Sam Webb nearly didn’t bother to look at her London flat, situated on the first floor of a converted Victorian building.
‘I’d just had a sale fall through, so when an agent told me he had a great place for me to see but that it was already under offer, I was a little reluctant to view it,’ she explains. ‘However, when I walked in and saw the light, the high ceilings and the view to St Paul’s, I knew this was the one for me.’ Accordingly, Sam put in a sealed bid and a nervous week later, the flat was hers.
When Sam bought the apartment it had a different configuration, with two bedrooms rather than one, and wasn’t at all suited to her lifestyle. ‘But, at the time, I couldn’t afford to change the bathroom or the kitchen around, so it was a question of simply decorating to my taste,’ she says. ‘Seven years later, I decided that the kitchen really had to go, so I began to think about reconfiguring the flat to fit my needs.’ Originally, the kitchen was located across the corridor from the living space, between the two bedrooms. ‘It wasn’t quite big enough to eat in, and the sitting room wasn’t large enough to house a dining table,’ Sam recalls. ‘So it was a nightmare to entertain and I realised that even if I replaced the kitchen, it still wouldn’t function efficiently. There was only one solution — I’d have to alter the floorplan.’
To help her work out a new layout, Sam called in her close friend and established architect Ben Knight of De Metz Forbes Knight Architects. His design entailed knocking through into what was once her spare bedroom to create a large L-shaped kitchen and living space. He also managed to double the size of the bathroom by incorporating a cupboard and added a loft, concealed by a faux ceiling, above this room to provide much-needed extra storage instead.
‘I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, but Ben came up with some inspired solutions I hadn’t considered,’ says Sam.
For 10 weeks, Sam rented a flat nearby, while her home was remodelled. ‘The place had to be completely rewired and when the builders saw the state of the electrics, they marvelled at the fact that I hadn’t been electrocuted every time I boiled the kettle,’ she laughs. ‘I think it’s only once you refurbish that you realise how much you have been prepared to put up with.’
The home is certainly tailored to Sam’s lifestyle now: built-in speakers in every room allow her to listen to music throughout her home — great for when she’s entertaining — and floor-to- ceiling wardrobes feature hydraulic pull-down rails that make full use of the top sections.
Sam has opted for white walls throughout to enhance the brilliant natural light — and to provide a neutral foil for her many and varied treasures. ‘I’ve owned a lot of my things for many years, but visitors were noticing pieces for the first time because I’d got rid of so much clutter and allowed the space breathe,’ she admits. ‘That’s something I’ve learnt over time — to let go of things and make a feature of the items you really adore.’
These include a dazzling feather African headdress and crystal-studded antlers in the sitting room — distinctive items that lend a unique spin to Sam’s home. ‘I instinctively know what I love and my friends say that I’m impossible to buy for because I’m so specific about what I do and don’t like,’ she says.
For Sam, though, it’s not really the material possessions that have created the home she loves — the best thing about her newly configured flat is that she can have a dining area at long last. ‘I’m a big-pot-of-something-plonked-on-the- table sort of cook; I like a relaxed dinner where everyone just helps themselves,’ she confesses. ‘Although, I have to admit, the wine is very often much better than the food!