Transforming the top floor of an old Victorian warehouse into a chic loft apartment was never going to be simple. Here's how one couple created their dream city space, with a Chelsea winner-designed garden terrace.
New York-style lofts with exposed brick walls, iron columns and big windows are a film-maker’s fantasy and so romantic. But the reality of living in a huge, draughty space soon kicks in for couples or a family.
There’s no storage, there have got to be walls for the loo, bathroom and at least one bedroom. And where do the washing machine and ironing board go?
Andy and Dorys Lewis love lofts. They grasp the need to balance space against comfort, and to build in the flexibility to divide a loft into private rooms — and reopen them easily and smoothly, keeping that distinctive warehouse feel.
With the help of skilled architects the couple transformed the huge top floor of an old Victorian warehouse complex in Shoreditch, where uniforms were made in the Second World War.
Andy and Dorys Lewis wanted a loft apartment with the flexibility to divide it into private rooms, then reopen them easily and smoothly - keeping that distinctive warehouse feel.
With the help of skilled architects the couple transformed the huge top floor of an old Victorian warehouse in Shoreditch, where uniforms were made in the Second World War.
Sliding doors, a spacious main living area and a hall as wide as a gallery make up the luxury apartment.
Seventeen months of work turned the one-bedroom penthouse they bought into an elegant, grown-up home with a large new pavilion above.
The principal floor uses sliding doors to connect or close off the spacious main living area while open-tread stairs lead to the terrace level from the living space.
Above, the terrace level is a triumph. The airy bedroom pavilion, softened with romantic velvet curtains, billowing muslin and a jewel-bright velvet sofa, achieves a great balance between relaxed and luxe.
When looking for their new home, Andy and Dorys wanted a top floor with a roof terrace in a warehouse in their favourite area.
In 2016, the warehouse conversion cost around £400,000 to £450,000 but the loft is now valued at £2.85 million.
When the original floorboards were taken up, yellowed newspapers and old Players cigarette cards turned up underneath.
The Lewises bought an open-plan one-bedroom penthouse with a galley kitchen and a small glass building on the roof that Andy says was “too small and baking hot”. Seventeen months’ work turned all that into an elegant, grown-up family home with a large new pavilion above.
While still glassy for amazing views and light, it has a solid roof and some solid walls. There’s a truly romantic bedroom and sitting room, plus a swish white marble-tiled bathroom “hidden” behind a dark stained-oak wall: no door handle, you just push.
Below, the principal floor uses sliding doors to connect or close off the spacious main living area and a hall as wide as a gallery. More pressure-push or sliding doors lead to bedroom, study and bathroom off the dark oak-walled hall.
The main living area exemplifies modern comfort. Furniture ranges from classic loungers to a marble dining table that seats 12, and glowing Tom Dixon copper lamps.
Open to it, the elegant kitchen has a mirrored back wall and a large island with stylish bar chairs. Andy’s collection of street and student art hangs everywhere. Another great touch is Dorys’s row of Russian dolls, the largest the size of a baby.
Dorys, a trained florist, is Bolivian while Andy, 47, who works in oil and gas, is Welsh. They met in Bolivia in 1991, married in 1997 and have three sons: Joaquin, 26; Dixon, 24, and Alex, 21. Dixon currently lives at home, with his own bedroom with en suite.
The couple moved around the world with Andy’s job. During seven years in Moscow they got used to big flats, while London stints confirmed their love of Shoreditch, with its vibrant mix of artists and great restaurants.
In 2014 they returned to London, rented a flat in Clerkenwell and began looking for a warehouse apartment to buy. They wanted a top floor with a roof terrace in a warehouse in their favourite area. They needed parking for Andy’s car and a flexible space.
They were happy to buy ready made, or to remodel. They weren’t bothered about a lift. “A walk-up keeps you fit,” they say.
After a long search they bought the flat in December 2015 and hired London-based architects William Tozer, whose work has an urbane, glamorous, slightly industrial feel, to design it.
The couple continued sourcing for their interiors — it’s obvious they make a great team. Andy grins: “I do what Dorys says and that works very well.”
Their plan was fairly straightforward, at least in outline. The lower level was stripped, removing one supporting wall and putting in steels, then fitted out the flexible way Andy and Dorys wanted, offsetting dark oak with wide, pale, soaped-oak floors.
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That part took 10 months. “You’d be surprised how long it takes to achieve a very pared-back look,” Andy says.
Above, the terrace level is a triumph. Reached by a wide, open-tread stair, brightly skylit, the airy bedroom pavilion, softened with romantic velvet curtains, billowing muslin and a jewel-bright velvet sofa, achieves a great balance between relaxed and luxe.
Imagine waking up there, looking out first at your garden and then the sky… and the odd crane, of course; that’s part of the distinctive joy of life in modern London.
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