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Balham – Private house

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Technology has a lot to answer for. It has diminished the role of the Dining Room and, by doing so, has changed the dynamics of the way we live. Chris and Emily bought a terraced house in Balham and extended the ground floor rooms creating a corridor that is inclined to confuse the functionality of the spaces. The kitchen and dining areas needed to have their own identities. This was achieved through colour – the kitchen dark blue and the dining area neutral greys – and different patterns for the floors. The whole ground floor has the warmth of natural oak; the sitting room with parquet, the dining area with basket weave and the kitchen back to parquet. The consistency of colour from the front of the house to the back adds to the illusion of space yet the subtlety of the pattern change adds interest and clearly marks out the dining area.

From St Petersburg to Balham

The idea of designing their own home came a long time before they bought the house. Like many, they visited the great tourist attractions, palaces and museums of Europe. They were gathering ideas which, one day, they might use for their home. They travelled to St Petersburg to see that iconic masterpiece, The Hermitage, a palace of incomparable architectural and artistic confections. Strangely, given the fabulous distractions on the walls and ceilings, the magnificent floors did not escape their notice.

The Perfectionist

Chris approached the Natural Wood Floor Company for some idea of how to go about fitting the floors. The Natural Wood Floor company showed samples and explained they supplied the hardwood but were not fitters. Chris was given some contacts including HS Wood Flooring. Quotes were obtained including one from the builder employed on the project. The choice was easy; not only was HS Wood Flooring the most competitive but Tim Hobern, its CEO, made an excellent impression. “He certainly knew all about floor fitting and came over as reliable and honest,” said Chris. “I was right. He proved to be a perfectionist and personally looked after us from start to finish. “I had to be patient,” he continued. “Once the floor was laid and sanded I could see little difference in the patterns between the floors. But when the hard wax oil was applied, the grain of the wood popped so vibrantly, the effect was stunning and dramatically more exciting than I had imagined.” Looking closely at the work, the fit between blocks and the way they butt up to the walls is immaculate. You could not even get a razor blade between them. As one enters, the narrow corridor that leads down some steps to the toilet is laid with natural oak boards whose parallels exactly match above and below the steps. “It’s the sort of finish no one notices … unless the continuity is broken,” said Tim Hobern. “We pride ourselves on that kind of accuracy.”

The perfect fit

He continued: “The basket weave gave us a lot of headaches. Chris and Emily changed their minds about the floor pattern and went to another supplier. However, the product chosen did not work well, so the supplier exchanged the floor panels for individual blocks but these were fractionally too long. This meant we had to shave a millimetre off every block before fitting. It took time but we are really proud of the end result.” Chris and Emily moved into their new home four months later than they originally planned but they have a jewel of a home whose floors, in their own modest way, pay tribute to the glories of The Hermitage.

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