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Considered Things: A 1717 London Townhouse, Rescued from the Wrecking Ball

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Considered Things: A 1717 London Townhouse, Rescued from the Wrecking Ball

December 12, 2022

If you’ve been on the Internet over the weekend, or watched the just-dropped new episode of For the Love of Kitchens, featuring cook spaces transformed by UK-based deVol, today’s house tour may look familiar.

Then again, it may also ring a bell if you’ve been on Instagram over the past year, when Paul West and Michelle Bower moved into their Stepney Townhouse and began documenting its transformations on their feed, @consideredthings, where we first began following along. (We later realized we’d featured the couple’s previous place, the lower duplex of a Victorian townhouse and a continued favorite: see English Translation: A Compact Victorian Gets an Eclectic but Cohesive Makeover.)

The Stepney Townhouse’s moment of fame is well deserved. Grand in stature and moody in tone, the circa-1717 East London home has been immaculately redone by Paul and Michelle. Built “spanning the Queen Anne and Georgian periods, it’s a classic London townhouse with four generous floors and a studio loft,” Paul wrote to us via email. “At risk of demolition in the 1990s, it was rescued and restored by The Spitalfields Trust, with support from English Heritage.” 

The couple moved in just before the holidays in 2021, almost exactly a year ago. “In 2022, it underwent a phase of restoration and renovation, thanks to a carefully selected range of specialist brands and craftspeople, and is home to an ever-evolving collection of antiques, collectible furniture, and homewares,” Paul adds.

It’s a transformation that at last is being revealed; join us for an intimate tour, as captured by Paul.

Photography by Paul West (@consideredthings).

&#8\2\20;when we first viewed the house, we were transformed by how it felt 9
Above: “When we first viewed the house, we were transformed by how it felt, and inspired and reassured by the level of craftsmanship and care the building has been given through the last 30 years since it was rescued,” Paul recalls. “The windows, working shutters, wooden box cornicing (phased out after the great fire of London), and panelling throughout the house were incomparable to anything else we had since on the market and dozens of viewings.”

Adds Paul: “Each level presented a new experience, from the cozy basement kitchen to the grand reception, the atmospheric drawing room, and uplifting top floor with views to the treetops outside.” The dwelling is “currently set up as a two bed, with the flexibility to flex the layout and add more beds if needed.”

the front room, with grand full height windows. 10
Above: The front room, with grand full-height windows.

“We were initially wary of taking on such an old and really quite remarkable property,” Paul admits. “It has lasted this long—305 years to date—surviving world wars, the introduction of the London Underground nearby, and the effects of a rapidly changing city through the Industrial Revolution, as well as being brought back to life from the threat of demolition in the late 20th century. We were very aware of the sense of responsibility in making good decisions and, for want of a different word, being ‘custodians’ of this very special house.”

&#8\2\20;the ‘bones’ were in excellent order,&#8\2\2\1; p 11
Above: “The ‘bones’ were in excellent order,” Paul says. “Formally a much-loved micro-boutique hotel and shoot location as well as a family home, it was presented in a very striking style: It was theatrical, whimsical, and almost every surface carried a specialist paint effect, painted mural, or decorative feature.”

That said, Paul adds, “We wanted to make a few key changes—firstly, to create a calm and considered home to support and inspire our daily lives. This meant sanding floors, creating a more unified decor, and simplifying the overall look to be more sympathetic to the age of the property, letting its craftsmanship and original features shine through.”

original features (interior shutters, a romantic ceiling fresco) mixes with pau 12
Above: Original features (interior shutters, a romantic ceiling fresco) mixes with Paul and Michelle’s clean-lined, modernist-leaning taste.
the couple used farrow & ball&#8\2\17;s old white throughout the house. 13
Above: The couple used Farrow & Ball’s Old White throughout the house. “It’s a historic gray-green that is perfect for houses like Stepney Townhouse,” Paul says. “It was one of their first colors and brings great depth and variation from north to south, day to night, and creates a calm and earthy backdrop.”
&#8\2\20;we transformed the basement kitchen, which wasn’t in good w 14
Above: “We transformed the basement kitchen, which wasn’t in good working order, and shared our vision with deVol to help bring it to life,” Paul says. “The cabinetry is painted in a Farrow & Ball x Liberty Archive color called Pantalon. It’s a traditional dark green with a touch of brown, a connection to Stepney Green, where the house is situated.”

“It was important to us to retain the original layout of the house and keep the kitchen in the basement. It made a great story for the new season of For The Love of Kitchens—Michelle and I were naturally nervous to take part in a TV show, but came to the realization that life is too short, and we upheld our mantra to ‘just say yes.’” N.B.: Stay tuned for a full Kitchen of the Week tour on Remodelista this week.

spotted on the kitchen counter: a copy of remodelista in maine. 15
Above: Spotted on the kitchen counter: a copy of Remodelista in Maine.
the kitchen features ample storage and, like all rooms in the house, a fireplac 16
Above: The kitchen features ample storage and, like all rooms in the house, a fireplace.

“All the existing plasterwork is traditional Marmorino plaster,” reports Paul. “The floor is reclaimed 200-year-old French smoked oak, which was already here and possessed a huge amount of character underneath the waxed finish, so we sanded and treated to enjoy the grain.”

&#8\2\20;we designed the kitchen as two connected spaces: a main kitchen sp 17
Above: “We designed the kitchen as two connected spaces: a main kitchen space and a dining space,” Paul says. “The main kitchen space contains all the appliances, a large prep table that doubles as a casual dining and social space, and also some generous pantry cupboards.” The dining area is just through the doorway.
the snug dining room, with a bespoke devol shaker table, ercol heritage chairs, 18
Above: The snug dining room, with a bespoke deVol Shaker table, Ercol Heritage Chairs, and a vintage Welsh dresser. “Both rooms, like all rooms in the house, feature original and working fireplaces,” Paul says. “The ones in the kitchen are taller than head height, presumably for the stoves to fit in.”
the utility room. &#8\2\20;we wanted to introduce a new laundry/utility roo 19
Above: The utility room. “We wanted to introduce a new laundry/utility room to work better with the flow of the day,” Paul says. “We created a new family bathroom on the top floor (gaining a beautiful walk-in shower and roll-top bath) and transformed the existing bathroom into the laundry/utility room with deVol cabinetry and fittings.” (And a sunny coat of paint, too.)
another sitting area. 20
Above: Another sitting area.
paul and michelle added muted, earthy, hues and doses of black throughout the h 21
Above: Paul and Michelle added muted, earthy, hues and doses of black throughout the house. Here, a table-as-workspace.
the original stair, in natural light. 22
Above: The original stair, in natural light.

“We were also very aware of making quite a substantial shift in terms of scale (at least by London standards!),” Paul notes. “We went from 1200 square feet down to 500 square feet for a few months to Stepney Townhouse, which is around 2400 square feet across four main floors. It’s required a mindset shift for how we would design and use the space, compared to a typical two-three floor Victorian property.”

looking into a bedroom. 23
Above: Looking into a bedroom.
&#8\2\20;it’s a lovely space to source antiques for, and curate newe 24
Above: “It’s a lovely space to source antiques for, and curate newer pieces, too,” Paul says. “Everything drops in so beautifully here.”
the newly done bath, with roll top tub. 25
Above: The newly done bath, with roll-top tub.
as far as their progress, paul reports, &#8\2\20;the most recent project, j 26
Above: As far as their progress, Paul reports, “The most recent project, just before winter, was reimagining and landscaping our rear courtyard garden. We sourced some beautiful reclaimed York stone and created a more formal layout that feels more appropriate to this historic townhouse.”
&#8\2\20;we’re certainly feeling more settled now,&#8\2\2\1; he  27
Above: “We’re certainly feeling more settled now,” he adds. “We’ve been here for one year and are experiencing the seasons and daily life here. However, a house and a home like this is never finished; it’s such a great, flexible canvas and full of potential. And with 12 rooms, we have a lot of thoughts on how we could enjoy the space in different ways in the future. For example, the loft could be a brilliant creative studio with its north-facing roof lights, or a cozy cinema room, or just a space to be still. We’ll let life steer those decisions; there’s no rush.”

For more, follow Paul and Michelle on Instagram via @consideredthings. And for more historic homes we love, see:

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Old White

£5.50 GBP from Farrow & Ball

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