Industrial Space

PUBLISHED: 15:38 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:11 20 February 2013

Everything was left painted white when the builders left so Helena used blocks of colour in a Mondrian way to highlight the rectilinear shapes of her home

Everything was left painted white when the builders left so Helena used blocks of colour in a Mondrian way to highlight the rectilinear shapes of her home

Converting an old warehouse provided the opportunity to create a unique home for one Bristol interior designer. Helena Angelides bought a scrap-metal dealer's old warehouse in Bristol in February 2006 then spent six months converting it into her h...

Helena, an interior designer whose former career was as a nutritionalist, had just returned from California and was looking for a combined work and living space. What she beheld was a brick-built shell with a corrugated metal roof and a small mezzanine floor, on a site known as The Paintworks] after the Victorian paint factory that once stood there. A developer had begun work on it but there was no electricity, no plumbing, no water and not even a floor. However, there was a metal staircase and with a bit of imagination Helena could see her future home and studio.

"When I first saw the place," says Helena, "I thought, oh no, I'm not sure. There's so much work. Then I looked again and thought - it's a blank canvas, what a fantastic opportunity."

Fortunately the building was not Listed and it came with general planning permission to change its use to a dwelling, so all Helena had to do was apply for building regulations and planning permission to put in a kitchen window.

"Initially I wanted to put in more Velux] windows in the roof (there were three already), but when I found out that the cost of each one would be about 3,000 (because of the difficulties involved in cutting into a metal roof) I dropped that idea."

The first thing Helena had to do was plan the layout. She decided to keep the ground floor as open-plan as possible with a huge kitchen/living/dining room. The only parts to have walls were the utility room and downstairs wet room.

Then she had to co-ordinate the electrics, the underfloor heating, the plumbing and the concrete floor. "I had to create a space plan for where I wanted them," she says. "As I wanted most of the wiring buried, that part had to be really well thought out. Then there were the details of where the lighting, sockets and appliances were to go and ditto the pipes and plumbing. This is because once the concrete floor was down there was no chance of changing my mind."

"When people first come into my home their first reaction is how livable my place is"

However, this was fraught with difficulties. As Helena could not be on site all the time she returned one day to find the electrics protruding from the floor some feet away from their intended position serving the kitchen. "So I had to redesign the kitchen," she says. "And consequently it projects further into the living area than originally planned."

As it happened there was gas available so Helena decided to have a gas boiler; she also decided to extend the gas pipes over to the other (kitchen) side of her warehouse in case she ever wanted a gas stove.

Once the concrete floor was laid, Helena had it polished but was not pleased with the result as it was much duller than expected. So, using a special concrete floor paint, she had it painted in a buttermilk shade, which helps lighten this large room. Helena then had the walls of her utility room and downstairs wet room installed.

"I asked the builders to put in joists when creating the ceiling for these two rooms so I could extend the mezzanine area above," she says. "There was just particle board up there before, but I have put in reclaimed wide oak boards from the Rose Green Reclamation Yard in Bristol. Upstairs there is now a bedroom, an en-suite bathroom and two lots of storage space, one for clothes and one in the eaves for suitcases, etc."

While all this work was being done - and it took four months - Helena either stayed with family in London or with a friend in Bristol. "It was like camping out," she says.

Helena's kitchen is Italian-made and bought from a Bristol company, since closed. "I didn't want a wacky look so I chose classical-style curved units sprayed in shades of cream and cappuccino with honed black granite worktops," she says. "In fact, they double up as a place to lay out plans and drawings for clients to look at. I also have an undermounted stainless steel sink with drainer and an electric black glass hob 900mm wide (with four rings in a row - not the conventional square - with touch control)."

The wet room and the bathrooms are fitted out with furniture from Bathroom Solutions from Bristol and include Duravit wall-mounted lavatories, a Bette bath, a Kohler basin upstairs and a limestone basin downstairs.

Despite the industrial surroundings, Helena even has her own little strip of garden, all of one-and-a-half metres wide, which she has planted with tomatoes and cucumbers.

"When people first come into my home their first reaction is how liveable my place is. They were expecting it to be clutter-free, which it is, but they were expecting it to be clinical too, which it isn't. I have used blocks of colour in a Mondrian-inspired way and panels of wallpaper here and there, and it's all quite different from a typical loft conversion."

Helena has won a number of awards for interior design including one for the Most Stylish and Innovative Design Concept, which was judged by Sally Sirkin-Lewis, the prestigious designer and founder of the J Robert Scott furniture and textile showrooms in Chelsea Harbour in London, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Her style epitomises modern classic chic, which is Helena's style too. BY VICTORIA JENKINS. PHOTOS BY WILLOUGHBY ANDREWS

To contact Helena call 01453 878549 or visit

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