find.
Philip Durrant

The room at the front was turned into an adult living room. “Our kids are a wonderful chaos,” Anna says. “And the family room is big enough for roller-skating and for their toys to get lost in. But we wanted the front room to be our space. The kids know they can’t trash it.” Setting these boundaries allowed the couple to work with their studio’s signature interplay of bold patterns and delicate fabric curtains and upholstery without having to worry about juice spills and paint smudges.

AFTER: The couple also installed a high-tech mood-lighting scheme throughout the house, allowing them to change the lighting in each room with the flick of a switch. “We don't often get to do that in our residential projects because it's so expensive,” Anna says. “So this was a treat to ourselves.”
AFTER: The couple also installed a high-tech mood-lighting scheme throughout the house, allowing them to change the lighting in each room with the flick of a switch. “We don't often get to do that in our residential projects because it's so expensive,” Anna says. “So this was a treat to ourselves.”
Philip Durrant

The “adult zone” extends to the second floor, where the primary bedroom and bathroom are located. The team extended the original bathroom to make space for an additional window, a large walk-in shower, and quirky details like a toilet bowl emblazoned with Chris’s custom graphic designs. “Our old bathroom was a war zone,” Anna says. “But because the kids now have their own bathroom upstairs, this one stays tidy.”

Next door, the primary bedroom takes over the brightest room in the house and was fitted with timber double wardrobes—each with antique-brass-mesh paneling and a custom-colored interior (Anna’s is baby pink, Chris’s is lipstick red). The original fireplace (which was “horrible,” Anna says) was replaced with a Flemish vintage one and fitted with a bioethanol burner. The adjoining room, separated by reeded-glass doors, is now a dressing room with a foldout couch for sleepovers.

BEFORE: “The original loft was nastily done and much smaller than we needed,” says Anna. “So we started over and turned it into a three-room space.”
BEFORE: “The original loft was nastily done and much smaller than we needed,” says Anna. “So we started over and turned it into a three-room space.”
AFTER: The team changed the directions of the stairs leading up to the loft and refitted the original “oddly shaped” bedroom as a kids’ bathroom. “Getting the loft extension approved took three rounds with the planning commission,” says Anna. “It was hugely complicated.”
AFTER: The team changed the directions of the stairs leading up to the loft and refitted the original “oddly shaped” bedroom as a kids’ bathroom. “Getting the loft extension approved took three rounds with the planning commission,” says Anna. “It was hugely complicated.”
Philip Durrant

A staircase lined with art prints that get more colorful with every step leads to the loft, which was completely rebuilt and extended to make space for two bedrooms and a bathroom. This is the kids’ area, fully carpeted and covered in a zigzag of boldly patterned wallpapers that resemble mountain peaks. “We don’t worry about any mess here,” Anna says. “This is really their own space.”

With its bold mishmash of floral patterns, antique keepsakes, and statement art pieces, the house reflects a lot of the projects the couple did for residential and commercial clients, while fitting the exact needs of their current family situation. “We could be as out there and adventurous as we wanted, without making compromises,” Anna says. “When you’re not designing for a client, you can be beautifully selfish.”

BEFORE: The original bathroom had only one small window and little space in which to move around.
BEFORE: The original bathroom had only one small window and little space in which to move around.
AFTER: By borrowing space from the adjoining bedroom, the couple extended the bathroom and installed an additional window to brighten it up. The toilet bowl, emblazoned with Chris’s own graphic designs, is from The Remarkable Toilet Co.
AFTER: By borrowing space from the adjoining bedroom, the couple extended the bathroom and installed an additional window to brighten it up. The toilet bowl, emblazoned with Chris’s own graphic designs, is from The Remarkable Toilet Co.
Philip Durrant

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

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