Raw-Edges Duo Shay Alkalay and Yael Mer Reimagine an 1860s London Home

“Growing up in Tel Aviv, designers Shay Alkalay and Yael Mer were accustomed to the modernist buildings of the White City, so named for its prevailing International Style and Bauhaus-inflected architecture. So when the husband-and-wife founders of Raw-Edges first moved to London in 2004, to attend the Royal College of Art, they were in for a bit of an adjustment.“Everything here is the opposite,” notes Alkalay, musing on “narrow terrace houses with dark walls, curtains, carpet everywhere—even in the toilet.”

Their home in London’s Kentish Town area was just the sort of Victorian-era abode they might have once avoided, with fuddy-duddy interiors. But they loved the up-and-coming neighborhood and the lush garden, perfect for their daughters, Neeva and Maia. The rooms they could transform.

Image may contain Flooring Human Person Wood Hardwood Floor Furniture Chair and Plywood

The gang gather round their DIY linoleum-top dining table, beneath Raw-Edges’ Concertina light fixture for Louis Vuitton.Philip Sinden

“The challenge was to take something typical and make it work for our family,” Alkalay reflects on the yearslong process, in which they stripped away nearly everything but the front façade (protected under conservation laws). Floors were leveled, a crisp staircase added, and the layout opened up, so that the kids’ messy crafting table now sits within view of the kitchen and living area. Says Mer, “There are four of us and a dog, but it’s all kind of shared.”

Though the couple had never designed a house, rethinking typologies has become part of their daily practice since they founded their joint studio in 2007. “We always try to invent something, whether it’s in the way you use it or in the way you make it,” explains Alkalay. Mer, nodding in agreement, adds: “We always feel like beginners.” 

Image may contain Home Decor Human Person Banister Handrail Flooring Clothing and Apparel

Maia at the sink; the bath is clad in Raw-Edges tile for Mutina.Philip Sinden

Image may contain Door

The house’s rear façade.Jutta Goessl

At home, unorthodox design solutions abound. Gymnastics rings hang from the living room ceiling—an outlet, Mer says, for “the kids’ extra energy.” The dining table is made from leftover linoleum flooring, the couple’s bed set on casters. Even kitchen and bath surfaces stray from the norm, where Caesarstone and Raw-Edges’ tile for Mutina mix with industrial materials like vinyl and Formica. “We kept looking at health care buildings and our kids’ school,” explains Alkalay. The kitchen sink, case in point, is one they spotted at the girls’ science lab.

Image may contain Housing Building Flooring Indoors Room Bedroom Loft Floor Wood Hardwood Rug and Dorm Room

The couple’s room features their Stack cabinet for Established & Sons.Jutta Goessl

Image may contain Rug Living Room Indoors Room and Furniture

The built-in sofa is covered in Kvadrat wool, and the Vitra pillows and Conde house table are raw edges designs.Jutta Goessl

Image may contain Furniture Chair Dining Table Table Flooring Wood Indoors and Room

The couple’s Concertina light fixture for Louis Vuitton mingles with Jasper Morrison for Vitra chairs and a DIY table.Jutta Goessl

Furnishings read like a sizzle reel of Raw-Edges hits. In the main bedroom there’s an edition of their 2008 Stack cabinet, the seemingly precarious piece that helped launch their careers when it was picked up by Established & Sons. (It was later acquired by MoMA.) Concertina pieces for Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades collection spring into action throughout the home, from the light fixture above that DIY dining table to the cocktail table that pulls up to the prototype sofa they just designed for furniture start-up Cozmo. Elsewhere sits their 2010 foam-injected Tailored Wood stool for Cappellini and a one-of-a-kind Endgrain bench, its kaleidoscopic pattern an industrialized take on marquetry.