Hackney home with contemporary design: how this light-filled Victorian terrace was inspired by a bright and contemporary Brussels flat

Returning to their London terrace house after seven years in Belgium, Tom Bainbridge and Christine van Horen were considering selling up to buy a flat in a new local development, though they would be staying in Hackney.

“In Brussels, we lived in a fourth-floor apartment and loved the elevation, light and convenience it offered,” explains Tom.

Eventually, the couple decided instead to stay put and transform their house. They have created a home that’s now bright and contemporary — like the Brussels property they left behind.

Now that the development is complete and all their desires have been achieved, Tom says they are glad they didn’t move after all.

The attractive mid-century Victorian terrace house had a wealth of potential, but it was long, narrow and dark with only two bedrooms on the first floor, plus a bathroom, “which would not be enough for a family in the future”.

Maximising potential

Christine and Tom decided on a side extension to create an open, inviting kitchen; a mansard roof extension to add a bedroom, and to turn the shallow basement into a utility.

“We sought to include an outbuilding at the bottom of the garden, looking back at the house, to create a courtyard feel. In terms of general aesthetic, we wanted something modern and light.”


When Christine and Tom moved back to London, they set about transforming their terrace home just like the light-filled Brussels flat they’d left behind

Tom said they’d wanted a young, up-and-coming professional to get to grips with their project — someone with ambition and a great design pedigree.

Fortunately, a friend was able to recommend an ex-colleague who had set up his own architecture and interior design practice: step forward Patrick Abrams of Applied Studio.

“Patrick’s enthusiasm for the project was obvious from the first design meeting, and he brought with him some great ideas that complemented what we had in mind,” says Christine.

The renovation comprised the complete overhaul of the ground floor.

Abrams’ design stripped out all of the central structure of the house and added a glazed side extension, giving scope to create the open-plan kitchen and dining space that flows out into the garden, complete with a window seat and a large pivot door.

Windows on the world

An office and entrance hallway at the front of the house are separated from the main living area by Crittall doors, providing views right through to the rear — a true masterclass in long, sleek sightlines.

In addition, a dramatic, frameless skylight sits over the refurbished stairs that lead up to the new, zinc-clad mansard extension where the main bedroom en suite now resides.

A large picture window, with storage seating underneath, makes the perfect reading spot up here.

Externally, the home’s fenestration and window surrounds are black, beautifully set off against the white finish of the neighbouring houses.

“We spent a lot of time in Flanders where this is a popular look in modern designs,” explains Christine. “It was a style that we really liked and wanted to somehow replicate.”

This contrast of dark and light is mimicked throughout the home’s interior, offering a clean, stripped-back aesthetic.


The garden sanctuary, with sauna, outdoor shower and seating (Nicholas Worley)

The kitchen features bespoke black timber cabinetry, with custom-designed recessed bronze handles that contribute to keeping the finish in this room elegant and simple.

The cabinetry is a design triumph, the dark units contrasting with the rest of the pale storage, while those recessed handles mean the sleek lines of the zone are uninterrupted.

The chevron-patterned granite kitchen floor tiles — also made bespoke — merge with the pale timber flooring that’s laid in the same configuration in the dining area.

In this zone, open-plan to the kitchen, the external brick flows from outside in, above and below the glazed side extension. The kitchen picture window is a hugely successful feature, which the owners adore.

“You can enjoy the garden from the warmth and comfort of inside. If someone’s doing the washing up, you can also sit there and have a chat.”

Living just how we like to

To the rear of the newly landscaped garden is the couple’s enviable extra living space, their little slice of paradise designed for relaxation.

Clad in black timber, it includes a compact yet luxurious sauna, an outdoor shower and a space to sit and enjoy the garden. Making use of the sauna has become a regular part of Tom and Christine’s routine.

The build costing of £420,000 has enabled them to live their lives in exactly the way they want to.

“The real success of the house,” Tom says, “is the functionality throughout. We can enjoy a fire in the winter, soak up the sun in the kitchen in the morning, and exercise downstairs without leaving the house.

“Having an outdoor shower first thing in the morning is probably the best bit, and a great way to start the day.”

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