Interiors: Designer Mike Baxter for Fonthill Mews

Written by: Sophie Taylor

There’s a real move towards stuff that’s more design led now.

Within a historic mews and former coach houses in Inner North London sits an eclectic and creative private development of one and two bedroom properties. The greenery lining the winding communal gardens to the centre of the mews adds a unique beauty to the development. Resin coated brick extensions jut out from several of the houses lining the pathway through the heart of the mews, emitting a pearlescent shine in sunlight.

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Inside each individual space you find a mix of original, natural materials and industrial, current design features. So who exactly is responsible for this traditional and contemporary blend of styles?

We met with site designer Mike Baxter about what led him to this particular property project. At just twenty two, after enjoying studying building construction at Uni, Mike Baxter opened his own bar in Scotland.

It was a very design-led bar. I suppose that was the start of it all.

Mike then moved into residential construction, focusing on flat refits and new build houses. But maintaining more of an interest in higher end projects and building a number of houses, Mike moved to Edinburgh in 2011 and embarked on a new venture.

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“I continued doing different things ever since until I opened up a hostel called The Baxter. Whereas traditionally hostels are a backpackers place of last resort, there’s a real move towards stuff that’s more design led now. The way I like to look at it is that the Baxter has all the trappings of a boutique hotel while keeping the energy and vibrance of a hostel.”

Mike manages to combine the luxurious touches and stylings of a boutique hotel with a hostel price, acknowledging that just because you’re backpacking doesn’t mean you won’t be bothered about style, luxury and design.

I suppose now my real title is hotelier. I have a hotel in Hackney at Hackney Central called Kip.

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Mike and his business partner realised that an affordable hotel doesn’t need to mean blue curtains and blue carpets. “An affordable hotel can still tie into the design led lifestyle that people lead these days. People walk around with expensive designer bags and we’re surrounded by beautiful design all the time. When it comes to boutique hotels, London is filled with the most amazing places for over £250 a night.”

We chat about The Ace Hotel and it’s boutique rooms filled with record players and electric guitars. “It’s a brilliant example of a phenomenal product that everyone loves but there’s definitely a separation between the cool kids drinking the coffee in the foyer and the people staying in the rooms. What we wanted to do with Kip was keep that design, but take some of the frills away. We’re room only for example, so we don’t worry about food and beverage and can lower the costs associated but you still get to stay in a really nice room that you can afford.”

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Flash forwards to Mike’s present project here in Finsbury Park, we discuss the partnership between developer and designer. “With this project in particular, myself and my business partner of The Pervaiz Navide Family Trust decided to do this development – they do a lot all round the country. The partnership works very well, as they obviously do a lot of large scale development, and I think there was a really nice synergy between us. Now they’ve got sites like Fonthill Mews where they want somebody who can think of the details and thinking, are the handles just right for example. So we’ve got a great mix of the really traditional business end that can deliver this kind of stuff, with somebody like me who’s just thinking about aesthetics and quality all the time.”

Just over a year ago Mike and his team started mood boarding ideas for the Mews. As a Hackney dweller, the designer started looking into the area and doing some research. They noticed that Finsbury Park had a similar vibe to some parts of East London with fantastic connections to the city. They began to do more research into the kinds of people around the area.

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We started to think this could be a really interesting development and the design really has to reflect that.

As these were all mews houses originally, they did some more research into it’s history, finding that part of the site used to be a church and each mews is over a hundred years old.

“Because we were stripping it back to the bare bones and rebuilding it, we have the advantages of a well insulated house. But I still wanted to bring back the history and fit them out almost like a developer package. You can see them in a lot of the developments around London, they all look very similar and contemporary. What we wanted to do was bring a little bit of the life and history of the place here. There’s so much that has happened, there would have been a lot of horses kept here for example.”

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A lot of the finishes are inherently London, as with the crackle glaze tiles you can spot on the Underground. They have created traditional Shaker style kitchens, hand painted so that every one is a different colour. Mike’s vision was such that, if you go next door it’s a very similar, almost identical kitchen but all slightly different and decorated in variations of heritage colours.

“We’ve also used traditional radiators, again to give this feeling of contemporary yet of its time. The crown marble worktops look great with a shaker kitchen and these big range cookers.”

Mike wonders about the types of residents that Fonthill Mews will attract. Thinking about not just design but how this place is going to be lived in and used, we ponder whether they will be very social types according to their research on the area. Anticipating this, there are large open spaces in the living and kitchen area with room for a large dining table in the extension area. We point to the marble top island we’re currently leaning on.

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“Then you’ve got these central hubs which are movable. You can move this island around the space to suit how you live. There are lots of design touches that I love. I have a thing for monochrome which you’ll notice if you see the website.”

Moving upstairs to take in the view from the balcony, we discuss the staircases.

“Instead of going with a standard balustrade we’ve got bespoke stainless steel handrails that were made for us especially in Scotland. The bathrooms are all bespoke too, they were made specifically for the job.” Shoe-less I notice the natural fibre carpets, made of sisal, “a very authentic material. Sisal is stronger than fibres like jute and more durable than other natural fibres, it is used for rope and twine.”

Fonthill Mews is certainly a stylish new residential build, designed for hosts with the most and a penchant for steel and sisal.

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Fonthill Mews: New York Loft meets London Mews.

Marketed exclusively by Davies & Davies Estate Agents.

Set in a historic mews and former coach house in Finsbury Park, North London, is this eclectic and creative private development of one and two bedroom properties available to rent. An appealing mix of modernist, industrial and heritage design with an emphasis on natural materials and handcrafted interiors.

Register your interest now:

0207 272 0986

Photos by Mike Barry

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