How Paul Allton filled his cool London warehouse apartment with exquisite vintage styling

Exterior at the Factory N1
Simon Stone

Simon Stone

Walls? Who needs those in a London warehouse apartment?

Partitions would have spoilt the look of this dramatic space in The Factory, Hoxton’s hugely coveted warehouse conversion.

The building looks as fresh and iconic today as when Manhattan Loft Corporation acquired it in 1999.

Back then, this was an unloved and overlooked corner of the city fringe, but the pioneers of New York Style loft living saw great potential. And as part of reimagining the rundown Edwardian printworks, they wooed creatives by naming the building after Andy Warhol’s New York studio. The plan worked, and The Factory still tops the list for anyone wanting a London warehouse apartment.

 

It all started when…

Beginning with an open shell space, Paul Allton overcame the temptation to cram in multiple bedrooms. Instead, he chose to keep the floor area as open as possible. And while the look of the late nineties and early noughties “was going very chrome & steel”, Paul took a different path.

He enlisted the help of salvage expert Mark Rochester, who executed a master class in pairing thoughtfully sourced vintage pieces to complement the wood floors, exposed brickwork and Crittall windows.

“Having seen what did and didn’t work in other lofts, I was keen to create a fully open-plan space. One that could remain flexible as my life needs changed. I also had a strong desire to use (as much as practically possible) only salvaged items to match the character of the building. Finally, with the benefit of the first floor’s increased ceiling height, I felt there should be a means to utilise that space, with the vague notion of a raised sleeping area/bunk bed for guests”.

 

First impressions count

From the street, chunky concrete stairs head up to the first floor. Push through the meaty front door into the reception area, and you receive an overwhelmingly warm welcome. It’s largely down to the collection of distressed worktops and cabinetry in various corners of the apartment, piling on the cosiness alongside the building’s original fabric.

The kitchen defies convention. It’s a large open space sitting neatly at the centre of the apartment, connecting the dining area at one end and the large office at the other. If you’re the type who hosts lavish gastronomic parties and needs room to create, take a look at the beautiful island unit. This former vintage haberdashery counter is now a very fine breakfast bar.

Paul explains, “For a long time, we had no concrete ideas for kitchen cupboards. Then this lovely 1920s library cabinet became available. By chance, it was the perfect size. The only slight issue was the location of the cooker hood, which meant we had to ‘alter’ the cabinet a little. There’s something very distressing about buying an antique and then sawing it in half, but it’s worked out wonderfully well. Visitors frequently comment on it, and the sliding doors are very practical – I no longer bang my head when I leave one open! On the wall opposite, we laid a reclaimed iroko worktop over new (gasp!) stainless steel floor-level cabinets”.

reclaimed haberdasher counter in the kitchen at the factory

 

Heading further in…

Moving through the apartment, the idea of keeping the place open really starts to make sense. The entire rear quarter is dedicated to a bedroom and workspace, which, incidentally, is huge. You could run a company from here, let alone “do a bit of work at home”. The no-walls zone theory means no cramping of style, nor compromising the natural light that streams through those courtyard-facing warehouse windows.

The continued familiarity of the lovely vintage paraphernalia (which never loses its appeal) adorns the dressing room. It’s about the most private space in the apartment and features a hidden zen room directly above. It’s cosy, and offers a serene reflective space to hole up in or for guests who stay over.

Bath times are interesting, and not just because of the reclaimed French zinc tub. Throw open the vintage bi-fold doors from a methodist church in Yorkshire, and chat with a willing partner in the living area while you soak. Perfect for the voyeur, exhibitionist, or simply breaking the ice!

French zic bath tub in the bathroom at the factory warehouse apartment london n1

“It was a pleasure to watch this project gently unfold over time. Living in a building site had its challenges, but doing so helped determine the best possible outcome. Except for the main walls, shower valve, tiles, lower kitchen units and appliances, everything we’ve introduced is old. I feel it’s a tremendous achievement that gives the space a real sense of soul and meaning. It also proves it’s possible to renovate using purely restored pieces. Although a little more time and effort are required, the results can be cost-effective, beautiful and unique. This was only possible because I found a working partner with a wonderful eye for detail and doing things properly. For that, I’m extremely grateful”.

reclaimed doors at the factory warehouse apartment n1

 

Let’s talk about Shoreditch

So, The Factory is in Shoreditch. If you haven’t heard, here is just about the centre of the world for social and cultural adventures. You can’t turn a corner without stumbling upon the next cool bar, restaurant, club, or alternative hangout. Shoreditch pioneered East London’s entire renaissance and deserves its mantle as the place to be and be seen.

private terrace at the factory N1

More than creating a showstopping London warehouse apartment, Paul’s sterling efforts feel like preserving a bit of history. It’s easy to visualise endless social gatherings, because it’s the sort of place where people love to hang out. And don’t be surprised with approaches from location scouts in fashion or film: they know a barnstorming pad when they see one!

The Factory is for sale, and you can see the description, gallery and floorplan right here.

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