Complete renovation 1996-2001
Design was to preserve and restore all the many original features of the flat while completely renewing its basic systems. Direct cost of renovation exceeded £400,000. It is rare to find a flat like this completely restored and renewed. Because the works are so time-consuming, the usual course is to make do with outdated infrastructure. Basic construction required nearly two years, with the rest of the time spent on finishing, decorating, lighting, curtains, etc.
(See the pre-renovation condition as of 1995.)
Schedule of Works, 1996-2001:
Original as-built 1890 room arrangement restored. Non-structural walls rebuilt to higher strength. One new doorway added (with structural support and made to match originals), to provide additional circulation to the original servant’s quarters, with the result that all the rooms of the flat now have two paths to an exit. Former service-lift shaft closed at floor and ceiling levels. Restored original hallway doors from two bathrooms. (Two doors previously introduced to make all bathrooms “en-suites” closed but left ready to be reopened if desired.) See floor plan.
All new plumbing from the British Gas meter connection, running to six working fireplaces, boiler for hot water and central heating, gas hob and Aga in kitchen; cutoff valves at each point of use.
All new plumbing from the rising main supply, sealed (no open cistern), water softener for all uses other than drinking, parallel plumbing of filtered unsoftened water to drinking taps and freezer icemaker.
All new, sealed and pressurized system, 210 liter capacity, no extra local pumps needed for high-power showers, and immediate hot water at all taps. Parallel distribution to separate “always available” circuits to hot towel racks.
All new 100 Amp service, starting with a new higher-capacity copper cable from the London Electric distribution point up through the block and into the flat, new electronic meter, new consumer unit and split residual current devices; entirely new wiring within the flat, all new switches and ample powerpoints, dimmers for all ceiling and wall lights.
All new invisible Wirsbo under-floor heating in all rooms (except Entry Hall), split into five zones with separate sensors and thermostats, plus an outdoor-temperature sensor. Heat is gently radiated from tubes laid under floors (with no joins) on aluminium spreader plates, above more than two inches of new insulation—no hot-spots or cold-spots, and floors are just barely above room temperature. (This system is frequently chosen for listed buildings.) Brass heated-towel racks installed in each bathroom. Old radiators and plumbing removed (not original--a recent installation after the block system was discontinued). Appearance is now as it was in 1890, with heat apparently provided by fireplaces.
All new system (four bedrooms, plus kitchen) of comfort cooling, meaning air conditioning which recirculates inside air while cooling it and removing humidity, without external ducts for air intake or exhaust. Separate acoustically-isolated units mounted on the walls of the rooms remove heat and humidity from the air and dispose of it into a recirculating water loop (the heat being reused for hot water as necessary), with no central compressor, internal or external. Units are built into custom hardwood cabinets, with thermostatic controls. Sleeping in London is much more comfortable with control of summer temperature and humidity.
All new service, ten telephone lines in a new 10-pair BT cable from the street, six lines activated, wiring to a dozen points within the flat with a master patch panel. Wireless phone base station for cordless phones everywhere.
Computer Network Wiring
All new high-speed broadband internet access from every point in every room, utilizing a wireless 802.11b computer network (11 megabits per second) covering the entire flat. Computers (Windows, Macintosh, or Unix), laptops, printers, can be located anywhere for high-speed access with no wiring. Also, new under-floor conduits laid, containing double Category 5e (100Mbps) T568A UTP local network wiring (further wiring can be added). Home runs terminate at phone entry, with router, hub, and base station on dedicated powerpoints.
All new distribution wiring within flat, from NTL cable feed, running under the floors and within walls to main reception room and to bedrooms. Parallel distribution for the block’s own antenna. Ready to add wireless TV distribution.
All new, with multiple sensors (doors, motion, smoke, heat), new concealed wiring, new computer panel, external and internal sound and lights, keypads with panic buttons, central-station monitoring including a dedicated British Telecom Redcare positively-monitored telephone line (sends alarm if monitoring is interrupted).
Front Door Glazing
Original leaded panels in and around door re-created from salvaged old glass to match leaded window in Entry Hall, and installed with secondary glazing of modern laminated fire-proof glass in steel frames added discreetly inside for fire safety and security.
All original sash windows and french doors completely refurbished; all removed, cleaned up and aligned, all new sash cords and weights installed, new staff beads and parting beads, invisible draughtproofing (Ventrolla) installed to seal out dust and draughts, all new brass window locks, catches, and lifts, ventilation required for the fireplaces concealed in glazing. All windows now work easily and fully, facilitating window-cleaning.
All original doors completely refurbished: all removed, cleaned up, re-hung with new brass hinges, new door hardware as necessary. For new doorways, matching solid wood panelled doors have been made, indistinguishable from the original ones. All interior doors close and latch securely and have working locks and keys.
All re-plastered after extensive works completed, lined ready for decoration. Skirtings restored or new skirtings made to the exact profile. Dado rails (made to match the profile of the Entry Hall) and picture rails restored in all rooms. Where curved, these features were run in new plaster like the originals.
Geometric Tile Entry Hall Floor
Original Victorian geometric mosaic tile floor in entry hall restored, damaged parts (broken in the past when lead plugs were inserted to secure fitted carpets) replaced with new matching tile still made by the original manufacturer (Johnson), sealed and polished.
Stone Mosaic Floors
New stone mosaic floors (from Paris Ceramics) installed in Bathroom and Shower Room; hand-made to exactly fit the rooms, styled after Roman originals in the British Museum. Patterns resemble original mosaics in the porticos and lobbies of Ashley Gardens—still visible outside the street door of this Block.
All old soft-wood rough floorboards removed, all rubble between the joists removed and carried away, thoroughly cleaned out. Joists strengthened with new supports, new insulation laid down, all services installed, under-floor heating installed, and then new rough floors of 19mm plywood screwed (not nailed) to the joists.
All rooms (apart from geometric mosaic in Entry Hall and stone mosaics in Bathroom and Shower Room) fitted with oak floors. All wood used is reclaimed wood at least a century old, remilled but still with marks of long use. Major rooms (the two large reception rooms and the largest bedroom) have 16-inch oak herringbone parquet with a double afzelia-wood border. Other rooms and halls have oak strip. The Kitchen and Library have six-inch planks of French Railway Oak, made from oak timbers used in the floors of 19th-century French goods vans. All oak is about half an inch thick, secured to rough floors with 29,000 concealed nails. It was kiln dried after remilling, and installed after under-floor heating was operating. Finished in natural color. All floors (including all bathrooms and all fireplace hearths) exactly match the height of the undisturbed original mosaic tile floor in the Entry Hall.
Existing ribbed ceilings in reception rooms (typical of Ashley Gardens, and different in every flat) restored with their existing cornice moldings. Traditional ceiling rosettes, cornice moldings, friezes, picture rails, and dado rails restored as necessary in all other rooms, with a fair amount of fibrous plaster sculpting done in situ.
High dado of quarter-sawn oak panelling and skirting in the Dining Room, formerly painted white, was hand-stripped and restored.
Six fully working fireplaces. Original chimneys were re-opened, flues inspected and cleaned. One iron surround with ceramic tile hearth original to this flat is still in place. Five suitable antique (1820--1890) marble chimneypieces installed, with black Welsh slate hearths and period register grates. All fireplaces fitted with new custom-built coal-effect gas fires incorporating the latest safety detectors and cut-offs. (Seventh chimney used for Aga, see below.) Chimney pots on roof corresponding to these flues identified, and provided with new flue caps to prevent wind and rain intrusion.
New openings made to light wells for external ventilation fans in all bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, and fitted with silent fans (total of seven exhaust fans). Special ventilation installed at the tops of the windows in each room with a fireplace, to meet current regulations (a nearly-invisible horizontal strip which affects the glazing only).
Bathroom walls tiled with old-style ceramic tile, some hand-made Ironbridge tile from the Jackfield Tile Museum, some traditional Victorian patterns still made by Minton Hollins, with tile skirtings and decorative tiles. All set in the traditional close-set manner. Similar hand-made tile used in the Kitchen behind the Aga, and above the counters.
All new white sanitary ware in three bathrooms, mostly from B. C. Sanitan. Two custom showers, one traditional cast-iron bathtub. New brass taps in period style, including free-standing floor-mounted pillars for the bath, surface-mounted brass shower plumbing with thermostatic valves (always the pre-chosen temperature, maintained throughout the shower) and large brass shower roses. (All brass plumbing is actually gold-plated for minimum maintenance.)
Former pantry turned into small laundry room with new Miele electronic-control front-loading washing machine and separate dryer, new plumbing, wiring, sound-control, and ventilation. Also, old-fashioned teak drying rack for hand laundry.
All new, solid maple cabinets (painted) with natural dark teak (iroko) wood and carrara (white/gray) marble countertops. Additionally a solid oak dresser and oak work table with marble top. Original pantry cupboard restored. Double old-style white porcelain fireclay sinks, with waste disposer, brass taps (gold-plated for minimum maintenance). High-level storage refurbished and provided with new access.
New gas Aga cooker, the legendary heart of a British kitchen, traditional since 1929 and used by Jilly Cooper, Mary Berry and Jamie Oliver among thousands of other Aga owners. Cast iron with cream enamel, with special cream insulator lids, brass hardware, and traditional-style Aga badge. Erected and tested on-site, set in the former chimney recess to take advantage of the seventh chimney in the flat for the Aga’s flue. Hearth of black quarry tile, recess lined with Ironbridge ceramic tile, concealed lighting above. Recess is surrounded by a solid mahogany mantlepiece with columns (hand-carved capitals) on each side and a shelf above.
All new, with new wiring and plumbing. Professional Sub-Zero refrigerator and separate freezer, completely self-defrosting, De Dietrich multifunction convection oven, self-cleaning. De Dietrich microwave (behind cover to match oven). De Dietrich high-heat gas hob, with custom-design pan holder and separate wok cradle. Miele dishwasher. In-Sink-Erator waste disposer.
New videophone installed to connect to portico intercom and video camera, doorbell at street. Doorbell at flat door refurbished and rewired, transmits to receivers throughout the flat.
Every surface prepared, newly finished with paint, wallpaper, lincrusta (new lincrusta installed, and existing 1890 lincrusta refinished). Fabrics "upholstered" onto the walls above the dado rails in the main reception rooms. All paint from National Trust colors.
Collection of antique late-Victorian ceiling lights, brass/bronze all with original (fragile!) antique glass shades. Completely disassembled and restored, rewired to modern UK standards, laquered and hung. These lights are precisely the right period for Ashley Gardens, since electric lighting came to this neighbourhood just as Ashley Gardens was being built. Gas lighting was still used as well, and most of the lights are "gasoliers"—combining both gas and electricity—because the electricity was not reliable enough to depend on alone. These have been converted for all-electric operation. (Available for separate purchase.)
Custom draperies designed and made for every set of windows, with some fabrics custom-woven and all trims custom-made. Under-curtains of Scottish lace loomed from Victorian patterns for all windows. (Available for separate purchase.)