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Interior Designer’s Listed Apartment In Hertford Property Market

Interior Designer’s Listed Apartment In Hertford Property Market Interior Designer’s Listed Apartment In Hertford Property Market

A project in Barbados towards the end of last year brought sunshine into the English interior designer’s working day. Guests from England had been only too pleased to accept invitations from Stacey’s client to join him at the two bedroom holiday villa he’d bought in St James, the playground of the rich and famous in what was once the Gold Coast, now the Platinum Coast. It had reached the point when he felt his stream of visitors should have their own space.

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Rapidly rising as an innovative, solutions-focussed designer, Hertford-based Stacey Hewett is creating stunning interiors, including this listed Hertford apartment

The cost of a home in the historic Hertfordshire city is now 8.7 times the average annual earnings of those who live there, placing it among the 20 least affordable out of the 61 in the survey.

Although Jo says she’s ‘not precious’ about the normal wear and tear a house has to stand up to, she does like unobstructed surfaces to the extent that the windows are all bespoke because she didn’t want fanlights spoiling a sparkling pane of glass. The frames are powder coated aluminium in graphite.

Most people redecorate when they move home, but for one Brookmans Park couple things went a step or two further. Pat Bramley looks at how a traditional property was reimagined for the 21st century

A central aim of the rebuild was to create harmony between the inside and the outside

PUBLISHED: 11:25 09 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:25 09 April 2018

Identify your concept: Every project needs a starting point. I begin all projects with a source of inspiration to kickstart my creative flow. This could be a piece of art, a particular fabric or a client’s interest. Whatever you choose, use it as the foundation for your new interior and build your scheme around this.

The couple planned to transform the interior for a modern family’s lifestyle and they had the expertise to achieve all that and more. Glen is a surveyor by profession and runs Purkelly Bros, the family-owned underpinning and pile-driving business. His firm was established in Finsbury Park by the previous generation in 1971 and is now based in Hitchin.

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They’re both creatives. Paul is a graphic designer. His wife says, ‘We went for a new build because of the perks. The running costs are cheaper and everything is under warranty – you don’t have to worry about things like kitchen appliances going wrong.’

‘Our present home is open plan, the new one has a separate lounge – that was a priority for us this time, so was the bigger dining area we’re getting in the kitchen. Since we bought our first house we’ve been able to build up our savings. I want to create a luxurious, homely interior space, give it everything I’ve always wanted in a house. It’s very exciting.’

Her passion for interior design is something she’s had since she was a child.

‘Although the company specialises in foundations, obviously my husband has experience and contacts in other trades too. Over the years we’ve completely refurbished two previous homes we’ve owned but this was our biggest project by far. The whole build took 11 months from start to finish. Glen project-managed it and brought it in on schedule. He was here everyday. He was brilliant.’

The end result was so good her client is planning to remodel his main villa this year.

‘He didn’t want it to be a clone of the rooms in the other flats. The living area was a big open plan space. He was worried the layout would make it feel cold particularly as it was single glazing because of being a listed building. He loved the high ceilings and the character of the rooms – he didn’t want to hide that but there were a lot of hard surfaces. He was also concerned about noise from other flats – he didn’t want to hear shoes tapping across the flat above because of the timber floor finishes.’

‘They had lots of rooms that weren’t being used. We removed some of the partition and non structural walls to gain borrowed light and got rid of the heavy dark curtains and pelmets.

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View from the hall to the main living space – the central room divider is perfectly aligned – creating the illusion of a full wall (photo: Gareth Gardner)

During January and February, elusive little white signs of spring pop up around the county in the form of snowdrops. We have gathered some of the best places to go for a snowdrop walk in Hertfordshire

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Less is more: Learn to embrace the simple details and avoid cluttering or over-complicating spaces. There is an elegance in simplicity.

You’ll find surprises and secrets in the stunning and historically important gardens at St Paul’s Walden Bury

The 2,000sq ft ground floor is zoned, creating a homely feel in what seemed at first an intimidating space

Art: can really add individuality to a space. It can be used to celebrate personal interests from fashion to flying. Or use it simply as a beautiful backdrop to inject colour and movement into a space. Consider the type and material of the frame – it should complement the art, and make sure you position the artwork at the right height for the viewer and the space.

Hunting for an older property they could fall in love with, they drew a blank, and decided again on a new-build – again in a village. ‘The house we’re buying is part of The Village development in Buntingford being built by Fairview Homes,’ Stacey explains. ‘We’re looking to move at the end of this year.’

Jo and her husband are 46 and both come from large families with an Irish background. Jo is the only one of her clan living in England. ‘They come over often. The house is always full of people. We love entertaining.’

Since setting up her own company, many of her commissions have grown out of an initial request from house hunters wanting expert advice on whether a property they’ve seen is a viable proposition for them. The first project for Studio 28 Interiors started off that way. 
‘Someone who knew my work was looking for a second home in the South of France where he could entertain friends and clients. Once we found what he wanted he asked me to assist on the design side. The villa was on a cliffside in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera.

As a partner in a consultancy called More Partnerships, she advises universities and other educational establishments on marketing and communications. Previously she was a director of Middlesex University. She and Glen have two children, Liam, 14 and Tara, 12. ‘What with their dad and granddad being in the construction business, they’ve grown up with the conversation revolving around architecture and building. They enjoy it. They loved designing their bedrooms when we moved here.’

The rooms on the top floor all have Velux windows but it’s the vast skylight fitted with self-cleaning reinforced plate glass above the second floor landing which really does the job of letting in light – that and the acres of glass in the picture windows, plus the glazed roof and bi-fold glass doors in the kitchen/family room. All these ensure the owners achieved their vision that inside and out should exist in a happy harmony by creating a light and airy home.

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Like thousands of young couples, interior designer Stacey Hewett and her husband Paul will be moving house this year. They were first time buyers five years ago when their present place was being built in Watton-at-Stone, the village five miles north of Hertford. The excitement then was buying their first home together and getting a foot on the property ladder.

Compared to an aria by its developer, an opulent new build in Hadley Wood certainly hits the high notes. Pat Bramley takes a tour of the £5.5m trophy home

Add colour to your garden now with the top flowers of March and this season will be all the brighter

On another house price monitor, housing market website Rightmove in February recorded Hitchin tying for third place in a list of the UK’s fastest selling property hotspots. Homes selling for an average of £432,501 took just 21 days to find a buyer.

Lighting: is often overlooked but when done correctly can add huge impact to a space as it affects the way we perceive space and colour. My advice is to layer lighting – use table and/or floor lamps to add warmth (they also look beautiful in their own right). Use small directional spotlights to create subtle features such as highlighting a piece of art. Most importantly, use ‘warm white’ lighting and avoid harsh cold white or blue light.

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‘I worked for them for four or five years. It was a smallish company, about 15 people. I was made a senior when I was only a couple of years into my career whereas if it had been a large company it could have taken me twice as long. I did a lot of architectural work as well as commercial stuff – hotels, offices, bigger developments.

‘We created a kitchen that’s become the hub of the home and turned a dining room-family room that wasn’t being used into a library-cum-lounge with bookshelves and a large sofa. It’s become a wonderful place for entertaining. There’s still the old log burner in the fireplace for the winter months. The original lounge was smaller – that’s now used more as a snug. The bathrooms have also been refitted but in keeping with the period of the house.’

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For more inspiration, see Stacey’s design studio website, s28interiors.com

‘He instructed a local architect to get planning permission for a colonial style three bedroom/two bathroom guest villa in the grounds and asked me for advice on how to make the best use of the interior space. The answer was walls that housed sliding screens to change the dynamics of the space and to create open plan or private areas when needed. It’s an amazing place, like being in the jungle. The colours of the furnishings reflect the tropical setting. You don’t have to leave the house to see monkeys. They’re around all the time.’

‘I wanted the new house to be sympathetic to the style of the architecture in the road. I didn’t want something ultra modern which would be out of keeping. We took down the original double gable with the white rendering and rebuilt it in the same style with white rendering, then Marcus suggested using cladding on the new one to give it a contemporary twist. The initial idea was to clad it in zinc. I didn’t want zinc. As much as I like it, I thought it would look too industrial, so we chose the grey stuff, it’s baked terracotta. The trade name is Marley Eternit Equitone fibre cement rainscreen cladding – the advantage is it can be removed if you want to change it at some point in the future. I think the grey cladding looks cool at the moment but in five or 10 years it could look dated. If that happens, it can be taken off and replaced with rendering or whatever is on-trend then.’

At just 20 miles from the capital, with good transport links and an historic centre based around the medieval cathedral with a range of high end independent shops and good schools, it has attracted buyers looking for homes near London without the capital’s price tag. Its popularity has taken it near those price levels however.

Light floods downstairs from a large skylight above, enhanced by the white walls

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The hub-of-the-house kitchen with its German-made Siematic units, central island, pop-up glass cooker hood, two dishwashers, and walk-in larder (more about that later) came from Elle James, the high-end kitchen designer in Potters Bar. 
Jo admits it did seem a big space when it was being built, ‘but it doesn’t now because it is split up into different areas.’ 
The Karndean vinyl floor which runs through all the rooms on the ground floor was laid plank by plank by John Powell Flooring, another highly regarded company in Potters Bar. The luxury tiles look just like wood, can be cleaned in a flash with a mop and are guaranteed for 25 years.

There’s just one wall still standing from the house Glen and Jo Purcell bought three years ago. The only bit remaining is an external wall. The rest has been rebuilt. Outwardly, the house in Mymms Drive in Brookmans Park still bears a strong resemblance to what was there before but inside it’s a different story. In every sense the new interior is light years ahead of the previous arrangement.

Furniture is used to zone what is a large open plan space at the heart of the three-bedroom apartment in a Grade II listed Hertford building (photo: Gareth Gardner)

The pool table in the kitchen area ‘landed up in the best place’ after delivery men refused to take it up two flights of steps

The 44 per cent rise from an average of £365,841 in 2007 to £525,736 last year makes it the city with the second highest increase in the UK, according to figures from Lloyds Bank.

Stacey came up with ideas for how to use furniture to divide up the space without detracting from the character of the building. Her client’s fears about noise have also faded. ’I thought the flat had amazing potential,’ says the designer.

The high ceilings are accentuated by the oversized headboard in the guest bedroom (photo: Gareth Gardner)

PUBLISHED: 10:22 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:24 27 March 2017

The Hewetts are as excited about the latest house as they were about their first. Stacey is full of ideas for it – some stem from innovations she’s used successfully in clients’ homes.

Armed with a first class honours degree, she had no trouble getting a job in London with a company specialising in interior architecture.

The priority for the interior layout was to create a feeling of space and light. The living area of the new house is just over 4,500 sq ft and the ground floor alone is almost 2,000 sq ft. The kitchen-family room is nearly 40ft end-to-end. There are also two reception rooms – a dining room which last Christmas hosted 18 for dinner at two tables end to end – and a room the family call the snug at the front of the house. There’s also the 21ft utility room where the family’s French bulldog puppy Ivy sleeps. It has a row of coat hooks and a rack for shoes handily placed for when you come in from outside.

The bespoke cabinetry is given an Art Deco character with an inset pattern and matching handles (photo: Gareth Gardner)

Monday, April 9, 2018 Words: Pat Bramley. Photos: Gareth Gardener

One surprising feature, not often seen in kitchens but taking pride of place in this one, is the pool table. Jo laughs when I ask about it. ‘The men who delivered it refused to take it up two flights of stairs to the games room so it’s still where they put it when they arrived. It’s used everyday, much more than it would have been upstairs. Unintentionally it landed up in the best place.’

Figures from Lloyds Bank show house prices in St Albans have risen by almost half in 10 years

Five years on, they both have successful careers. Stacey set up design consultancy, Studio 28 Interiors in Castle Street, Hertford, in 2014.

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Vivid turquoise adds vibrancy to the elegant grey and white scheme in this bedroom

More recent projects have been closer to home. Another client with global contacts asked her to produce a feasibility study on whether to buy a newly-converted three bedroom apartment on the first floor of a Grade II listed building, originally a school, not far from Stacey’s Hertford studio. He wanted the apartment (pictured) as a prestigious UK base for his enterprise – somewhere he could entertain – but also as a permanent home in England.

‘He wanted to create a self-contained guest suite in the basement. It involved digging under the villa into the cliff face, excavating the rock and making a feature of it – very ambitious. It was nearly two years before it was finished. I was so fortunate to get a commission like that to start me off. From start to finish it took just under four years.’

Upstairs on the first floor are five bedrooms and four bathrooms, including Jo and Glen’s plush master suite with his-and-her dressing rooms.

At the top of the house is an L-shaped 25ft games room and a sixth bedroom which Jo uses as her office when she works from home. The floor on the top level is sound- proofed so noise doesn’t travel down when the children have their friends over and they’re playing table tennis or whooping it up with their X-Boxes. Just as importantly, domestic noises do not disturb the marketing consultant when she’s talking to clients.

Geometric panelling and symmetry give the bathroom an Art Deco feel (photo: Gareth Gardner)

Reflecting this success (Studio 28 has just been awarded Houzz Best of Design 2018), this time they’re looking to buy a family house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms – somewhere they hope to live for many years.

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Before going into rented accommodation for a year, for the first eight months of owning the property the family lived in it ‘as was’ while they got the lie of the land, sorted out the finer details of the new design and sought planning permission.

Green, greys and gold are carried through to the opulent dressing room (photo: Gareth Gardner)

Take a look through the keyhole of this luxury new build in Hadley Wood

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‘We’d lived in Brookmans Park for eight years before we moved here,’ Jo says. ‘We’d always liked the road this house was on. The house had been owned by the same family for 40 years. We noticed the property because it has a wide frontage – it’s on a plot of just over a third of an acre. We kept our eye on it in case it came up for sale and when it did, we bought it.’

Having completed such a large home rebuild you’d think the pair would be resting on their laurels. But no, they’re gearing up for a new project. Next time they want to build a house from scratch. They’ve already seen a likely plot for the new place. In the meantime, the one they made earlier in Mymms Drive is for sale at Statons, Brookmans Park for £2.295m.

Colour and interest in the garden isn’t confined to the warmer months of the year. Philippa Pearson chooses her favourite flowers, foliage, stems and bark to brighten winter

‘We used a London-based architect Glen has worked with before, Marcus Nelson. They get on well together. We tell him our ideas, he comes up with his, it’s the perfect working relationship,’ Jo explains.

‘I’m passionate about design,’ she adds as if you hadn’t noticed. In her gentle way she tells you straight what the score is. That’s why she thinks her clients trust her as well as for her curiosity about the new: ‘I’m driven about keeping up to date with new products and advances in technology and trends,’ she says. ‘During lunchtimes I’ve invited companies and suppliers to come in and talk to us about what’s new, even if it’s just what you can do with fabrics today – there have been amazing advances with fabrics.’

‘After leaving school I took an arts foundation course and gained a diploma in design at Hertford Regional College. That gave me the qualifications to move on and take a four year degree in interior architecture and design at Middlesex University.’

As for the larder, Jo has the previous owner to thank for that. She explains: ‘When we first moved in, the kitchen had a pantry. I’d never had one before and just loved it. It had three wooden shelves and you could see at a glance exactly what was there. I wouldn’t want to be without one now.’

Don’t rush: We can all get carried away with the excitement of renovating a space but it’s important to take your time and think about what you really want. Live in and use your space and observe what you like and dislike about it. How can you add to it or change it to make the space work better for you? By taking time to research and consider the options you will achieve a more considered and professional feel to your interior.

For another client who was restoring a recently-acquired eight bedroom Arts and Crafts house in Surrey, the main problem was how to increase the amount of natural light.

The romance of a grand inn on the old Great North Road led to a couple abandoning a new build and setting to work restoring a piece of Herts’ history

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This Brookmans Park house will give you contemporary interior inspiration

As for colours for their new home in Hertfordshire, Stacey and Paul and their dachshund Herman will be moving come the autumn – and it’s this time of year that is giving Stacey inspiration. It will be the soft shades of heather in the county’s woodland – dusty pinks, earthy greens and rich caramels – more muted than the vibrant shades in her client’s villa in Barbados.

Being able to turn up on site and talk to building contractors about technical details puts the relationship on a different level from day one.

House prices in St Albans have increased by almost half in the past 10 years.

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