Two Become One: A Colorful Townhouse for an Actor and a Cinematographer

Scrolling through Instagram during a chilly evening at home, I stopped on an image of a living room in unexpected hues, like something right out of Bemelman’s Bar. I’d later learn that the homeowner, Zoe, in describing her vision for the space, summed up our own yearnings of late: “Having lived in predominantly white spaces for the past few years, I found myself thirsty for color,” she said. “I wanted a space that was vibrant and uplifting.”

The four-story townhouse in Dalston, UK, belongs to Zoe, an actor, and Benedict, a cinematographer, who brought in London-based firm Bradley Van Der Straeten, and principally architect Jessica Williamson, to transform their newly purchased space. “Already knowing the clients well, we had the opportunity to view the house before they placed an offer,” the architects say. (They’d previously worked with Zoe on a renovation of her Hampstead apartment.) “This enabled us to provide some initial advice and ideas. We also knew that whatever we were going to embark on together was going to be fun.”

Major changes came in the form of structure. The townhouse was divided into two separate dwellings: a flat on the first floor and a “family maisonette,” as the architects call it, occupying the top three floors, accessed only via a flight of external stairs. “What struck us about the building was its grand urban Brooklyn townhouse feel and the generous proportions of the main living areas and beautiful bay windows,” the architects say.

The brief from this creative pair was three-fold: join two homes into one, restore the stately bones of the top three floors, and inject lots—and lots—of color. “With Benedict being a cinematographer, his technical interest and knowledge meant we had to be on our A-game when it came to lighting and designing for natural daylight,” the team adds.

Let’s see how it turned out.

Photography by French and Tye, courtesy of Bradley Van Der Straeten.

the townhome, now merged into one dwelling, is traditional on the outside; insi 9
Above: The townhome, now merged into one dwelling, is traditional on the outside; inside, though, it is what the architects call “a bold and colorful bohemian party house.”

“the design solution was simple,” the architects repor 10
Above: “The design solution was simple,” the architects report. “The basement level was cramped, damp, and in need of total transformation, but the upper three floors had beautiful proportions, and we could save on structural and rebuilding works by focusing on celebrating the existing rooms—without the need for major structural change.” On the ground floor, the snug (or “rear reception”) is sunny and bright thanks to a coat of India Yellow by Farrow & Ball.