"We spent £120,000 but gained £300,000 in value"

When buying their first home, Hiromi Kaneko and Marek Krawczyk obeyed one adage of property purchasing—and entirely disregarded another.

With a limited budget the couple bought the worst house on the best street they could afford. Yet when it came to improving the properly they spent a six-figure suns reinventing the space they had, rather than extending it.

While increasing floor space is the time-honoured way of adding value to a home, their take on open-plan living in east London has paid of with a handsome paper profit and a wonderful living space. which pays homage to Kaneko’s Japanese roots.

The couple moved to London from the US just as house prices were collapsing at the start of the recession. Nonetheless Kaneko, who is training to be a chef, and Krawczyk, an accountant. say they were always keen to buy a property.

By 2012 they were ready to make their more and paid £460,000 for the three-bedroom house close to

Victoria Park in Hackney. The house had previously been ranted and was in an unloved condition. ‘I don’t think it had been updated since the 1950s,” Kaneko. 45, says. “But we did not mind that it needed some work”

As well as its location, they liked its size. It was built in the 1950s — likely to infill a bomb site — and although it followed the traditional Victorian layout of its terraced neighbours it was on a wider than average plot and measured a not ungenerous 1,292 sq ft.

They moved in immediately redecorated the bedrooms and began hunting for an architect in the firm belief that the sort of project they had in mind was beyond their basic DIY knowledge We knew we wanted to remodel it, knocking down walls and really changing the space,” Krawczyk, 35, explains. “We knew that we would need professional help.”

They chose Scenario Architecture partly because it was a local firm and partly because they felt that the project architect, Farris Anastasiadis, had the best understanding of the dream —a calm. simple, open space with plenty of light — and how to achieve it.

In reality, the house they have ended up with is not quite conventional open-plan space. Rather than roing wild with a sledgehammer and removing all the internal walls, Anastasiadis opted to remove sections of walls so that, while each space flows into one another, each it distinctly separate.

The palette of materials and shades is almost monastic — the walls are white. the floors are either a dark stained oak or, in the kitchen, polished concrete. The sand-coloured quartz work surface in the kitchen is as close to a pop of colour as it gets.

Krawczyk was determined to have an open fire and they opted for a two-way fireplace set into a section of wall that stands between the living room and the kitchen, providing a feature for both. Logs are stored neatly in a bespoke alcove below,

Indeed, this is a small house full of neat features. The wall between the entrance hall and living room, for instance has been rebuilt in an “s” shape. On either side of this wall, set into each curve of the “s”,. is a low seat that doubles as a storage cupboard, The kitchen table has been designed to slide under the kitchen island if the couple want more floor space. and their two pet cats have been amply catered for Chuck Norris and Darth Yoder do not need to climb all the way down the stairs in search of food and company. Instead they can climb through a small cat-sized hatch cut into the balustrade, take a narrow walkway over the top of the hallway and stroll into the kitchen. The cats also have a den, accessed through another hatch, this time at skirting-board level, to a space under the stairs.

This project is an exercise in remodelling rather than extension, The original house had a dated conservatory extension. which was demolished and rebuilt as part of the kitchen, with a new skylight and two sets of french windows overlooking the garden. Rather than go fora straight across “glass box” extension so popular in family kitchens from Islington to Barnes. Anastasiadis gave the rear of the house a slightly asymmetrical facade, which breaks in to two sections what would otherwise be it potentially monotonous wall of glass.

Outside, the flat kitchen roof is planted with wildflowers — pretty and practical because it helps with insulation — and the roof overhangs a few feet, ‘It means that even when it is raining we can have the doors open without a problem.’ Kaneko says.

The work increased the floor space of the home — but only by about 10 sq ft “What we realised was that to make the house much better we did not need to make it much bigger.” says Ran Ankory, the director of Scenario Architecture.

The couple remained in situ during the ten-month project, creating a makeshift kitchen in one of the bedrooms and gritting their teeth.

The work cost £120,000, which included all professional fees and landscaping the garden, and the couple could have freshened up the space themselves for a great deal less. However, not only are they delighted with the stylish, light space they have to live in but the market is on their side.

Hackney has been one of London’s great property success stories, with prices up 11.4 per cent in the past 12 months, according to the Land Registry. The couple had the property valued shortly after the work was completed at £350,000 — not bad for their overall £580,000 investment.

Right now, however, they have no plans to move and have more work to do on their home. We still have to do the upstairs,” Kaneko says. “Although I do like a minimal feel, I think we might also think about some more furniture.”

Ruth Bloomfield

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