Buying a council house brings benefits and praise

4 Nov

A once rundown council house is now a runaway success, says Cheryl Markosky.

You don’t often hear of a tired-looking Fifties’ council house with no central heating, crumbling windows and past-their-sell-by date carpets being feted with praise.

But a spruced-up, former local authority terrace in Peckham Rye’s Somerton Road has hit the pages of Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph (topping the Best Renovation shortlist) and Home Building and Renovating magazine.

Its fame is due to gifted owners Magnus Scholz and Aubrey Laret, with a lengthy list of design skills (contemporary art, furniture, architecture, interiors and soft furnishings) between them.

The talented duo first found the house when calling on a friend who lived nearby in Dulwich.

“We were attracted to this council house, one of only six houses in the road and close to Peckham Rye Common. It had lots of light and was larger than the others, as it was at the end of the terrace,” Scholz explains.

04.11.13 PL Council house 4

Even though some locals were anxious about the Victorian redbrick building becoming a contemporary pad with a jet-black façade and acid yellow windows, the planners liked the designs. They suggested Scholz and Laret extend within permitted development rights, applying later to finish the renovations.

It took four years to complete the work, because of the two planning submissions. “We did most of the work during holidays and on the weekends,” says Scholz. The duo also tackled nearly everything themselves, “except for the roof, gas and electrics. It’s good to have something unique we can call our own.”

The two designers twisted the house round, adding on a ground floor timber extension providing more living space (the house has expanded from 70 to 105 square metres), with sliding eight-metre glazed doors opening straight onto the garden.

04.11.13 PL Council house 2

“It was important to position the house away from the street,” Scholz argues, who says this turnaround now makes the living room his favourite space.

“I’m sitting enjoying the sunshine, reflected light on the pond, the birds and my neighbour’s cat. We’re always part of the garden here.”

Another key feature is the master bedroom suite with its roomy dressing room and bathroom, lit by an enormous skylight set in the roof space. Meanwhile, guests are undisturbed in the second bedroom on the floor below.

What advice would Scholz give to anyone nervous about taking on a council property?

“I’d tell them to think again. Former council houses usually aren’t listed, so they’re easy to do up. And, they can put up with a lot of knocking about.”

Selling agent Luke Bishop from Wooster & Stock believes this is one of the smartest designed houses he’s had on his books in a long while.

“The owners have really thought about the best way to update it and have created something very interesting.”

Bishop adds that the house is well situated in a Peckham prime location. “It’s right next to the Common and not far from shops, bars and restaurants.”

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