It’s early on Friday morning and I can hear the gentle sounds of Fournier Street, E1, stirring to life. The sun shimmers through a crack in the shutters and I remember where I am; tucked up in a cloud like antique four-poster bed in Townhouse, a Georgian flat you can book for a stay (like no other) in Spitalfields, London.
Life doesn’t get much better than this in my world. The original floorboards pleasantly creak under foot as I fill the roll top bath. Wallowing away in the 18th century panelled bathroom, I drink in the Mary Poppins style roof top view. And as I sit at the dressing table to put my lipstick on, the glorious Hawksmoor Christ Church is my only audience. What it is to be surrounded by the excellent taste of Fiona Atkins, antiques dealer, aesthete and owner of Townhouse.
Wearing a hard hat and only just making out the bannister in the dark, Fiona had the foresight to buy the derelict building on the spot back in 2000. At first, opening her antiques shop, she went on to sensitively renovate the flat above for short stays. Fiona recalls the area as it was; “a no go territory for most people and firmly off the tourist trail, the shop was very much a destination.” From 2005 the area started to regenerate at lightening speed, becoming the vibrant scene we know today.
Though she insists the decor is ‘not slavishly 18th century,’ original features and new 21st century mod cons happily rub shoulders, allowing you to truly appreciate the Georgian fabric of the house. I love the fact it has always been a working building,’ Fiona tells me. “Weavers, doctors, furriers and a Russian translator have all lived and worked here. “ It was even the Market café from the end of the second world war until Fiona bought it.
Later that morning my friend Lily arrives for rhubarb filled doughnuts and bacon sandwiches at the excellent St John Bread and Wine Well you weren’t expecting me to have an 18th century breakfast were you?!
When staying at Townhouse, promise to have a glass of wine with just the lamps on, no music. Admire the wall colours as they change with the falling light. Think of all those who’ve come and gone. Read the history books written by locals. Unplug yourself and close the door on modern life just briefly – there is a Nespresso machine!
Book your stay here and be sure not to miss the beautiful paintings, antiques and objects for sale in the shop. Also the world quite frankly seems a better place in the café downstairs, surrounded by copper jelly moulds, painted delft tiles and lemon drizzle cake.