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Hot Houses: Victorian Modernism

Fashion stylist (and soon-to-be online lifestyle store owner) Jo and interiors photographer Graham Atkins-Hughes have lived in this spectacular house in Dalston, East London since 2001. They share it with their two young sons and a lot of highly covetable furniture. You'd be seriously hard pressed to find a more stylish space. We found out how it was done:

To see more of this amazing house, check out the picture gallery below.

Hot Houses: Victorian ModernismI feel a bad attack of house envy coming on. Photo: Graham Atkins-Hughes

What kind of condition was the house in when you bought it and what work have you done?
It was in a pretty poor condition, it had been a communal living space for a long time and was a bit 'make do and mend' - the basement was very damp and everywhere needed a lot of tlc. We started by taking out lots of walls in the basement and putting in structural steels, making windows into doors and replacing the floor in the basement and what was the bathroom and is now the make-up/props room.
All the windows have been replaced, the electrics and the central heating. We took out the wall between the two bedrooms on the first floor to make an open plan bedroom and bathroom and split the larger front bedroom on the top floor with a teak wall, to make a walk-in wardrobe (now our office) and an en-suite toilet.

Lots of re-plastering and then putting back some features like the coving in the living room on the raised ground floor and having shutters made for the new doors on the raised ground floor and basement levels.
The other major thing we did was to put in things like the wooden wall in the basement (which is actually flooring) and the stone fireplace (see picture gallery below). Sourcing materials was the most fun bit - thank goodness for the internet - getting samples of wood, slate, felt, cork, lacquering and other bits and pieces was incredibly inspiring and exciting. Then finally the paint colours which have remained virtually unchanged since we did them - only the living room has gone from a dark eau de nil to black - and we still love them.
How would you describe the decorative style of the house to someone who had never seen it?
Victorian Modernism! We both love Modernist architecture and interiors, but it is a Victorian house, so we tried to introduce some warm textures with the wood and stone, but felt committed to keeping the beautiful Victorian features - the fireplaces, coving, shutters and doors.
Did you have a vision for how the house should look as a whole, or did you work on a room by room basis and the look just evolved?
We had a basic idea of what we wanted, having worked as a stylist and photographer for many years, we had had the privilege of shooting on location both in the UK and abroad, we had tons of tear sheets from magazines and Graham had just finished shooting a book called Understanding Modern which had involved him shooting in the States, so we had lots of references to draw on; though the practical things evolved as we lived 'on-site' during the work.
Please tell us about the stunning colour palette you've used in the house.
We have used dark smokey colours - in the UK they are often seen as 'heritage' colours, but as such are often only used as accent colours on woodwork and doors etc, but we have used them everywhere (including floors and ceilings). We find them calming and warm, and a fantastic foil to most colours and compliment the wonderful wood, stone and the tones of the furniture and accessories.
What three words would you most like people to use when describing your home?
Stylish, home, warm.
Which word would you least like people to use when talking about it?
Drab.
You have some really fabulous furniture and decorative pieces in the house – where do you tend to shop?
Anywhere and everywhere - Ebay, Ikea, local vintage shops, Oxfam (charity shop - my favourite!), junk shops - I haven't dared go to an auction yet. My advice is just keep your eyes peeled, you never know where or when you might find treasure.
Which is your favourite space in the house and why?
That's hard, it changes all the time - so often you think it's right and then suddenly it's wrong - or more likely I'm just desperately trying to think of a way of squeezing in a new piece of furniture I've seen on Ebay (without Graham noticing!) so probably the basement, as it is where we spend most of our time - but tomorrow...who knows.
Is there anything you would change about the house?
A few more rooms to experiment a bit more with décor and furniture, a workshop/studio and a bigger hallway, but that's just being greedy.
The house is used as a shoot location. Has it been used for anything we might have seen?
Magazines like - Elle Decoration, Harper's Bazaar, Living Etc, Wonderland and retailers like Reiss, Jaeger, Space NK, Harvey Nichols... lots more, but too many to list! Sometimes it's difficult to spot as they transform it completely even we don't recognise it.
In your opinion, no home should be without...what?
Things that make you happy, whether that is beautiful paintings, children, dogs or flowers - it should be more than just somewhere to live ... (and storage).