House Tour: London - A North London Sanctuary

Architect's Name: Jennifer Beningfield
Location: London, UK
Size: 600 sq ft
Renovation completed: Fall 2007

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"Very calm and relaxing -- that was the brief," says London-based South African architect Jennifer Beningfield of Open Studio Architects in London, the genius behind London Urchin's Jewelry Box, the winner of the 2007 Smallest Coolest contest and this North London sanctuary...

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Jennifer's Openstudio Architects works on both public and private spaces. For this North London pied-à-terre, she gutted a wrecked Edwardian flat, turning what was a dark space into a clean-lined, bright one-bedroom apartment with seamless built-in storage, a massive custom-designed European oak kitchen in the convivial main space, and absolutely no clutter. The floors were also replaced with oak in a different cut to add interest and maintain harmony. The baseboards were removed and the ceiling moldings stripped, but the original fireplace was left in place, which the clients topped with a straight-edged mirror.

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Jennifer helped the clients pick out Norman Foster sofas, an Arne Jacobsen table, and Artemide lamps throughout. She says that in both the design and the furnishings, she encouraged them to use "just a few materials, and basically all one color" in order to make the flat seem bigger than it is. The bathroom was designed with the same idea in mind, with French porcelain tiles in beige covering the entire surface and a large luxurious shower making up for the lack of a tub. And the bedroom is a study in pared-down comfort, with beige linens, soft sculptural bulb lighting and a built-in closet to hide clutter.

"The clients didn't want any ceiling lights or any bulbs showing," says Jennifer, adding that it was a challenge to light the north-facing flat, which gets no direct sunlight but feels bright and cheerful, even on a drizzly London afternoon. They decided to dress the massive windows in translucent shades. And they added soundproofing to increase the feeling of calm (many London apartment-dwellers suffer the stomping feet and other abrasive sounds of their neighbors in buildings without sufficient insulation). But you could still hear the birds chirping outside. "It's really a sanctuary," Jennifer says.

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- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. If you have an idea for a European house tour, please write kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com