Inspirational, aspirational, amazing: there are certain homes that inspire major house envy in even the strongest of us and Balham House is one of those homes.
Untouched since a rather taste-free makeover in the early 1990s, it took vision, time, patience and an abundance of talent from interiors stylist and crafts author Catherine Woram and her architect husband Michael Bains of White Architecture to turn this once tired seven bedroom, three bathroom South London house into the stunning tv-location-worthy gem showcased in the picture gallery below:
The transformation was so stunning in fact that the house was runner up in 2008's I Own Britain's Best Home tv programme. We chatted to Catherine to see how she did it:
Congratulations on Balham House – it is stunning. The project must have seemed pretty overwhelming at first – how long did the transformation take?
It took two years including the kitchen extension – we started at the top of the house and worked downwards and the kitchen was the last thing we did. The house was seven bed, three bath, but we changed it to six bed, three bath and took the large master bathroom as the dressing room and converted the large spare room into the master bathroom with shower.
Was this your first renovation project?
No, this is our fifth house and before that we had a large flat in Shepherd's Bush.
Any major disasters along the way?
We found some damp in places and had some trouble installing the enormous picture window in the kitchen but other than that things went fairly smoothly.
Did you set out to achieve a certain consistent look throughout the house at the start of the project or did it just evolve?
I wanted a classical (slightly French-inspired look) throughout the original parts of the house with the new extension being crisp and modern. I have always had the same taste in furniture and have collected armoires and French mirrors for more than fifteen years now, so the interiors of all of our homes have had to incorporate this particular style. The collection has grown as our houses have grown in size but I still go for the same look.
How would you describe the style of the house?
I think it is classical without being too traditional – I don't like houses where owners try to recreate the original period with dark historical paints and furnishings.
Did you live in the house during the renovation and do you still?
We lived in the house throughout the building work – we were lucky that we had the basement area with separate access, so we had a cooker and shower area in there. We have now lived in the house for over four years.
Do you have a favourite space in the house?
My favourite place is our bathroom with the freestanding bath and the wall of gold mosaics in the shower room. My daughter says the bathroom is a "bit too bling bling" as I have used a lot of gold and silver sparkly accessories in there. However they can easily be removed and the room is still a classical luxurious space.
The interior is predominantly white – and yet there appears to be evidence of children in the house – how does that work?!
We have always had white interiors – any finger prints are wiped off and the kids take off their shoes to go upstairs. Artwork is relegated to the basement. People think white is hard to keep clean but it isn't really any more difficult than other colours. If it shows dirt it means it should be cleaned anyway! We also have a dog and we simply wipe his paws if he goes in the garden when it is muddy.
Where did you source the furnishings to achieve the look? Do you have a list of "go-to" shops for interiors projects?
Furniture and furnishings I have picked up along the way for years – one of the iron beds in the kids room and one wash-stand I bought when I was about twelve and have had them ever since.
You're on the books of locations agency 1st Option. Has the house been used a lot as a shoot location?
Yes, the house is used a lot – I think mainly because of its size and the fact that we can retreat to the basement – no-one wants homeowners lurking around during a photographic shoot.
What advice would you give to anyone embarking on a renovation project?
After each project we say we should have moved out and rented elsewhere during the building work and this is true. It makes life a lot easier for the builders and I think it enables them to work more quickly.
Do you have any other home makeovers in the works?
No, we recently finished converting a large Victorian house in Clapham into five two bed two bath flats which was a lot of work and we are taking some time off. That's not to say we will never do it again however!