As anyone who has visited a family home knows, the old William Morris adage that a home should be beautiful and useful is easier said than done when accommodating young children. Urban design director Anna Mansfield and her husband, chief financial officer Ian Warren, faced this problem when they moved with their children to a five-bedroom fixer-upper in Hackney in 2018. The couple bought the Victorian terrace house in a London Fields conservation area for £1.3 million but the property felt worn out, with an old-fashioned layout and cramped feel.
By the time the pandemic hit, Mansfield was expecting the couple’s third child, and the strain of balancing home-schooling with working from home threw the house’s flaws into sharp relief. “We all felt very constrained. The house definitely didn’t work for modern family life,” remembers Mansfield, who had trained as an architect. “Loads of my friends are architects, so it made sense to go for someone we already knew.”
Without having to think about it too much, she and Warren settled on their good friends Camilla Parsons and Matthew Whittaker of award-winning practice Whittaker Parsons. “They place a big focus on collaboration and trust, which was very important to us,” explains Mansfield. The foursome were able to lay down some boundaries in advance. “We worked out some clear rules, like using email to talk about the house and keeping WhatsApp for all the friends’ stuff.”