Old lab benches and former museum display cases rub shoulders with courtroom discards and salvaged French hotel doors in a surprisingly harmonious – and unexpectedly luxurious – family home
As a man with a penchant for plus-fours and a deep love of all things dandy, Guy Hills’ home was always going to be one of a kind. The former fashion photographer is not really an ‘off the peg’ sort of chap: he created a reflective tweed for the fashion label Dashing Tweeds that he set up with textiles designer Kirsty McDougall, and has just opened a store on Sackville Street in central London, a stone’s throw from the ultra-traditional Savile Row. Lucky, then, that his sister-in-law is Maria Speake, architect, salvage expert and one half of architectural salvage and design business Retrouvius, whom he tasked with the overhaul of his canalside London abode that is featured in the new book Reclaiming Style (Ryland Peters & Small).
Guy and his wife Natasha owned the two flats below (“Our spinster flat and bachelor pad!” laughs Guy) and when the opportunity came to buy the levels above, the couple jumped at the chance to reunite the building. Guy didn’t have to go far for advice on how to proceed: his father and brothers are architects. In fact, his brother Adam, husband of Maria, is the other half of Retrouvius. All in all, the impending renovation task was looking far less daunting.
Guy and Natasha share the house with their three young children, Amelia, Hector and Rex, plus George the dog. A typical Victorian townhouse, the layout was not conducive to modern family living, so the first task for the team at Retrouvius was to reconfigure the arrangement of the rooms. Maria had previously kitted out Guy’s photography studio to his satisfaction (his only instruction was that she should “make it look like an urban beach house”). Trust was key here: Maria knows the personalities of her in-laws intimately, and was well aware of the fact that this was a home where flamboyant socialising is a regular feature. She also knew that she could work with Guy’s unique style. He is not the kind of person to want a museum piece as a house, but would rather have somewhere to be lived in and enjoyed. It meant the reclaimed look that Retrouvius has become synonymous with was the perfect fit. “Here you just polish everything afterwards and the scuffs add to the atmosphere,” notes Guy.
The ground floor really sets the mood of the house. By moving the staircase (it had previously been boxed in, which had taken away the sense of grandeur you get when entering a Victorian hallway) and altering the layout, Maria was able to provide a better flow through the rooms and improve the connection to the lower level. Large double swinging doors took up lots of valuable space, so she replaced them with sliding glazed doors that create a less formal feel and encourage that bright, party atmosphere this family is so keen to embrace. “We often have cocktail parties of four hundred people here, so it had to be a flexible space,” says Guy. The reclaimed oak parquet floor invites dancing and, as with most salvaged items, wear and tear helps tell the story of the piece.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 208-216, issue 96.
Words Catherine Coyle
Photography Debi Treloar
What A terraced Victorian townhouse
Where North London