Vanessa and Adrian Valenzuela have reworked and reconfigured their terraced house in London to create a light-filled open-plan interior – all hidden behind a traditional Victorian facade
Vanessa and Adrian Valenzuela's family home in Battersea, south London has a definite sense of occasion. Inside, rather than the usual warren of poky rooms with pine floorboards and a traditional front living room and back kitchen layout, there's an American walnut-floored, open-plan interior that is perfect for this modern family's living requirements.
The terrace is prone to dark corners, and the Valenzuela's house illustrates how these properties can be reconfigured to achieve brighter rooms and more open space. 'It was about flipping the layout around to face back rather than forwards. Now you can feel the sense of the whole house, rather than just a series of rooms,' says the couple's architect, Pasquale Amodio of Map Projects.
After moving from their native Mexico, the couple lived in a loft in the trendy district of Tribeca in New York. When they moved to London they had already decided they had to live in a house. 'We really wanted the outside space,' says Vanessa.
They bought the late-Victorian house back in 2008, when more space became a priority for their two girls, Isabel and Adriana. 'We thought we'd buy something to fix up a little bit,' says Vanessa. 'It looked completely different then – your typical English house, with double reception and an opening on to the kitchen at the back.'
They decided to build an extension but their ambitions grew. 'We realised we wanted to change everything about the house, although we hadn't intended to. We had no idea where to start,' says Vanessa.
Friends recommended their architect and, at the maximum end of their budget, they were able to create exactly what they had always wanted: a transformed, modern townhouse. The refurbishment combines the lateral appeal of loft living with the comfort of an actual house, orienting towards the garden at the back. 'The idea was that it would be maximised,' says Vanessa. 'In these particular houses you can easily forget the outdoor space is there.'
Linking the rooms from the front right through to the back, allows them all to be together in a large open-plan space. The couple decided to move the kitchen to the front of the house. The dining room is where the old living room would have been and features a dining set by Holly Hunt and a wall-length built-in cupboard that hides all the family's clutter.
Indeed, throughout the house, objects and functions are cleverly hidden behind handle-free units. The pièce de résistance is the big, ranch-like living space leading on to the garden. They needed a structural engineer to get this area right: it's a kind of conversation pit, with a huge, relaxing corner sofa at its heart.
Ascending from the ground floor, the sense of space is highlighted by the use of stairs without risers. 'They're a way of bringing in more light,' says Vanessa. The first floor belongs to the girls and has flashes of Barbie pink. Isabel's room has a bespoke oak bunk bed. 'We spent a lot on the joinery and it makes all the difference,' she says.
On to the third floor, via further riser-free stairs – this time with see-through acrylic banisters – which belongs to Vanessa and Adrian, from where there's a small flight of stairs leading down to a bathroom, in what would once have been the half-landing. It's upstaged by a luxurious shower and a long granite trough-style sink, which the architect designed. At the top, the entrance to the master bedroom is by way of a small vestibule, which incorporates a micro kitchen behind a sliding door. This gives early-riser Adrian his own self-contained flat and the chance to have a morning coffee without disturbing anyone.
Despite having builders at the breakfast table for two months, Vanessa admits she would do it all again. 'We've made it our home – and I'm sure we'll be here for years.'
Architect Map Projects (020 7730 9576; mapprojects.com)
Structural engineer: Packman Lucas (020 7378 7391; packmanlucas.com)
Contractor: Richard Hutchings Construction (07956 290 520)
Sliding door: Smart Architectural Aluminium (01934 876 100; smartsystems.co.uk)
Skylights: Velux (01592 778 225; velux.co.uk)
Kitchen units: Bulthaup at Kitchen Architecture (01865 426 990; kitchenarchitecture.co.uk)
Corner sofa: B&B Italia at Utility Design (0151 708 4192; utilitydesign.co.uk)