Reighton Road in London: A Calmly Contemporary Revival of a Victorian Apartment

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As a property developer, Pete Monaghan specializes in taking tired old houses—the unloved and the unlovely—and giving them a bold contemporary refresh, while celebrating every precious piece of their original character that remains. He’s also rather clever about finding  ways to add more space. His own East London home, which he has taken from a damp and depressing one-bedroom apartment to a calmly minimalist three bedroom, is the perfect case in point.

Home renovations are in Peter Monaghan’s DNA, “I grew up on building sites because my father has always done
property improvements. When I was child, my parents bought a derelict house and we lived at the attic while they
slowly did it up, I loved living around the action, it’s in my blood,” says Pete. He worked in the music industry for a
few years after graduating, but when he and his father, Richard, took on a renovation project together, there was no
turning back. “Property development always felt like my true calling,” he says, gesturing with both hands to the
serenely simple kitchen around him. The pair’s shared property company, Mon Projects, evolved organically and is
based in East London’s thriving and creative borough of Hackney. “We’re very lucky we work so well together, we’re
a close team, always talking about ways to improve and learn. And we Monaghans have been creating and building
here in Hackney since the early 20th century, when my grandfather has his upholstery and cabinetry workshop here.”
Mon Projects takes a much more personal and labour-of-love approach to their work than many of the big property
developers. “What I love about working on period properties is taking things that are old and tired, and refreshing
them, while retaining their character. With old houses, each project is different so you have to be creative and good
at problem solving, which really excites me,” Pete enthuses, “We try to do something new and out of the ordinary
every time and we don’t make decisions on a purely financial basis.” Such is Pete’s passion for an interesting project
that for him, there’s very little demarcation between work and home life. Luckily his partner, Cherish Perez de Tagle,
a film and television producer, is very much on board with the way of life, “Cherish has a fantastic eye and helps with
all sorts of decisions on my projects.”

Neither of the pair shied away when they first viewed this space, back in 2017, a one-bedroom apartment on the
upper ground floor of a mid-Victorian terrace in Hackney Downs. It helped that they both loved the area, “It has
fantastic restaurants and cafes, the best-designed gym, great pubs and a real feeling of space and tranquillity in the
nearby parks. And on a less emotive note there are great transport links into the center of London,” says Pete. But
for all the charms of Hackney Downs, this property was hard to fall for. “It was basically a case study on damp –
every kind of damp and mold and really badly configured, with the kitchen in the smallest room and the bedroom
next to the garden, where there were snails in the carpet,” recalls Pete with a shudder. “But I was looking for a
project and it was just about terrible enough that it would allow me to improve it and still be in pocket.” Pete was
also keen to find somewhere with the potential to create more space—whether in a loft or basement—and this
apartment came with a fairly basic cellar on the lower ground floor, “The Victorians would have used it for cold
storage and for coal—in fact there was still some in the coal hole,” remembers Pete, referring to the space on the
street side where the coal man would regularly drop down a supply of this messy fuel.

The other plus side of this property was the living room where, alongside the unwelcome addition of a suspended
ceiling and boxed out walls, the original marble fireplace had miraculously survived, as well as the original Scots pine
floorboards. It was here that the couple made camp for the first year while beginning to reconfigure the apartment,
moving the kitchen to the back room.

As a property developer, Pete was keenly aware that adding a new lower ground floor was not only expensive, it
would also be hard to find a quality specialist contractor to take on such a small job. His genius solution to this was
to create an economy of scale by reaching out to his neighbors. “I knew that I needed to try and expand this job, if I
could get a few more people involved, then I could bring in a bigger basement contractor for a better price.” Luckily
Pete found that his neighbor on one side was interested and, better still, so was the neighbour beyond him, who
had bought his own apartment with just such a plan in mind. As well as saving money, his neighbours got to benefit
from Pete’s expertise as he organised and project managed the excavation for all of them.

The project has added two good-sized bedrooms and a beautiful bathroom, as well as a third-bedroom-cum-studio
at the back of the house, which the couple use for music and yoga, “It’s such a clean, calm, light-filled space, being
here is incredibly restorative for us.”
The kitchen, above the studio, has also been extended to double its size, with a concrete floor polished to just the
right level of soft sheen and doors opening onto the courtyard garden beyond. Here the aesthetic is almost
monastically simple, with custom-made cabinetry, pale stone worktops and a splashback created using authentic
Tadelakt, a traditional Moroccan material which Pete spent months mastering and which he also used in the
bathroom, “If it’s not done properly, it can be problematic in the UK climate. I wanted to become an expert in
applying it authentically, while ensuring that it performs properly in a wet environment. It creates a very clean and
minimal aesthetic, because there is no tile ground required.”

In between this simple space and the living room, the couple enjoy the luxury of a separate study which eases the
transition into the older part of the apartment. This calming work space has proved handy during Covid lockdowns,
although much of the heavy building work took place during the worst of the pandemic. “It was noisy and I did feel
for the neighbors. When I caught Covid, I remember lying there with just floorboards between me and the drilling
below so I did take my share of the pain,” Pete says with a wry smile. In the living room, the walls are painted, in
light, tranquil tones, while the dark floorboards bring a crisp definition to the furniture mix. Hackney is teeming with
some of London’s very best and most exciting 20th century furniture dealers and Pete and Cherish took the bold step
of asking just one of them to curate the furniture mix here, “We got talking to the owner of Spazio Leone one day, as
he has a studio close to one of our regular coffee shops. We both love Gennaro’s sense of aesthetics, his passion and
incredible knowledge of Italian design.” For savvy Pete, the choice of vintage pieces was a no-brainer. “They
compare so well to the price of something new, and they’re so much more interesting and unique. I don’t want to
live in a catalogue-shopped home.” This furniture is an exercise in rigor and restraint that sits so well in both the
period rooms and the more minimalist, contemporary additions.
Where once there was a cramped, damp and depressing little apartment, now there is a sense of serene space. “The
London existence can be so intense and overwhelming, it makes a huge difference to your quality of life if you can
come home to somewhere like this.” The last year has seen the couple joined by baby son, Hugo, and while there is
no shortage of room for this welcome new addition to the family, the couple are ready to take on another design
challenge and have just put this enviable apartment onto the market with The Modern House, “Everyone says we’re
crazy to sell this one but, when a new opportunity comes along it is always so exciting, we just can’t resist,” explains
Pete. To which we would add… watch this space.

Photography courtesy of The Modern House.

reighton road the modern house 1 Above: “When you take a few steps down from the upper ground floor, you are transported from old to new, traditional to modern.” The underfloor-heated poured concrete floor has been polished to a pleasingly soft sheen and creates a strong link to the garden beyond, where the same material is used. Floor-to-ceiling glazing and a slimline sliding door mean that the view of the garden and the greenery of the ‘borrowed landscape’ beyond is as uninterrupted as possible. reighton road the modern house 6 Above: Above: In the dining area, a 1970s oval ash DS1 table by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Cassina, is teamed with a set leather Spaghetti 101 chairs by Giandomenico Belotti for Alias, above which hangs a 1970s ceiling light by the Castiglioni Brothers For Flos – all sourced and put together for this apartment by Spazio Leone. reighton road the modern house 7 Above: In the kitchen extension, the bespoke cabinetry, Caesarstone worktops and Tadelakt splashback were all color-matched to the Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin paint that it used on all the walls, “to keep things consistent and serene, “the Tadelakt is beautiful and feels very natural,” says Pete. Avoiding the visual clutter of wall cabinets, Pete opted for a simple open shelf that runs the length of the kitchen and is used to keep favorite pieces close at hand. Pete designed the cabinetry and had it handmade, with oak dovetail joints and German- made soft-close runners and hinges. reighton road the modern house 9 Above: Throughout the apartment, Pete has used Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion paint in Slipper Satin, which creates a neutral background against which to layer art and furniture. ‘We originally considered using soft pinks and greens, but I was using Slipper Satin on another project and really liked its effect which is smart and sophisticated but also calming.”

reighton road the modern house 14

reighton road the modern house 21

reighton road the modern house 23

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reighton road the modern house 18

[EAST LONDON HOME OF PETE MONAGHAN BY KATE JACOBS katejacobsec@googlemail.com]

For CAPTIONS:
[Paint throughout apartment]

[kitchen caption 1 – the general feel]

[kitchen caption 2 – the cabinets etc]
Above: In the kitchen extension, the bespoke cabinetry, Caesarstone worktops and Tadelakt splashback were all
colour-matched to the Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin paint that it used on all the walls, “to keep things consistent and
serenek, “the Tadelakt is beautiful and feels very natural,” says Pete. Avoiding the visual clutter of wall cabinets,
Pete opted for a simple open shelf that runs the length of the kitchen and is used to keep favourite pieces close at
hand. Pete designed the cabinetry and had it handmade to the highest quality, with oak dovetail joints and German-
made soft-close runners and hinges.
[kitchen caption 3 – the dining table etc]
Above: In the dining area, a 1970s oval ash DS1 table by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Cassina, is teamed with a set
leather Spaghetti 101 chairs by Giandomenico Belotti for Alias, above which hangs a 1970s ceiling light by the
Castiglioni Brothers For Flos – all sourced and put together for this apartment by Spazio Leone.
[kitchen caption 4 – garden area]
Above: In the garden, Pete opted for Siberian larch cladding, which will weather down to a silvery finish, while the
evergreen jasmine will grow to create a green wall effect, leading the up eye to the trees beyond.
[FURTHER INFORMATION FOR CAPTIONS IF NEEDED:]
 “The BORA downdraft hob was chosen because it does not require an overhead extractor, which helps the
kitchen feel more minimal and calming”
 Paper mache decorations by British Artist Fen, on the kitchen worktop closest to large glazed window
supplied by Spazio Leone.
 Moroccan terracotta bowl, from, on dining table with lemons, supplied by Spazio Leone.

[Living room caption 1 – images facing the fireplace]
Above: In the living room, period features such as the marble fireplace and timber floorboards have survived and
been restored to become focal points once again, “I wanted to protect and enhance the original elements, as much
as I wanted to strip out the more recent additions, such as the LED ceiling lights and odd boxed-out alcoves.” At the
heart of the room, a 1970s mirrored coffee table by Willy Rizzo for Cidue, sets the tone, sourced for the apartment
by Spazio Leone.

[Living room caption 2 – general]

Above: Pete reinstated the plaster coving and skirting boards, but kept things minimal, “the result is a calming
beautiful space with undeniable character.” The 9000 sectional sofa is by Tito Agnoli for Arflex. Against the wall to
the left of the fireplace, sits a Farmer Series safari-style chair by Gerd Lange for Bofinger, while the pine Zig Zag chair
to the right of the fireplace is in the manner of Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld. To its right stands a 1980s Yang floor
lamp designed by Scottish designer Gary Morga for Bieffeplast, while the Post Modern ceramic jug on the
mantlepiece was by Marco Zanini for Bitossi Italia – all sourced and put together for this apartment by Spazio Leone.

[FURTHER INFORMATION FOR CAPTIONS IF NEEDED:]
 The geometrical wooden plinth / column is an artisanal piece, sourced by Spazio Leone.
 The timber stool / side table is in the style of Constantin Brancusi, sourced by Spazio Leone.
 The Noguchi ceiling shade was imported from Japan.

Study
Above: In the study, a 1970s Monk chair, by Afra & Tobia Scarpa for Molteni, is used with a simple pine desk in the
style of Dutch designer Ate van Apeldoorn, alongside a 1980s German Postmodern shelving unit, all from Spazio
Leone. “This is one of the quietest rooms in the house, it was important to position the desk looking out of the
window to enjoy the green canopy of trees outside.”
[FURTHER INFORMATION FOR CAPTIONS IF NEEDED:]
 “The painstakingly refurbished original floorboards run through from the living room.”
 Don table lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Stilnovo, 1970s. The lamp consists of a heavy emerald green cubic
base, a white slanted rod and a striking adjustable white shade.
 Female Torso made of clay, initialled S.H.

 Bauhaus metal pitcher
 Italian travertin shapes
(all sourced and put together for this apartment by Spazio Leone)

HALLWAY

Above: In the hallway outside the bedrooms and bathroom, there is room for a laundry area, concealed by bespoke
cabinetry, “For me, it makes so much more sense to have the laundry space close to the bedrooms, rather than in
the kitchen, as is often the case in British homes.” The white-tinted polished concrete flooring continues here but it
wasn’t possible to tint the stairs in the same way, because of the vertical risers, so Pete opted to create some visual
interest by cutting into the concrete to expose the aggregate elements within the mix.

[Living room caption 2 – general]
Above: The studio was created by excavating a whole new space at the back of the building. It could serve as a
spacious third bedroom but, for Pete and Cherish, it’s a studio space, both for making music “I play my guitars here,
the acoustics are great,” and for practising yoga, “It’s our urban escape, with music and essential oils.”
An ultra-comfortable Fiandra sofa by Vico Magistretti for Cassina is used with the equally minimal Metafora coffee
table by Massimo and Lella Vignelli for Casigliani, both 1970s Italian pieces. In the background, two sculptural vessels
and a figurative sculpture – all from Spazio Leone, as is the furniture – are displayed on simple white plinths, giving
the studio a contemplative gallery-like atmosphere.
[FURTHER INFORMATION FOR CAPTIONS IF NEEDED:]
 Large sculpture / vase by Italian artist Miraldo Beghini 1985, Italy.
 ''Contemporary Archaeology'' mixed-media vase by Italian Artist Anna Clelia Tunesi.
 1990s metal sculpture of dancers was sourced in Luxembourg
 Pete and Gennaro made up the trio of plinths to display the artworks.
 The timber in the courtyard outside is white-stained larch.

BED ROOM 1

[Master bedroom with wardrobes in shot]
Above: In the couple’s bedroom, an ultra-simple low-slung bed is flanked by a pair of solid timber side tables,
sourced by Pete at a saw mill and inspired by the work of top interior designer Rose Uniacke, while the 1970s
Olympe lamps are by Harvey Guzzini for ED, and were sourced for Pete by Spazio Leone. “The neutral palette here
contributes to the feeling of tranquility and the colour-coordinated wall of bespoke joinery keeps a sense of calm
coherence in the room.”
[Master bedroom with window in shot]
Above: The master bedroom is set out at the back of the house with its own private terrace for al fresco weekend
breakfasts, “We ended up living here for a few years while I worked on other projects, but that gave us chance to
really get to know the space and put the bigger bedroom on the garden side, because it is so peaceful back here.”

[FURTHER INFORMATION FOR CAPTIONS IF NEEDED:]
 The Noguchi ceiling shade was imported from Japan.
 The wardrobes were colour-matched to the Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin paint that it used on the walls

BEDROOM 2

[Guest bedroom with wardrobes in shot]
Above: In the guest bedroom, a pair of 1960s Gatto Piccolo lamps by the Castiglioni Brothers for Flos (from Spazio
Leone), sit on simple monolithic timber side tables. The impressive ceiling height sets the new lower ground level
apart from many lower level conversions, “You can’t even touch the ceilings if you jump,” says Pete with a smile.

BATHROOM

Above: The bathroom extends out at the front of the house, into what was the coal storage area when this house
was originally built, back in the mid-Victorian era. Today it achieves almost monastic levels of calm thanks to the
polished concrete floor and Tadelakt finishes around the shower and basin. “The Tadelakt is beautiful and feels very
natural. Most property developers wouldn’t dream of using it because it’s a hand-applied finish and incredibly time-
consuming but for me, it was worth it.”


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