Name: Chris & Steve
Location: London, UK
Lived in: Since 1993
When Chris and Steve bought their historic North London house, it had been divided up into eight flats and fallen into disrepair. But they loved it and slowly started restoring it to its 19th-century self, while turning it into a colorful family house for themselves and their three children...
"I figured I could take any color found in the original stained glass," says Chris, a film costume maker who works at home out of a bright turquoise-colored office. "We came from a small flat that was painted white, of course, to make it look bigger. A friend pointed out that because the house was so big we could paint it any color we wanted!" The living room ceiling was color mixed from a sample of Colman's mustard. The deep orange bedroom was inspired by a goldfish she spotted in the pond outside the window on a "particularly miserable" gray London day. "It jumped out at me," she says, "and I thought, 'there's the color of the bedroom'!"
The enormous eat-in kitchen -- which had been turned into a whole flat -- was restored to its original purpose, painted red, fitted with a custom-built kitchen and pieces like an ornately carved antique Afghan chicken coop used for storage. They recuperated a huge storage wall unit from the school across the street and downsizing friends gave them extra couches that were too big to fit in their apartments.
It took a lot of work to get the house into shape. "We had dry rot, wet rot, rising damp, and fruiting bodies," Chris says, citing a few common English real estate headaches that involve frightening quantities of mold and mildew. The family room in the attic -- now a gleaming red space with floor pillows, couches, a TV and music equipment for her three kids in their teens and early 20s -- was a wreck. "Steve removed five bags of dead pigeons from up there," Chris says. "It was covered in black soot. It took like three years to remove the smell."
Chris said that while the house had been neglected, it had good bones. "We took down walls that had been added and put it back to the way it was in 1870. It's been quite a slow process -- it's had to be. Anyway we're not ever leaving. Where would we go? The kids love it here, it's a good party house. Nothing but good things happen here. From the moment we walked in here, it was a happy house."
- 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