Tropical Oasis in the Heart of Walthamstow Village

How a passion for plants, raw materials & bargain antiques helped turn a 1950s ex-council house into an architect-designed home and shoot location

Tropical Oasis in the Heart of Walthamstow Village

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Discreetly hidden in Walthamstow Village, behind a humble 1950s exterior lies an exquisite home that seamlessly blends modern aesthetics with the allure of a tropical paradise.

Designed as a sanctuary first, before doubling as a sought-after location for captivating photo shoots, this remarkable home stands as a testament to the creative fusion of nature-inspired elements and contemporary design.

In a familiar story, owners Cat and Jim relocated to Walthamstow from Stoke Newington when they were priced out of Hackney. While not 100% sure of Walthamstow, they soon came around, with Cat now describing herself as a “Walthamstow pusher”, like many who move to the area.

First renting near Walthamstow Town Hall, to get a feel for the area, they hoped to put down roots in the village. After their first property fell through at the 11th hour, two days before they were due to complete “we’d packed everything and given up our rental” Cat told us, they had almost given up hope. “Then this came up and by that stage, this was my dream home which I know wouldn’t have been for lots of people because it was rough around the edges, ex-Council. But because it was ex-council it was very wide (around seven metres across) and I started to realise how many design possibilities that opened.”

“I was amazed that we could afford something in the village, to be honest.” She said. “I think the only reason we could afford it was because some buyers were put off by the council exterior – and possibly the still-functioning outside toilet”. Due to her obsession with finding a house with a good plot size and width because “they were the two things like you could never alter”, Cat explained that they ”just felt like it had an infinite of potential to me.”

As the project went on, what started as Cat’s initial interest in ‘doing up places’ grew into an obsession once she had her own space to express herself, “I wouldn't have heard of Soho Home six months ago and now I need everything they have!” she jokes. However it’s more for inspiration as Cat continued, “but nearly everything in here is super cheap bargains… nearly everything is second-hand vintage. I spend a lot of time on eBay.”

A further element that elevates the interiors is undoubtedly the beautiful plants that emphasise the indoor/ outdoor experience of the home. Cat says they spent so much time and money at garden centres in Crews Hill Enfield that a self-imposed ban soon followed. “We just got out of control!” But the plants genuinely add texture and life to the space making it feel truly reminiscent of a tropical holiday.

A desire to incorporate beautiful, durable and raw materials saw Cat take a trip to Levi's concept store to view their flooring, as it is only usually installed in industrial spaces.

Additionally, allowing the textures to shine through proved to be “a little bit of a battle with our architect, who preferred cleaner colours and boxed-in steel. The plasterer was a genius – he knew we wanted it left raw and finished it so beautifully. Gesturing to the beautiful worktops, she says “These were the cheapest ever, it was around £500 for all the bamboo. I just tried to keep everything in its simplest form, I thought that if I left everything in its raw form, I could always paint it or cover it later, but you can't get it back.”

With all the thought and love that went into the kitchen space, it's no wonder it's Cat's favourite space. “It's one of those places where I’m so excited just to come back in and sit on the sofa” Cat continues, “and the way the garden is angled if you're sitting here in the right space you can sit here and look at the trees, so peaceful”.

Cat and Jim’s affinity for nature continues out from the kitchen to the garden. The large glass doors lead outside, showcasing the indoor-outdoor living experience that the home provides. The garden was the first place to get some love, with their decking at the back being a project that proved to enhance their confidence with the upcoming renovations. “Once there’s some more budget, the plan is to continue adding to the plants in the garden until it’s totally enclosed and private,” Cat described of their future.

Unsurprisingly, Cat’s travelled the world, with stand-out destinations being Sri Lanka and India. Her intention is to “always feel like I’m on holiday whatever I’m doing, I have this loose ethos that every day should be a little bit of party or holiday and so try and make it feel like that.” You can feel the energy of the exquisite locations radiating through the space.

The journey has taken many turns on the way to tropical elegance, including ten house moves, and the tragic death of their contractor two months into the build - all with a two-year-old. It really is a testament to Cat and Jim that they were able to pull everything off and keep their cool. Even as I asked for some advice for anyone looking to take on a renovation project, Cat told me “Just be prepared for everything to go wrong!” We laid this concrete and a mouse ran through it. I have this video of these poor builders who've just finished laying the concrete and they're stuck with their rakes with a mouse running all the way through the WET concrete!”

It was all, of course, worth it as the home is now a popular location for photoshoots and filming. When asked how that came about, Cat told me ” We originally hoped the improvements would mean we could qualify for a more affordable mortgage but that’s not been the case with current events. So we needed to come up with new ways to cover it.”

Becoming a shoot location has given Cat “the best excuse ever to constantly be improving the house because people are coming in and enjoying it.  You can tell how much this renovation has been a joy for Cat and Jim, allowing them to have so many new experiences.

The path to get to this point has taken many turns so what could possibly be next? Well, that would include further renovations to the attic, bathroom and more home improvements! To continue the tranquil feeling of being on holiday in every room in the home and continue to develop and evolve each space.

For more info on the property, or as a shoot location, follow amodernhouse_e17 on Instagram.

Estates East Team

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