Playing with volume and flexible spaces, journalist-turned-reflexologist Anabel Cutler has brought functionality to her Queen’s Park residence.
Wrentham Avenue owner Anabel Cutler is no stranger to home renovations. One of her previous properties – a monolithic Takero Shimazaki Architects construction celebrating natural materials and unrefined textures – was nominated for a RIBA award. Whereas that was stripped back and almost monastically bare, by comparison Anabel’s current address accommodates family life in all its chaotic, lived-in glory.
“It’s more organic,” she says of the house and the process of making it home. The interiors had been left untouched for decades when Anabel and husband Steve Wallington (co-founder of not-for-profit The Photography Movement) moved in 12 years ago, meaning they had to start from scratch.
The couple enlisted the help of architect Emole Petroski to bring their vision to life. Initially, they pictured a fluid ground floor with sliding doors on both sides that could be opened up like a gallery. Plans pivoted, however, when they realised that meant “you couldn’t shut off the doors or create any private spaces”.
“For me, the whole concept of living somewhere is mixing the old with the new."
Instead, they decided to keep certain walls intact and extend upwards. A dramatic double-height ceiling was installed in the kitchen-dining room, with soaring bi-fold windows that open out onto the 43-foot Adolfo Harrison designed garden.
A bold architectural statement, Anabel admits the decision was a gamble. “We had to remove a room to create the double-height aspect, before taking off the whole back of the house to put in the windows.”
It’s paid off. The result is an uplifting, cathedral-like space, filled with salvaged pieces amassed over the years. Church pews have been reimagined as wooden kitchen worktops and the Eero Saarinen by Knoll marble dining table is skirted by a set of 1930s chairs salvaged from a cruise ship.
Anabel honed her eye for design during her career as a journalist, working for the likes of Elle Decoration before changing career track and training in reflexology and reiki, which she also practices at home.
“I don’t like really ‘done’ houses,” she admits. “I think there are too many vanilla houses where everyone is doing the same thing. For me, the whole concept of living somewhere is mixing the old with the new. This process has been about blending – that’s what makes it a home.”
And Anabel’s is not a home that has settled for the status quo. The flotsam and jetsam of family life has been balanced with the need for flux. “Our kids have gone from being quite small to now grown up and there are lots of different spaces in this house so that everyone can do their own thing,” she adds.
Seamless connections between inside and outside give Wrentham Avenue even more breathing space. Planted in collaboration with the aforementioned Adolfo Harrison, the garden is something of an evolution. “Twelve years down the line, it’s still looking quite good. If you have good bones you can build on that.”
Beyond the confines of the backyard, the house overlooks Tiverton Green, one of two parks on the doorstep – and a selling point for Anabel, who made the move to leafy Queen’s Park from Notting Hill.
“The whole atmosphere feels a bit more real than Notting Hill. It’s quite cool in a grown up sort of way."
“What’s been the biggest surprise is that the area is really creative. The whole atmosphere feels a bit more real than Notting Hill. It’s quite cool in a grown up sort of way. Salusbury Road is amazing, it’s got all these bookstores and restaurants. I can get to Hampstead or Richmond on the overground, Central London in 20 minutes, or Portobello Road in five on my bicycle. You really straddle a lot of the city here.”
As close as it might be to the action, however, Wrentham Avenue feels far removed at the same time. “In terms of the essence of the house, it was all about creating a space that is quite private, set behind these enormous hedges where you feel the outside wherever you are,” reflects Anabel. “All the windows downstairs look out onto greenery, so you don’t really notice that you’re in London.”
Wrentham Avenue is available for short let. View the listing here.