A designer couple transform a dark Victorian terrace into a bright family home | Interiors
OWe never really wanted to live in a Victorian terraced house,” says Shay Alkalay, owner of an 1860s Victorian terraced house in north London. “It’s a bit strange for us coming from Tel Aviv. The houses here are usually so dark and cramped with ugly features – and carpeted. But a complete transformation at the hands of Shay and his wife, Yael Mer, co-founders of award-winning design studio Raw Edges, means their home is now an inviting, open and bright family home.
The house, which the couple bought four years ago, was ready for renovation. “We used to live at the Barbican in London, which was a bit like Tel Aviv, full of modernist architecture. When it came to the design of this place, we wanted the interior to reflect that,” says Yael who, along with Shay, moved to London 18 years ago to study at the Royal College of Art “Our aim was to make our house modern, to bring as much light into the space as possible, to level the floors – to really make it work for family life.” The couple have two daughters, Neeva, 11, and Maia, seven, and a cockapoo named Ami.
The first step was to remove interior walls and unnecessary details – “The ground floor was originally made up of three stepped rooms” – by extending the ground floor towards the garden, then building a spectacular loft. “Inspiration came from British modernist architecture and the industrial interiors of schools and hospitals,” says Shay.
The front door now opens directly into an open-plan kitchen and dining area with comfortable corner seating for reading and socializing. The expanded ground floor is the children’s area, with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, gymnastic rings and a drop-down projector for family movie nights. “The girls and their friends can do as much damage as they want and we don’t have to see it,” Yael says. The first floor houses the girls’ bedrooms and a family bathroom, and the newly built top floor is a suite for Yael and Shay. Each floor has more or less uninterrupted front and rear aspect glazing, so that light passes through the house.
What makes the place particularly special is the couple’s sense of hand in everything. “We have a workshop in our studio, so it seemed like a no-brainer to do as much of it ourselves as possible,” says Shay. “There were quite a few weekends spent sitting in the garden gluing MDF and Lino.”
There are the downstairs built-in corner seats upholstered in orange Kvadrat wool, a large downstairs wall shelving system, which uses adapted Ikea units, hidden storage by the door of the entry for anything that falls by the kids and, most impressive of all, is the couple’s own roll-top bed on the top floor of the house. “It’s both a bus stop and a princess bed,” explains Yael. “We didn’t want curtains to block the view from the top floor, so we closed the bed with curtains instead.”
The white walls throughout the house, painted in Dulux white cotton, provide the perfect backdrop for Yael and Shay’s extensive use of color. The kitchen is a happy mix of red and green cabinets and a ceramic tile wall they designed for Mutina, which work perfectly with the bright yellow Jasper Morrison chairs for Vitra and their DIY Lino dining table.
The house is welcoming and practical yet full of surprises and fun. Alongside products they have designed for brands, such as the light fixture for Louis Vuitton above the dining table, rugs for Gan, a sofa for the British startup cozmo, or the Stack shelving system for Established & Sons in their bedroom, the house mainly offers humble and industrial materials and accessories. There is Lino on the surfaces of the simple plywood shelves, wooden floors and concrete walls. Even the door handles and sink faucets come from school suppliers, inspired by their daughters’ primary school.
Are they satisfied with their first interior project? “Yeah, but being the designer makes you feel like you can always change things. I tried to convince Yael to move the kitchen downstairs. Yael isn’t convinced.” I said, to the next place, everything can be on wheels, so when Shay wakes up in the morning and wants to move something, I can say, ‘Cool, just push it.'”