Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taking Control; Dividing Their Lives between Two Exotic Countries Was an Exciting Prospect, but a Home to Suit Had to Be Secure, Light-Filled and Easy to Run - with an Air of Sophistication. So That Is What This Couple Built

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taking Control; Dividing Their Lives between Two Exotic Countries Was an Exciting Prospect, but a Home to Suit Had to Be Secure, Light-Filled and Easy to Run - with an Air of Sophistication. So That Is What This Couple Built

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHN SNELSON

WHEN Amir and Reem Latif are not living in their apartment in Chelsea, they can be found in their home country of Sudan. But while others who divide their time between continents may have keepsakes in one country to remind them of the other, this young couple positively enjoy keeping both worlds apart.

The inside of their newly completed home is not quite what one expects from the outside. Their apartment block is set in a tree-lined avenue near the famous King's Road. Built in 1987, it imitates the fussy redbrick mannerisms of its Victorian neighbours. But step inside the Latifs' home and all is pared-down clarity - a space furnished sparingly with classic pieces of 20th century Western design, that gives hardly a hint of another home in Africa.

When the Latifs began to look for a suitable home in the capital, they had a very clear idea of what they wanted: the security of an apartment in a modern building - for easy maintenance - in a comfortably smart and central area and, most importantly, something that had the potential to be roomy and filled with natural light.

The couple were surprised at how few properties fitted the bill, but on visiting what was to become their home, Reem immediately recognised - thanks to its spaciousness - that it was the right place for them. Of course, it would not do as they found it, and the entire interior had to be redesigned to incorporate the couple's vision for something cool, calm and up to date.

They were introduced to architect and designer Voon Wong by friends, and were at once taken with his approach of recreating elegant and streamlined interiors from older buildings. Previous projects of his have included the complete renovation of a Georgian house behind its preserved, period facade, and a huge Victorian schoolroom converted into the most distinctive of lofts.

The brief was clear: take out the inappropriate "neo-traditional" features from the 1980s (unnecessary cornices, an imitation Georgian fireplace, modern doors imitating old ones), and make something more open and utterly contemporary. An apparently simple request, it nonetheless required some ingenuity to turn a very ordinary apartment into a unique space.

The results are on display the moment the front door opens. Instead of a corridor with doors leading off it, there is now a long vista through to the discreet fireplace in the main living area. Strong vertical lines are made more prominent by concealed lighting, and the dramatic contrast of white walls against black floors.

As the building is fairly new, the ceilings are lower than in a Victorian apartment, so doorways have been extended upwards to reach the ceiling. In addition, Wong has created a new layout inside, with walls subtly realigned and closets removed. …

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