This Brookmans Park house will give you contemporary interior inspiration
PUBLISHED: 10:22 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:24 27 March 2017
Most people redecorate when they move home, but for one Brookmans Park couple things went a step or two further. Pat Bramley looks at how a traditional property was reimagined for the 21st century
There’s just one wall still standing from the house Glen and Jo Purcell bought three years ago. The only bit remaining is an external wall. The rest has been rebuilt. Outwardly, the house in Mymms Drive in Brookmans Park still bears a strong resemblance to what was there before but inside it’s a different story. In every sense the new interior is light years ahead of the previous arrangement.
‘We’d lived in Brookmans Park for eight years before we moved here,’ Jo says. ‘We’d always liked the road this house was on. The house had been owned by the same family for 40 years. We noticed the property because it has a wide frontage – it’s on a plot of just over a third of an acre. We kept our eye on it in case it came up for sale and when it did, we bought it.’
The couple planned to transform the interior for a modern family’s lifestyle and they had the expertise to achieve all that and more. Glen is a surveyor by profession and runs Purkelly Bros, the family-owned underpinning and pile-driving business. His firm was established in Finsbury Park by the previous generation in 1971 and is now based in Hitchin.
‘Although the company specialises in foundations, obviously my husband has experience and contacts in other trades too. Over the years we’ve completely refurbished two previous homes we’ve owned but this was our biggest project by far. The whole build took 11 months from start to finish. Glen project-managed it and brought it in on schedule. He was here everyday. He was brilliant.’
Jo and her husband are 46 and both come from large families with an Irish background. Jo is the only one of her clan living in England. ‘They come over often. The house is always full of people. We love entertaining.’
As a partner in a consultancy called More Partnerships, she advises universities and other educational establishments on marketing and communications. Previously she was a director of Middlesex University. She and Glen have two children, Liam, 14 and Tara, 12. ‘What with their dad and granddad being in the construction business, they’ve grown up with the conversation revolving around architecture and building. They enjoy it. They loved designing their bedrooms when we moved here.’
Before going into rented accommodation for a year, for the first eight months of owning the property the family lived in it ‘as was’ while they got the lie of the land, sorted out the finer details of the new design and sought planning permission.
‘We used a London-based architect Glen has worked with before, Marcus Nelson. They get on well together. We tell him our ideas, he comes up with his, it’s the perfect working relationship,’ Jo explains.
‘I wanted the new house to be sympathetic to the style of the architecture in the road. I didn’t want something ultra modern which would be out of keeping. We took down the original double gable with the white rendering and rebuilt it in the same style with white rendering, then Marcus suggested using cladding on the new one to give it a contemporary twist. The initial idea was to clad it in zinc. I didn’t want zinc. As much as I like it, I thought it would look too industrial, so we chose the grey stuff, it’s baked terracotta. The trade name is Marley Eternit Equitone fibre cement rainscreen cladding – the advantage is it can be removed if you want to change it at some point in the future. I think the grey cladding looks cool at the moment but in five or 10 years it could look dated. If that happens, it can be taken off and replaced with rendering or whatever is on-trend then.’
The priority for the interior layout was to create a feeling of space and light. The living area of the new house is just over 4,500 sq ft and the ground floor alone is almost 2,000 sq ft. The kitchen-family room is nearly 40ft end-to-end. There are also two reception rooms – a dining room which last Christmas hosted 18 for dinner at two tables end to end – and a room the family call the snug at the front of the house. There’s also the 21ft utility room where the family’s French bulldog puppy Ivy sleeps. It has a row of coat hooks and a rack for shoes handily placed for when you come in from outside.
Although Jo says she’s ‘not precious’ about the normal wear and tear a house has to stand up to, she does like unobstructed surfaces to the extent that the windows are all bespoke because she didn’t want fanlights spoiling a sparkling pane of glass. The frames are powder coated aluminium in graphite.
The hub-of-the-house kitchen with its German-made Siematic units, central island, pop-up glass cooker hood, two dishwashers, and walk-in larder (more about that later) came from Elle James, the high-end kitchen designer in Potters Bar. Jo admits it did seem a big space when it was being built, ‘but it doesn’t now because it is split up into different areas.’ The Karndean vinyl floor which runs through all the rooms on the ground floor was laid plank by plank by John Powell Flooring, another highly regarded company in Potters Bar. The luxury tiles look just like wood, can be cleaned in a flash with a mop and are guaranteed for 25 years.
One surprising feature, not often seen in kitchens but taking pride of place in this one, is the pool table. Jo laughs when I ask about it. ‘The men who delivered it refused to take it up two flights of stairs to the games room so it’s still where they put it when they arrived. It’s used everyday, much more than it would have been upstairs. Unintentionally it landed up in the best place.’
As for the larder, Jo has the previous owner to thank for that. She explains: ‘When we first moved in, the kitchen had a pantry. I’d never had one before and just loved it. It had three wooden shelves and you could see at a glance exactly what was there. I wouldn’t want to be without one now.’
Upstairs on the first floor are five bedrooms and four bathrooms, including Jo and Glen’s plush master suite with his-and-her dressing rooms.
At the top of the house is an L-shaped 25ft games room and a sixth bedroom which Jo uses as her office when she works from home. The floor on the top level is sound- proofed so noise doesn’t travel down when the children have their friends over and they’re playing table tennis or whooping it up with their X-Boxes. Just as importantly, domestic noises do not disturb the marketing consultant when she’s talking to clients.
The rooms on the top floor all have Velux windows but it’s the vast skylight fitted with self-cleaning reinforced plate glass above the second floor landing which really does the job of letting in light – that and the acres of glass in the picture windows, plus the glazed roof and bi-fold glass doors in the kitchen/family room. All these ensure the owners achieved their vision that inside and out should exist in a happy harmony by creating a light and airy home.
Having completed such a large home rebuild you’d think the pair would be resting on their laurels. But no, they’re gearing up for a new project. Next time they want to build a house from scratch. They’ve already seen a likely plot for the new place. In the meantime, the one they made earlier in Mymms Drive is for sale at Statons, Brookmans Park for £2.295m.