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ith their sons growing up fast, James Whyte and Tina Reiss were sorely in need of more space, but didn’t want to move out of their beloved London. Finding a Victorian house in Finsbury Park provided an almost ideal solution, but something was still missing. “It hadn’t been renovated for 20 years, and was clearly ‘someone else’s’ house,” explains James.


W Despite this, they loved the three storey, 300


house; it was the right size, and they were drawn in by its “heritage and charm,” says James; ‘it had lovely features.” However, over time the layout had become “disjointed,” says Tina: “the living spaces had become isolated from one another.” They wanted to create a layout that would work better for them as a family, make better use of the garden, and ultimately make the house ‘theirs.’ Friends had mentioned Levitate Architects to them, having used them for their own house redesign. “We’d seen the results and thought they’d be perfect for the task,” says Tina, adding “I’m not someone who obsesses over interior design, so this was all new to me.” The family were intending to stay in the house for the foreseeable future, so wanted to make sure everything was done right. Spencer Guy, director at the practice “quickly proposed an idea we liked,” says Tina, so it was “a case of fine tuning that until we pinned down all the details.”


m2 When it came to deciding how to alter the 38 www.sbhonline.co.uk


house, the family had a few priorities. “The focus was predominantly on the lower levels of the house,” says Tina. It was important to them that the rooms would work socially but also give the family the space they needed, especially as their sons got older. “Our youngest was just born when we started thinking about all this, so we had to have a clear idea from the beginning,” Tina explains.


They wanted a layout that meant if one of them was in the kitchen cooking or washing up they wouldn’t be “cut off from everyone else,” explains James. And while they wanted a home with a contemporary look, it was also important to honour the property’s Victorian features, so they had a “constant presence.”


Above all else, the most essential element for


Tina and James was a strong connection to the garden. “We wanted it to feel like a part of the house so we could just walk right from the kitchen to the garden,” says Tina. Spencer developed their ideas into more solid plans; for example the playroom on the lower ground floor and work bench at the centre of the kitchen-diner grew out of “some vague ideas we initially approached Levitate with, in terms of a real social hub for the family and a space for the children to call their own,” Tina explains. She adds: “I liked the way Spencer was attentive to the needs of our children as much as us.” The house isn’t located within one of London’s many conservation areas, but their scheme wasn’t unusual or challenging in terms of its


jul/aug 2021


HIGH POINT


“When it was finished and seeing the Japanese maple through our back windows as the project came together.” – James Whyte


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