Caz and Richard Oliver always had big plans for their north London home. On first viewing it, back in April 2007, they immediately realised that the top-floor apartment in a spacious Edwardian house had the potential to become a duplex, if they could turn the loft space into an additional storey. On their second visit, they took along a builder to be sure. ‘Affordable London properties are at a premium, and we were sure that investing in a loft conversion would pay dividends when we eventually decided to move on,’ says Caz.

‘We were really fortunate because we were renting cheaply at the time, so we could afford to stay where we were while we pinned down our plans for our new home,’ Caz recalls. Before beginning the big build on the loft, the couple decided to concentrate on the existing living space – a top-floor flat with kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom and bedroom.

She and Richard opted to keep the bedroom, turning it into a home office when their loft conversion was complete. They also retained the bathroom, simply replacing the tired old sanitaryware with a new suite and luxurious roll-top bath, offset with a wall of slate tiles.

It took three months to get the apartment into a good enough condition to move into. Caz and Richard moved into the apartment in June 2007 and paused the project for six months, but it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. They spent the time planning the loft conversion and finding a building firm to handle the project. ‘As this is an apartment, the loft conversion couldn’t be done under permitted development rights,’ says Caz.

‘We hired a company that would handle the planning application as well as the build, but we commissioned them to take us only as far as first fix, thinking that we would do a lot of the finishing work ourselves to save money. We soon realised this was a big mistake, however, as we didn’t have the time or expertise to finish the job ourselves, so we ended up hiring a second team of builders to finish the loft for us.’ Work on the conversion finally began in May 2008 and took six months to complete.

Fact File

The owners: Caz Oliver, an interior designer and founder of online vintage store Beetle & Wilde, and husband Richard, an IT consultant

The property: A one-bedroom duplex apartment on the top two floors of a semi-detached Edwardian house, built in 1905 in Palmers Green, London

Project cost: £50,500

Duplex apartment Edwardian exterior

The couple needed planning permission to convert the loft, and hired a contractor to take the project to first-fix stage with the intention of finishing it themselves. Due to their lack of time and expertise, however, they eventually hired a second firm to complete the work.

Duplex apartment floral wallpaper in hallway

The Lily wallpaper is from Cole & Son and was meant for the living room, but Caz decided against it and stored it until she realised it would work in this space. Walls painted in Hardwick White; door and radiator in Down Pipe, both Farrow & Ball.

Duplex apartment hallway table with plants

Caz took inspiration from her dissertation in natural history when decorating the flat. For a similar skull, try the faux animal design from Rockett St George. For a similar side table, try the Olivia at Luxdeco.

Duplex apartment dark blue dining room

Although now part of the main living area, the dining space is narrower as the hallway and stairs are located alongside. Dining table, Ebay; painted in Railings, Farrow & Ball. Deer head, Newark Antiques Fair. For similar cowhide rug, try City Cows. For a similar chandelier, try the Shamley from Laura Ashley. For a similar chest of drawers, try the antiqued metal drawer chest from Maisons du Monde.

Duplex apartment kitchen utensils on shelves
Duplex apartment kitchen shelves and bottles

Crockery and utensils sit with quirky artefacts to create visual impact as well as essential storage. Zebrano work surface, stainless-steel splashbacks and shelves, all Ikea. Walls painted in Railings, Farrow & Ball.

Duplex apartment mid-century bed in dark bedroom

A low box bed from Ikea makes the most of the room’s reduced head-height. Rooflight, Velux. Mid-century headboard with integral bedside tables, Moderne in Brighton. Find a similar Moroccan leather pouffe at Graham & Green. For a similar stool, try the Cowhide from Cowshed Interiors at Not on the High Street.

Duplex apartment mid-century bedaide table in dark bedroom

Find a similar candlestick phone at Robert Opie. Clamshell bowl, Ebay.

Duplex apartment mid-century dresser

A dormer provided space for a dressing area. Mid-century cabinet and Victorian room screen, Ebay. Skold sheepskin rug, Ikea. For a similar wire chair, try the Bertoia Diamond from The Natural Furniture Company.

Duplex apartment skull near roll top bath

The animal skull at one end of the bath, together with a vintage hook and plant table, sets the tone for the rest of the apartment.

Duplex apartment roll top bath in dark bathroom

This was the first room the couple tackled and started Caz’s love affair with dark colours. Black slate uncalibrated tiles, Topps Tiles. Cambridge roll-top bath, Bathstore. For a similar French-style mirror, try Paris from Ayres & Graces.

The contacts

  • Living and dining room remodel, and bathroom and kitchen refit: Jeremy Stone Construction, jeremysstone@yahoo.co.uk
  • Rooflight: Velux
  • Kitchen fittings: Ikea
  • Bathroom: Bathstore
  • The full feature appears in the March 2016 issue of Real Homes. For back issues, call 01527 834435. Subscribe today to take advantage of our money-saving subscription offers.

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