Paul Interview Part One: Hidden Tranquillity in the Heart of Highgate

Monday, October 17, 2016

After years of living in the same Highgate house, Paul and his wife felt love at first site for a house in a quiet cul-de-sac just half a mile away. It was clear that a lot of work would have to be done to bring it up to modern standards, but they didn’t want to sacrifice the friendly atmosphere that drew them to the house in the first place. It’s now been a year since the project was completed, so we caught up with Paul to talk about his unique new home.

How did you find this property?

We’ve lived in Highgate for over 25 years. I was quite happy in our last house, which was just half a mile down the road, but it was a tall Georgian house with every room separated by a flight of stairs, which we were aware wasn’t going to be practical in the coming years. My wife had been looking for somewhere else for years but there was never anything that sparked my interest.

Then one day she took me up this road that I had never been down before, even though it’s right beside Highgate Village. As we walked along, the traffic noise got quieter and quieter and by the time we reached the house it was like we were in the countryside. We opened the entrance gate and before I’d even stepped in the house I knew we’d be moving in there.

What was it about it that struck you?

It has this feel of a country vicarage but it’s right in the heart of the city. I believe that houses have their own vibe, a special sense within them, and this house just has a good soul. Everybody who visited during the build process – even when it was a total wreck with the walls torn down – said it has a lovely feel, like a friendly country house. It has a great presence, I fell in love with it immediately.

The garden is enormous, which adds to the country atmosphere. Just behind it is a row of old London houses of all eras – Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian – forming a higgledy-piggledy skyline of buildings going up and down from three storeys to one. It looks like something out of Peter Pan, where Tinkerbell could be flying in and out of the rooms. So it’s very old London plus this big, country feel.

One thing I love about London is that you can find these little pockets of peace right in the heart of the city.

I’m with you on that. I love the surprises London throws up. I go between London and New York and around the world for work, but what I love about London is I’ll go down a different street for a meeting, or decide to take a left instead of a right, and I’ll find an area that I just didn’t know existed.

Why did you choose DGA?

We’d looked around at various different architects and what came across loud and clear with DGA is the quality of the craftsmanship in their very modern buildings with lots of square edges and glass. Ironically, I didn’t want any of that at all, but it was the craftsmanship, care and attention to detail that mattered. For that modern style to work it needs to be perfect, because if one little detail is off it won’t look right.

I actually said to John, I don’t like any of the houses on your site, but we do want to work with you!

At least you started the relationship honestly.

Exactly! But it worked really well. John and his team were fantastic through the whole process. Michael in particular really took care of us. We would read emails that had been sent 2 or 3 in the morning and I thought, that’s a busy man for you. They really cared about the house and everybody wanted to make it into a home.

We moved in some time in August last year but we didn’t get the chance to have our housewarming until Christmas. We invited our friends, our neighbours, the team at DGA and the builders – all the people that helped put it together. It was great to have everyone in the house and they all felt a degree of ownership of it, the site manager was taking people on tours, which was quite funny.