Clerkenwell calling
Living Etc Magazine|November 2021
A warehouse flat in one of east London’s hottest spots has been sensitively designed around its existing fabric
Juliet Benning
THE OWNERS

Jen Long, who works in tech, and Mike Zhang, who works in finance. The couple previously rented separate flats – Mike in Russell Square and Jen in Caledonian Road – before renting a flat in a building next door together. This is the first home they have bought together.

THE PROPERTY

A flat on the second floor of a five-storey warehouse building in Clerkenwell. The front door opens into a library-hallway space. There is a main bedroom with dressing room and en-suite bathroom, a second bedroom, used as a gym and home office, a pantry and main bathroom. The rest of the space is open-plan and contains the kitchen, dining and lounge areas.

When Jen Long and Mike Zhang’s Clerkenwell flat first came on the market it didn’t want for admirers. A rare example of an almost entirely untouched warehouse flat, its lack of walls, plaster or modernisation gave it a raw appeal. ‘The seller had accepted another offer but the buyer’s chain broke down, meaning our offer was later accepted. We were given a strict timeline so we had a mad dash to get everything lined up in time for the sale,’ Mike recalls. The couple had been searching all over London for many months before striking gold. ‘Clerkenwell is extremely convenient for us. We both work in central London but our friends are mostly east so this location bridges the two,’ Mike explains.

While owners of the surrounding flats in the old factory building had succumbed to slick modernisation, Jen and Mike’s flat retained its bare bricks and roughly hewn concrete pillars echoing the vigorous industry of the site a hundred years prior. ‘The fact that the bare fabric of the building was intact appealed to us,’ Mike says. ‘With every other flat we looked at we would have to start taking things out, whereas with this one we would be effectively working from the ground up,’ Jen adds. An unassuming commercial exterior sealed the deal. ‘You enter through a small lobby and lift so you don’t expect the flat to be particularly exciting but then you walk in and it opens up into all this impressive space. That contrast really hooked us,’ Mike describes.

Living at Jen’s Caledonian Road property, the couple were eager to get the flat configured to their needs rapidly. Not only did they wish to avoid paying more rent but looking for an architect in March 2020, they realised the global pandemic would also stymie their plans. It meant they appointed their architects, Emma and Ross Perkin of Emil Eve, without even meeting them in the flesh. ‘We spoke to them on the phone and we had a really good feeling about them,’ Jen says.

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