By her own admission, interior designer Karine Hauser prefers big projects "you can sink your teeth into". Her company, Hauser Design is currently working on a 20,000 sq ft Georgian mansion in Edgbaston and the refurbishment of a church in Solihull, but one of her most ambitious schemes was when she decided to oversee the creation of her own four-bedroom apartment in Harborne, a new build property which allowed her to work off-plan and style the top floor home just how she wanted it.
Karine had bought two of the penthouse apartments at Park House from developers Chase Midlands back in 2000. While she sold on one without altering its original layout and specification, when it came to the second - which would become her home for the next four years - she asked Chase Midlands for carte blanche, and was given it.
This allowed her free reign to transform the apartment - the internal architecture, layout and fittings - to suit her own taste and lifestyle. The result is a fabulously light, airy, open plan home; four bedrooms plus ensuite, shower room and cloakroom, two reception rooms, two balconies, an open plan living/dining room and a utility room.
In the main living area is a spiral staircase up to a generous mezzanine area, plus two balconies overlooking the communal gardens.
"Chase were very good, they allowed us to do any changes we wanted," Karine recalls. "They let us put in these steel A frames [in the living room]; originally this was going to go off at the same level as the kitchen ceiling and all above would be attic space, so what we did was put in these steel A frames so we could get the height really... otherwise it would have been a bit of a waste of space, I think.
"I was mainly working on function throughout - such and such many rooms, we need a study to work from... and based on that, we organised the layout," she adds. "It's not like a traditional English three-bedroom - it's more based on how they do it in Europe; they base it more on function - what you need rather than the number of bedrooms - and it worked for us."
As well as the spacious living room/kitchen, the Swiss/Finnish designer ("I've lived in Birmingham for 12, 13 years so I'm really a local now!") gave her new home four generous bedrooms and a fabulous bathroom with its own dressing area. While there is room for a family, the penthouse is clearly best suited to a professional couple, with a great location only five minutes' walk from Harborne High Street and a 10 minute drive into the city centre.
"What I like is you're so close to the trees, you've got the squirrels coming right up [near the windows]" says Karine as we stand on the rear balcony.
Despite its close proximity to the busy Harborne Road, the clever landscaping and trees screen the noise and the view of any surrounding buildings.
"Because you're in this piece of lower ground, it's like you've got a forest ahead of you and the outlook on the other side is really nice too," says Karine. "That was the idea - I wanted to be in a flat but I didn't want to be in the city centre; you wouldn't guess [you were so near the main road] and the garden is lovely in the summer. You don't often get apartments that have got both worlds - the gardens but also the city living feel."
* The apartment is for sale to offers in the region of £795,000; for more details contact Maguire Jackson on 0121 634 1520 or www.maguirejackson.com For more details of Karine's work go to www.hauserdesign.co.uk