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Built in 1798, this striking Georgian property in central London started life as an aristocratic home, designed by architect brothers Robert and John Adam. The house suffered bomb damage during World War II and later was acquired by the government to become a hospital.
When the owners bought the building, it was still full of medical equipment, with thick linoleum on the floor and much of the space divided into consultation cubicles complete with privacy curtains — visible in the “before” shot of the empty hospital below.
The renovation continued through 2008, with every detail painstakingly created.
“The house is Grade I-listed, which is the highest level of protection, so both the local council and English Heritage were involved in every decision,” says Silvia Maiorino of Russell Taylor Architects, the firm behind the renovation. “But it was always the intention of the owners to be sympathetic to the building and do things right, often at great expense.”
The goal was to create a home comprising three floors of entertaining space with two floors given over to bedroom suites. The house had been used as the London Foot Hospital before the owners bought it.
“It was really ill-adapted to being a hospital, especially for people who might have had difficulty moving from floor to floor,” says Maiorino, who worked closely on the project. “It had been fitted out very crudely inside too. Structural reinforcements had been installed in quite a ham-fisted way, and very few original features remained.”
Exploration work suggested that the arch in this space (seen in the previous image) had been added later in the house’s life, probably during the Victorian period.
“We decided to open up the arch and put in what we call a column screen,” Maiorino says.
The columns now sit centrally where the arch once was, framing the beautiful drawing room. “It has the highest ceilings, grandest detailing and largest windows, so it had to be the drawing room,” she says.
BEFORE: This is the other end of the drawing room as it looked when the building was a hospital, complete with curtained exam cubicles.
AFTER: The radiator seen in the previous picture was removed and the floor-to-ceiling window restored to its former glory. The Ionic columns contrast nicely with the soft gray walls.
“The columns are made from a specialist plaster called scagliola, which is very hard and can be made in any color to replicate any stone,” Maiorino says. “The only way you can tell it’s not marble is that it doesn’t feel cold. Its advantages are that it’s lighter than marble — we would have had to reinforce the floors if we’d used the real thing — and it’s cheaper.”
BEFORE: It’s hard to imagine how this medical space, in another “before” shot, could become the ground-floor dining room, shown in the next picture. A projection housing the chimney is just visible on the far wall; in the restored room, the alcove to its left has been partially filled in. “We used this space to run pipes and services up and down the house,” Maiorino says.
AFTER: Tall windows flood the dining room with light. The house sits on the end of the row in a central London square, and many rooms benefit from a double aspect.
BEFORE: Also on the ground floor, the exam cubicles seen here are now a light-filled reception room next to the dining room.
AFTER: The beautiful arched windows in the reception room are on the side of the building. “All the windows were replaced,” Maiorino says. “Some had been put in as recently as the 1960s and were wrong for the house. None of them were original, due to bomb damage.”
Special glass, made to look like the kind manufactured during the Victorian period, was used. “It’s not perfectly flat and has a slight distortion in it to look authentic,” Maiorino says. The chandelier is from a restorer and maker of period lighting.
The basement kitchen design was developed by the owners together with kitchen specialist Smallbone of Devizes.
“This is actually a prototype for what has become their Macassar collection,” Maiorino says. “It was inspired by the designs of architect Sir John Soane. The detailing, geometric shapes, and use of marble and mirrors are all references to his work.”
There is also a powder room on this floor.
BEFORE: This scruffy space became a snug, or den, which you can see after its transformation in the next photo.
AFTER: The now beautifully restored snug connects with the en suite bathroom via the door next to the clock. The walls are painted in a Farrow & Ball shade that’s no longer available, and the fireplace is a marble design copied from Sir John Soane’s Museum and made by Chesney’s.
BEFORE: This meeting room has been reinvented as a double-aspect en suite bathroom. You can just see the door to what is now the snug hidden behind a bookcase at an angle to the window.
AFTER: Light floods the corner house, on the south side of the square. This bathroom makes the most of its exposure by having three large windows.
The bath and shower are custom. “We contacted a stone supplier with detailed drawings on how we wanted it to be done,” Maiorino says.
The flooring is new, apart from the stone flags and the top floor’s pine. “We used engineered boards and fitted underfloor heating,” the architect says. “The radiators in here are used as towel rails.”
BEFORE: On the top floor, another messy office space from the house’s time as a hospital was converted into a beautiful bedroom, seen in the next picture.
AFTER: The floorboards are pine on the top floor, rather than the oak that was installed below. “These boards were hidden under carpet or lino,” Maiorino says. “We don’t think they are Georgian, but probably date from the Victorian period.”
This room was probably always intended to be a bedroom for the owners.
“Space was at too much of a premium in London to keep servants up here,” the architect says. “Some staff would have lived in the house, but it’s most likely they would have been in the basement.”