With three nearly grown children, Kathryn and Dan Bricken needed a home that could perform double service—as both a family home and an efficient base for a busy working couple.
The American expats created just such a property in their adoptive city of London by buying a modest Edwardian house and then spending more than $1 million to enlarge and remodel it.
Mr. Bricken, 49, a banker, is from Bend, Ore.; Mrs. Bricken, 50, hails from Miami. They moved to Britain a decade ago with their twins, Grace and Trenton, both now 20 and attending college in the U.S., and Alexander, 18 and in high school in the U.K.
After six years of renting, they decided to put down roots and buy a home. It was 2014, and central London’s property market was flying high—one reason they decided to buy was a fear that if they didn’t act quickly, they might be priced out.
“We thought that prices were going to go up forever,” said Mrs. Bricken.
In fact, the year they paid £1.95 million ($2.69 million) for their four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot terraced house in the west London suburb of Fulham was the market’s high point.
As prime central London prices began to fall—by about 9% between 2015 and 2018 according to Knight Frank—they set about extending the house to more than 3,300 square feet with the addition of a basement.
And even in a falling market, their roughly $1.38 million project has increased in value to an estimated $4 million to $4.8 million.
The couple, experienced renovators, had never tackled the British system before. One of the biggest challenges they faced, they say, was persuading neighbors to sign legal agreements designed to safeguard them from potential damage. They put £85,000 into escrow to cover any damages, although they ended up needing just about $2,000 to repair cracks to one neighbor’s walls.
Building work began in October 2014, and the family—which now includes Kevin, their two-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel—was able to move in by September 2015, although construction continued until the end of that year.
“We make a good team,” said Mr. Bricken. “I focus on the layout and the wiring and systems, and Kathryn does all of the design-related stuff.”
For Mrs. Bricken, the most important room was the kitchen. While helping to manage the renovation, she was also setting up her own gourmet cookie-dough company.
She wanted a room that was light and airy, so they lowered the floor to give the room higher ceilings. They also installed two full-height sets of metal-framed windows by heritage brand Crittall.
The palette of materials is simple and crisp: Cabinets are white gloss with stainless-steel details, the timber parquet floors are laid out in a herringbone pattern, and the worktops are white Carrara marble. A cluster of Tom Dixon “Melt” pendant lights in copper above the kitchen island is rivaled in the living room by a bespoke brass-and-glass chandelier Mrs. Bricken had made in Italy.
To make the house as convenient and user-friendly as possible, the couple hired furniture maker Barbara Genda Bespoke Furniture to build much of their storage, from a wine cellar in the basement to a kitchen cabinet-turned-workstation.
Genda also created mirrored closets for the master bedroom and bookcases for the study and the game room in the basement.
Throughout the house, family photographs and art the couple has collected for years decorate the walls. A mahogany chest Mr. Bricken inherited has been upcycled with black lacquer and brass handles; it now serves as a glamorous drinks cabinet.
Although the Brickens have spent enough time in Britain to call a backsplash a splashback and a faucet a tap, they have also imported some distinctly American features, from air-conditioning—a rarity in London—to space for a double-door refrigerator. The home has extensive closet space, as opposed to the freestanding wardrobes into which most Brits cram their clothes.
“These are just little things that individually, of course, you can live with, but when you add them up become important,” said Mr. Bricken. “Part of the reason we wanted a house we could work on was because we didn’t think we would find one that already ticked all of our boxes, or if we did it would be way too expensive.”