Edwardian elegance meets Pop Art in Watford

PUBLISHED: 11:54 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:14 15 August 2013

Tammy Goldstein in her kitchen, which mixes vintage with bespoke pieces

Tammy Goldstein in her kitchen, which mixes vintage with bespoke pieces

Simon Harvey Photography Ltd

A brand designer and her rabbi husband have renovated an Edwardian property in Watford to create a family home that combines traditional features with contemporary style

When Tammy and Aaron Goldstein moved to a four-bedroom double-fronted Edwardian semi in Watford with their young daughters Liora and Shaya, they began a four-year plan to project manage the entire renovation of the 1909 building to reflect their tastes and lifestyle.

‘We moved from Barnet just before our second child was born to be closer to our parents and both our sisters and their families,’ says Tammy. ‘We were very specific about the type of property we sought and this area seemed more affordable with plenty of old character properties offering just what we were looking for.’

‘Moving day was on a hot summer’s day and a heavily-pregnant Tammy was already ripping off the wallpaper,’ Aaron says. ‘The sash window bays at the front were firmly closed so one of my first tasks was to ease them open.’

Watford is an area both Aaron who is rabbi of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue and in particular Tammy knew well as she attended the town grammar school for girls. A creative director, Tammy has discovered her street is enclave for creatives.

‘We have great neighbours, some of whom are teachers, musicians and designers. The lady opposite runs the netmums.com website and the three-harmony music group The Staves grew up a few doors down. In the summer we’ve loved listening to their voices as they hold practice sessions in their garden and we’re a stones throw from Cassiobury Park with its greenery and canal waterways.’

The couple sought building consent to open up the downstairs and create an open plan kitchen diner to replace the dated 70s kitchen. They also took out the old hot water tank inconveniently stored in a large cupboard in Shaya’s bedroom and re-housed a new 40 kilowatt condensed boiler in the kitchen.

Seeking inspiration for the project, a chance meeting led to both design support and friendship, Tammy explains, ‘As I walked Shaya to nursery I would pass by a beautiful Victorian house with grey muted exteriors. One day I dropped a postcard through the door introducing myself and to ask what the paint colour was on the front door. It was interior designer Liz Dewhurst’s house and she later visited me and we have become good friends since. She has helped us out no end with the project - encouraging our decision-making process and recommending a local builder and several tradesmen.’

The building work began in spring with the removal of the partition dining room and kitchen wall and supportive RSJ steelwork.

‘We had the original kitchen entrance door blocked in and made sure the skirting boards were the same height as the original,’ says Tammy. ‘We had the coving mended in a few places where it had cracked or broken to maintain the original features of the house. Older properties have so much character they wrap themselves around you with their charm.’

The couple set up a makeshift kitchen in the conservatory and washed up crockery in the bath upstairs. With a family holiday scheduled, Liz kindly stepped in to manage the project while the couple were away. But the couple were in for a shock.

‘We received a troublesome phone call from Liz while we were on holiday to say that the kitchen had arrived and didn’t seem to fit the space. Being more of a 2D designer than a 3D designer I drew up the kitchen plan myself and somehow managed to get all the measurements completely wrong! The Corian worktops had to be cut to fit on site and the original plan was to have the fridge by the bi-fold doors at the end of the run but it didn’t fit. So we had to rework the plan and put the fridge at the other end nearest the dining area. In hindsight it has worked out much better than planned as it would have been daft to have the fridge by the doors and in direct sunlight during the summer months.’

The couple asked a carpenter they had used previously to design and craft wooden kitchen doors, which were then spray-painted. Tammy sourced the Corian stone worktops, Siemens appliances, iridescent mosaic tiled splash back panel and had the tabletop made to measure by a local kitchen firm.

‘We wanted a table large enough to entertain family and friends and one that we could easily attach our table tennis net on which we all love to play, especially Aaron,’ says Tammy. ‘We’ve had 22 people sitting down for large dinner parties and for the Seder Passover meal in the kitchen-dining room.

‘The church pew was a gift from Aaron’s parents and came from our old synagogue building in Northwood before it was renovated. The old cabinet we use as a dresser and belonged to Aaron’s uncle’s science laboratory in Birmingham, we sanded it and absolutely love it. Even the chairs have a story to tell, as they came from Exeter Cathedral, we bought them from a local antique shop.’

‘To me the most special finishing touches come from places with a story like the tiles we bought back from Old Jaffa Market in Israel in the downstairs loo which I love,’ adds Aaron.

Tammy and Aaron received financial help from a government scheme to enable them to insulate the loft and create an open plan master bedroom and en-suite.

‘We have enough storage space downstairs and found that we hardly used the loft space. Insulating the space allowed us to be more ecological and retain far more heat in an old style building that had leaked heat in previous winters,’ Tammy says. ‘Downstairs is our family day space and by the evening the loft is a great open space perfect for a young family.’

Aaron ripped up all the floorboards and as light was a key focus with front and rear windows in the new master bedroom, Tammy and Aaron decided against putting up a partition wall in the bathing area. Tammy selected tonal paint shades and light fabric roman blinds rather than heavy curtains to allow in the light.

‘At any point of the day, wherever the sun is, light streams into one of the rooms,’ says Tammy. ‘We wanted to ensure that we made the most of the original Edwardian features of the house such as the high ceilings and sash windows.’

Other new features upstairs include custom-made wardrobes in all the bedrooms to utilise alcove space either side of the original fireplaces, a wall-to-wall desk in Tammy’s study with open shelves above and underneath and new fixtures and fittings in the family bathroom including a metre-wide stud wall to conceal the toilet and disguise the pipe work.

With Tammy’s commitment to media and design and Aaron’s shared passion for contemporary art and Pop Art the couple regularly visit galleries and art consultancies for inspired purchases for their home. Their current artwork collection include pieces by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, graffiti artist Blek le Rat and several pieces by the pioneer of Pop Art, Peter Blake.

‘To me my home is a place of calm. We have created quite a minimal space within the context and richness of an old Edwardian building. With neutral painted walls and our choice of contemporary art, it really brings the interiors to life,’ says Tammy. ‘We didn’t want any high-maintenance surfaces. I wanted a home where the children could come in and dump their bags in the hallway, adding to the look of a comfortable yet stylish family home.’


What we learnt

‘Having discovered a water meter on the outside kitchen wall that led to damp issues, we learnt to focus more on getting substantial aspects right such as the damp proofing first instead of getting carried away with the finishing appearances.’


‘As our budget didn’t stretch to having wooden floors in all downstairs rooms we chose to do the hall and kitchen diner first. The problem arose three years later when it came to matching up the same floor for the living room. The oak had weathered and the plank size differed from the manufacturer. Next time round I would ensure a seamless match throughout all the rooms.’


‘Several practical things can make a huge difference to conserve energy and heat up your home. Thanks to a government scheme we received financial support to insulate our loft. As we have increased the size of the house and created two new bathrooms we decided to install a large 40 killer watt condensed boiler, which saw a large part of our budget spent but was well worth it. The wood burner also generates a huge amount of heat both downstairs and upstairs.’


‘We questioned how much space we actually needed. Extensions aren’t a necessity, if you can make a space feel larger without extending it makes much better sense.’


Favourite feature

‘With the amount of scope available and with the dual aspect front to back, we decided to create a new master suite with an open plan bathing area. I’d seen the open plan bed/bath idea in a boutique hotel and thought it would be great to have at home. I suppose we did take a risk but it’s such a great space that we all enjoy using as a young family.

The cast iron bath is so heavy that we had to check the floor joists were strong enough to support the weight. There was also some concern that we wouldn’t be able to get the bath up the stairs but with a team of four strong men they coped just fine.

When the house was built in circa 1909 it wasn’t conducive to having en suite bathrooms so to be able to create something that wasn’t necessarily meant to be there yet is still in keeping with and suits the house felt so right to do.’


Useful contacts

Interior design: Dewhurst Design 07815 770 278 www.dewhurstdesign.co.uk

Bathrooms: Plumbco Bathrooms 020 8236 0777 www.plumbco-uk.co.uk

Kitchen tabletop: Modern Laminates 01923 229029 www.modernlaminates.co.uk

Solid oak flooring and mosaic tiles: European Heritage 020 7381 6063


Modern and contemporary art: 0203 544 6409 www.harperdeyong.com

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