Whilst architect Emma Smith and her architecturally trained partner and design manager Mikael were well acquainted with construction and design, this flip in Putney was the first time they’d put their skills to use on a project of their own. Over the course of sixteen months, they turned an outdated one bedroom flat into a modern, stylish first-time home.
Emma and Mikael initially spotted the flat on Rightmove, listed for £15k more than they ended up buying it for. ‘A sale was in the process of going through but the buyer pulled out last minute,’ says Emma. ‘They re-listed it at a lower price to get a quick sale and our offer was accepted.
‘The property was the start of a long chain which we didn’t know about until a couple of week before completion. [That’s] why the owner reduced the price. She didn’t want to lose the flat she was buying.’
They purchased the house off an old lady who has lived in it for twenty years. ‘It was very outdated, uninsulated and in need of complete modernisation and internal layout reconfiguration, to make the living areas more open plan,’ says Emma.
Initially, they envisaged a complete refurbishment, without going back to brick. However, it soon became clear they’d have to go further than anticipated. ‘The more we uncovered, the more we realised had to be replaced,’ says Emma. ‘It was that kind of project.’
The refurb: sleeping on a blow-up mattress and a little family help
‘[Almost] not a single thing was left in the property that wasn’t replaced,’ says Emma. The exceptions were a few period features that were maintained for contrast with the contemporary design. These included the original decorative lath, plaster ceiling and cornice in the living room, as well as the traditional timber sash windows which were restored.
Both working full-time jobs, Emma and Mikael had to fit most of the work in during the evenings and weekends. ‘That was really difficult,’ says Emma. ‘We couldn’t really do much. We didn’t go on many holidays at all. We didn’t go to a lot of evening things. We had to make short-term sacrifices to progress.
‘We worked all through New Year Eve. We didn’t see any of our friends because we had to use all the time during those Christmas holidays.’
As the couple remained living in the house during the renovation, they spent months sleeping on a blow-up mattress with just a small bag of clothes at hand. ‘We also had to deal with no kitchen and no bathroom when we were renovating those rooms so it was a lot of trips to the local gym and microwave meals,’ adds Emma.
Luckily, the couple recruited their parents to help out with the renovation. Emma’s parents own a commercial-rental property business and were able to help out with the works themselves. ‘My Dad, particularly, knows how to do things like tiling so they both came as and when to help out. That was a big help.
‘It was good that they were there to guide us. Whilst we both knew how to do things, when you physically turn your hand to it if you’ve not done it before it can be tricky.’
Mikael’s Dad also jointed them on several weekends to help-out. The family assistance allowed the couple to save substantially on labour costs, which they invested back into the fixtures and fittings. ‘[It] allowed us to… achieve a quality overall product which we wouldn’t of been able to do if we had got a builder to do the whole renovation,’ says Emma.
Design: scandi-inspired minimalism
Whilst Mikael took the lead on the build-side of the project, Emma preoccupied herself with the design. She opted for a Scandinavian influenced theme, pared-down, minimalist with industrial undertones. ‘Mikael is Danish and I have always loved Scandinavian design,’ says Emma.
The bathroom turned out to be her favourite room. ‘The layout was so awful before you kind of had to shimmy to get in. You had to shimmy around the shower to use the sink. There was a washing machine in it. It was really cramped.’ Although they couldn’t extend the bathroom, by changing the layout they were able to make the space work far better.
Emma was also impressed by the living room. ‘The glass balustrade made a great difference,’ says Emma. ‘Again, you couldn’t change the size of anything because there was nowhere to extend to. You just had to do what you could to make the space feel bigger.’
Having bought the property at what was the top tipping point for house prices in south-west London, Emma says she was pleased by the profit and ROI that the project generated. Even more impressively, they obtained these returns without adding any extra floor space and on a backdrop of falling house prices in their area.
The house sold to exactly their target market, young professionals who were first-time buyers. ‘We tailored it for people with similar tastes to us,’ says Emma. ‘People who want to buy into the lifestyle.’
Purchase price £410k
Stamp Duty £10.5k
Legal fees £1.36k
Lease extension £840
Selling Fees (purple bricks) £2.55k
TOTAL SPEND £448.25k
Sale Price (Jan 2019) £476K
Next steps in property: HMOs and ‘Pocket Architect’
Since the Putney flip, the couple have acquired another property in Reading that they are currently transforming into a scandi-inspired HMO. Last year they founded their own architectural practice, Pedersen Smith Architects, that Emma now works on full-time. They’ll soon be launching Pocket Architect, a service offering architectural feasibility studies and drawings for investors.
Keep up-to-date with Emma and Mikael
pedersensmith.com – for updates on their projects and launch info about Pocket Architect.
@pedersensmith – to follow Emma and Mikael’s scandi-inspired journey in HMO investing.