30 Nov 2023

Highgate Build Dreams Come True

Michelle and Russell Abrahams purchased their house that stood upon a plot of land in Highgate in February 2017, knowing full well that planning in this part of town was very tricky to get approval on.


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Talking of the early planning stages, Russell says: “We knew there was a chance that rather than knock down the property completely, we would have to reconfigure the layout of the existing higgledy-piggledy and fairly run-down, extended cottage, which was not our preferred approach.”

Prior to purchasing the house, Russell and Michelle knew they wanted to work with the Octagon Bespoke team on the build of their next property.

Russell adds: “I had previously worked with them very successfully on a house located only a few hundred metres down the road, which I sold in 2014. With such a complicated and sensitive build on the horizon, it was imperative we had the best team working on the project, and the quality of build synonymous with the Octagon name is second to none.

“We knew what we desired from this house – we wanted somewhere big enough to house our families, with an expansive living area for entertaining, without creating a soulless edifice.”

The couple spent a year working with various architects, in order to find one capable of creating a design likely to appeal to Haringey planning. It was clear that Miltiadou Cook Mitzman Architects (MCMa) was best suited to the job.

“We were extremely involved right from the beginning and throughout the design and build process. I drew the house I wanted when we first appointed MCMa, at which point Richard Mitzman, who founded Camden-based MCMa, reminded me that it was the architect’s job, not mine, to design a home perfect for us, rather than the other way round!”

Challenged with designing a contemporary house within the Arts & Crafts idiom, planning permission was granted for MCMa’s design for a 5300ft2 detached, contemporary three-storey residence in May 2018, with the cottage knocked down in late 2018.

With planning submitted and approved, building work began in early 2019 by a dream team of architects, interior designers, landscape architects and a developer, who all truly understood the brief. This resulted in a light-filled, five-bedroom home, all with ensuites, with a huge living/kitchen space and expansive 12m-wide, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that allow for a seamless transition between the indoors and outdoors, showcasing the beautifully-landscaped garden. Downstairs is also home to a utility room, pantry, study, cinema room and W/C.

No.12 Studio was tasked with masterminding the design for the master bedroom suite, family room, cinema room, studio and hallways. The aesthetic is contemporary yet classic, combining warm materials with clean lines and fine detailing. The result is a home that is considered, welcoming and can be lived in.

Michelle and Russell were hugely involved in every single decision throughout the build process, with the teams meeting weekly in the later stages of the build.

Michelle adds: “With such a dream team can come significant costs. You can build a very nice house for £200 per square foot, but if money is no object, it can easily end up costing £600 per square foot. That’s not to say that is what this cost – we made sensible decisions when it came to the build. Hindsight shows that the expertise of our team saved us huge amounts of money. The team were always quick to advise on any potential issues that might arise. It was a hugely satisfying experience – we couldn’t eliminate all the problems, but we did nip a lot of things in the bud.

“The benefit of working with such an established and credible developer as Octagon is the access it grants to their little black book of industry contacts, which they – and, in turn, we – trust implicitly. We built this property during COVID, at a time when in-person appointments to select finishes of products were impossible.

“When you are about to place an order for 2000ft2 of porcelain tiles or 10m of fabric for a headboard, you really want to be able to go and see and touch things before placing an order. The trusted contacts of Octagon were incredible – taking the time to get to know us, so they truly understood our taste and helped us to make vital decisions on interior finishes.

“Building your own home is obviously a massive job, one that can, at times, be extremely stressful, but it was an absolute joy and pleasure to work with the whole team – we loved it.”

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