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Astrid Woloszczuk


First time self-builder Astrid Woloszczuk on family, function and ballroom dancing at her London home.

Our homes are our most intimate spaces. They are where we unwind, entertain, grow up, find sanctuary and connect with the people closest to us. Management Consultant and mother of three Astrid Woloszczuk created a beautiful new home for her family in London

Why did you decide to build a new house?

We lived in a rather typical Edwardian terraced townhouse. We had living accommodation across four floors. However, it was approximately one quarter of the size of our new home. We bought it when we had our first child. Before that, we lived in Central London in a beautiful flat, but it was not really suitable for family life. Then we moved out to Barnes and after having three children, we started to be somewhat squeezed. Not necessarily because of the square footage, but the layout. There were only three bedrooms. You could have split one of the bedrooms into two tiny rooms, but I personally think it's very hard to go back from having large to small rooms, if you don't have to. Above all, it had no utility rooms or storage space, which of course for a growing family with young children is very impractical.

We started looking for a new house around five years ago. It took us a while to find the right plot. At first, we looked for bigger houses, but none of them had what we wanted, in terms of practical living space. We still liked the big open plan family living, but we also wanted things like utility rooms and proper storage. If you look at properties created by developers in the UK, they clearly forget that at the end of the day someone has to live in the house. If you build a house for five people and possibly a nanny and a guest you have a lot of shoes, a lot of coats and a lot of umbrellas, strollers and just things that accumulate and you don't want them in your living room. It was the small practicalities like that which meant we didn't want to spend money on something that was so far from perfect.

We found a road in Roehampton where a lot of the existing houses had been demolished and redeveloped into lovely large family homes with big gardens. We looked at a few and finally found one.

What made you choose Baufritz?

When I began to research, I looked at a lot of interior design magazines as well as self-build magazines. In one of these I found Baufritz and then recognized them from the Grand Design series in Bath. So we added them to the list of architects and builders we interviewed. What struck me most is that if you go down the traditional English route you have extraordinarily little control over your build cost as well as your project timelines. Both my husband and I were working full time and we just didn't have time to waste with unclear budgets and unclear timelines.  And from all pre-fabricated house builders the decision to choose Baufritz was quite simple for us.

With similar companies you had to choose one of their house designs, which was too strict. Their houses look almost identical. They have either a flat, normal pitched, or double pitched roof. It's like they have ten Lego pieces that you can arrange in any way you want but you can't fundamentally change it. You can't create something that just looks very different. 

How did you go about the design process?

I created a very large A1 sized sketchbook with chapters for every aspect of the house – eg. facades, staircases, kitchen, bathrooms, living rooms, … Each chapter had magazine clippings, sketches from me, fabric samples and so on I also built an excel model in which every cell was a 10 cm x 10 cm squared footprint of the house. I started to put together a view looking at all the rooms we wanted and how big we wanted them to be. This brief went to the architects who were recommended by Baufritz. They were absolutely fantastic. We just clicked and we worked well together. They really could handle a strong client and it did feel like a partnership. They were really listening, hearing out what we wanted and making that happen.

What was the construction timeline?

The building started in the summer of 2017 with the creation of the basement. The house assembly was in November 2017. The building was watertight before Christmas. When we came back in January Baufritz started on the interior work.  We moved in in August 2018.

Did you have any experience of building and interior design prior to your Self Build project?

I knew about elements of Interior design as we had refurbished our first flat in London and then again parts of our previous home. With this house I didn't want to have the feeling I have to follow someone's footprint. I used to work in management consulting, but I´ve always loved architecture and design. The kitchen for example, which is the heart of the home, we bought a year before we had planning permission. We were really clear, both of us passionate cooks, about what we wanted. The rest of it started to emerge as we looked into it.

It makes you feel like you´ve lived in the house for probably a year before you even move in. At times I had more input because I wanted to make certain things happen, for example our master bedroom. I was very keen this would be a circular system, so that the bedroom, the bathroom and the dressing room are aligned in a certain way. That meant a very odd layout of the bathroom. I must have drawn the bathroom at least a thousand times, okay maybe hundreds of times. Every flight I was on I would have done that. There was a time I did not travel without a protractor and some good drawing paper, just to make progress on the tricky areas. In these places you really end up living in quite a bit of detail. It was fun.

What/Who inspires you?

For me the combination between function and beauty is very important. If I can pick anyone, I would say Philippe Starck as his background is obviously in industrial design. So, his design comes out of function, which I like.

How do you combine beauty and function?

Function comes first for me, but usually it does not have to be at the cost of beauty. There is a fine balance to walk between buying too quickly and waiting too long. The benefit of building a house with Baufritz is that you do much more detailed planning than in traditional builds. Certainly, for me I was "living" in our new house as soon as the architect's plans were finished, and then started to "complete" it when we went to sampling. Furniture shopping is a lot easier when you have a clear vision.

Did you find the trips to the Headquarters in Germany useful?

We went twice. We did a pre-sampling trip for a long weekend and then a whole week sampling. On our first trip we looked in detail at the show houses to really get a feeling of which decisions we would have to take and understand the options available. For the full sampling week, our second trip, we sent in my A1 sketchbook with all interior design ideas ahead of time which meant that the Baufritz team was prepared and we could whizz through some decisions quite easily. For example, we knew that we wanted a white oiled oak floor. Because the Baufritz design team curates their floor choices, we only had to choose a specific grain as they only had one white oiled oak floor. Without this we would have had to choose between thousands of virtually identical versions available in the market, visiting every single manufacturer and researching for ourselves which ones are actually of good quality. Baufritz carries out the quality control for you so you are not faced with a lot of choices that don't really match your requirements.

What about the materials and patterns used throughout the house?

I wanted the house to stay true to its roots, have a contemporary yet homey feeling and give a feeling of continuity. So, given that the house is made of timber we also show timber on the inside. We have oak floors, oak window frames and oak doors. This is balanced with some contemporary features, for example a concrete-effect tiled floor, a concrete-effect feature wall, lots of glass and bold modern artwork and furniture I then tried to create a feeling of continuity by choosing the same materials yet with subtle differences. For example: We have the same oak floor throughout the entire house. Yet, we have different grades, for example the gym, has shorter, grainier boards that are better for heavy use and also less expensive should they ever have to be replaced. But it feels the same.

We also repeat the same tiles in the bathrooms but in different colours and in different ways. The patterned tiles might be in the shower in one bathroom, on a feature wall in another or behind the sinks in the next. So when you come into the different rooms a pattern emerges. This continuity impacts our feeling of space and really focuses our style intentions. Baufritz helps with that because you build the whole house in one go. You don't make one decision one day and another decision three months later. I think that´s very helpful.

You use a lot of colours and textures in your designs, does that reflect your personality?

Yes, definitely. At the beginning of this project my husband and I did a word cloud of what we wanted from the house. We had words like "playful, colourful, fun, luxurious, spacious, clutter free," but we also lacked words such as "stately, grand, quiet, elegant, …".

We debated for a long time what we wanted from the house. Will we live in here forever? Will it have to work as a place for empty nesters? Do we want big parties? This first led to a lot of the architectural decisions: this is a family house – I don't think we would want to live here as empty nesters, but who knows. We have a big cloakroom, a big utility room, a kids' messy playroom, and two areas that can be used as flats for nannies or housekeepers, or for an older child who wants to be a bit more independent, or maybe an elderly parent who may need to live with us. But equally we don't have a catering kitchen, we don't have a separate dining room. It is an open plan space as we want to be living together as a family. I like that I can hear who is where and maybe even broadly what they may be doing.

I love colours so much so that it was the theme of our wedding. Given that we have a very large space I had the ability to use lots of very bold colour. Our basic palette is very neutral – white walls, white oiled oak floor and window frames, light grey concrete effect tiles. So you need statement pieces. All our statement pieces have bold colours (apart from maybe the stainless-steel worktop in the kitchen). However, there is a coordination and flow that is important to me. The open plan space between the lounge, kitchen, formal living, then down to the bar and further down in the playroom, all follow a palette. It moves from orange, pink, yellow in the lounge to blue in the bar. The big mural in the void space reflects each of these colours and they are picked up again in the smaller furnishings (eg. the carpet in the bar has some pink and yellow tones).

As for textures, I believe they create a cosy feeling, which in such a big space is particularly important. Hence the number of textures. I have tried to repeat many of them. So for example, we have dyed oak on the staircase balustrade, the bar cubes, the bar kitchenette units and the lounge shelf. We have waxy, hardy, green leaf plants in the lounge, the bar, the master en-suite, and the kids' bedrooms. We have velvet in lounge cushions and sofa, the bar sofa and the library cushions.

What is your favourite place in the house?

Lying on the chaise longue part of our Mah Jong sofa in the lounge. It is a sweet spot where you are in the middle of family life but also at the same time a little secluded. The windows into the garden and onto the green wall as well as the plants around the room create a peaceful connection between the inside and the outside.

What aspect of the house are you most proud of?

I was worried that this would feel like a hotel lobby, or some sort of soulless mansion that just has too much space. But it doesn't. It really feels lived in.

Our house works because a lot of the square footage is not seen. We use it as a gym or a study, which are purposely for either my husband or me. Any other space is very connected and very open.

It is warm in winter and cool in summer. It is constant. The air quality is great, never stuffy and definitely never drafty. 

We also created an "empty" room, as strange as that sounds. But we wanted a clutter free room. There is no furniture in there. That means we can have things for our kids and for ourselves. You can use it as a dancing space.  My husband and I are from Vienna and in Vienna we do ballroom dancing, but we also use it for parties and family time.