Elisabeth and Aldo Ciarrocchi’s inviting family home makes the most of its industial heritage.
Elisabeth and Aldo Ciarrocchi’s daughter Isabella, now 11, was a toddler when they began house hunting, and Elisabeth was pregnant with their younger daughter Piera, now eight. ‘We were living in small flat not far away, and all we knew was that we needed something larger for our family,’ says Elisabeth. ‘We both liked the idea of warehouse-style living and as soon as we walked in here, we fell in love with it.’ When the Ciarrocchis got the keys to the property, it was desperately in need of some TLC. ‘The ground floor was covered in laminate and there was a basketball hoop hanging from one of the posts,’ Elisabeth reveals. ‘The kitchen was cluttered with wall cabinets and it had a low bulkhead ceiling to accommodate the sunken bath in the bathroom above.’ After moving in nine years ago, and replacing the flooring throughout with reclaimed wooden floorboards sourced from Crosby Hall in London’s Cheyne Walk, the couple delayed renovations until 2016. ‘It was important for us to live in the space first, so that we could discover the best way it would work for us,’ says Elisabeth, who together with Aldo, runs reclamation business Encore Reclamation. In this time, they tried to find an architect who would assimilate their ideas. ‘We met with five architects,’ says Elisabeth. ‘They were all great, but one in particular seemed to really listen and understood that we wanted to keep things simple, plus he is local, which was handy when it came to picking up samples. When we were ready to start work, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted, so the internal design became a real collaborative effort.’ The layout of the large double-height living space didn’t change, but has been made more flexible. In conjunction with Space Group Architects, Elisabeth designed the kitchen peninsular unit so that it could be moved around to work as an island when she fancied a change of scene, and when the space needed to be opened up for entertaining. The dining table was put on wheels for the same reason. On the first floor, the walls were pushed back to widen the mezzanine, and the vast bathroom was divided into two to create an en suite to the children’s bedroom. The internal windows within each room that open on to the mezzanine were also repositioned and widened to draw in more light. The budget was tight, but Elisabeth’s desire to retain the building’s factory feel helped keep costs down. ‘I like the unfinished look,’ she says. ‘Whenever the builders wanted to put the finishing touches on something, I told them not to. I didn’t want anything to look sleek and polished.’ She also applied these design principles to the kitchen units. ‘As the builders were running behind schedule, they fitted the kitchen door fronts temporarily, for Christmas,’ she explains. ‘The plan was to take them off and paint them later. But once they were fitted in their pure MDF moistureresistant state, and finished with shellac we liked how they looked. The kitchen fitter thought I was crazy, but he’s grown to like the style, too, and is fitting similar kitchens elsewhere!’ When it came to furnishing the property, most of the vintage pieces were sourced from eBay, and Elisabeth and Aldo also picked up bits and pieces from car-boot sales and through their reclamation work. Now that the renovation is finished, the couple are delighted that their vision for the apartment has become a reality. ‘We really wouldn’t have done anything differently,’ says Elisabeth. ‘It’s perfect for us as a family.
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