Finding a dream property was the easy part for this homeowner. The challenge was to make the drab room in a period conversion feel modern, spacious and homely. But with clever design hacks, a layout reconfiguration and careful planning, she’s managed to pull it off with a stunning transformation.
“I had a really clear idea of what kind of property I was looking for,” the homeowner recalls. “I wanted to find a nice size, conversion apartment that felt welcoming, warm, homely and was conveniently located.”
“Despite being very basic and somewhat underwhelming internally, I could see so much potential. The Edwardian building it’s set in is full of character, overlooking a quiet, leafy avenue and with beautiful original sash windows.’
Reconfiguring the layout
‘The interior was nothing short of neglected, having previously been an unloved rental property, but the large windows allow natural light to flood in and the outdoor greenery – framed by the famous sliding windows is like a kind of unique, ever-changing piece of art. I couldn’t walk away so I made it our home.’
‘When we moved in, the living room was walled off, painted red and purple, and although it was a good size, it lacked character,’ recalls the homeowner. ‘To make better use of the space, I opened up the room, removed walls and doors and also incorporated the wide hallway. It’s made a huge difference – there’s a much better flow and it’s full of natural light now.’
After moving in, the homeowner set about stripping the entire apartment and tearing out the kitchen, bathroom and floors everywhere. A wall separating the living room from the dining room was taken down and doors from the hall and kitchen entrances removed to create an open space.
A rug and strategically placed lighting help separate the open plan area into two zones – one for dining and one for lounging – a great takeaway trick for multi-functional spaces.
“It has made a huge difference,” says the homeowner, “as the new layout allows natural light to travel through the core of the apartment and enables a much better flow.”
The living room
‘As an interior designer, I have a proven method for mapping room schemes, and I also used it when I designed my own home. I start by looking at a room’s limitations – whether it has, for example, low ceilings, small windows or is irregular in shape, then I consider how the room will be used.’
‘I painted half the height of the walls in the living room in Dulux’s (opens in new tab) Scottish Loch Matt paint to elongate the room and make it appear as if it is infinitely spacious. By sticking with white for the top half, it keeps the room light and not too heavy.’
“None of my interior plans happen by accident – I plan them carefully to ensure that I make the best use of the space and that each room evokes particular emotional responses,” says the homeowner.
‘I wanted my own home to feel warm, comfortable and relaxed. I looked at museums, art galleries, restaurants and online sources for inspiration for the plans, but I’m usually drawn to colorful, bold and modern looks with mid-century living room furniture and nods to art deco design, so I can safely say , that I stayed true to myself when I decorated this apartment.’
‘The vintage Chinese embroidery piece on the fireplace is one of my favorite items. I bought it from a charity shop for £3 and I just love the vibrant colors and the intricate needlework. It also serves as a great reminder of my heritage and culture.’
In the kitchen, Howdens’ (opens in new tab) Fairford dark green units were chosen to complement the beautiful greenery outside, with a single tile throughout design for walls and floors to prevent the scheme from feeling over-complicated.
‘Because I had chosen such bold kitchen units, I tried to find a balance by using only one tile design with marble effect tiles from Roccia (opens in new tab) for both walls and floors. I much prefer larger tiles for kitchens as they are easier to keep clean.’
One wall in the kitchen has been kept free of wall units, with thick, natural walnut shelves instead. This helps open up the space and allows the homeowner to display glassware and favorite kitchen items that help add extra color and character.
The large bedroom
“Before, the bedroom had a blue carpet and striking, bright lemon-yellow walls. I put my bed in the nook where wardrobes used to be and painted a wall in Dulux’s (opens in new tab) Spiced honey around the headboard to give it a warm, cozy feel,’ says the homeowner.
‘I mounted and framed a number of antique prints from the 1800s to display on the bedroom wall. They have all the places I am very familiar with including South Kensington Museum and Liberty London. It’s easily my favorite feature in the room.’
The child’s bedroom
‘My son was given free rein to design his own boy’s room and in hindsight I wish I had offered him a more limited palette so we didn’t end up with wallpaper and red paint.’
‘But it’s vibrant and fun and he loves it, which is what matters!’
The bathroom became one of the biggest projects in the apartment. The homeowner initially thought it was too spacious, so considered splitting it into two bathrooms, with one en-suite to the master bedroom and the other a separate family bathroom.
“I realized how much time we actually spend in the bathroom every day and how often bathrooms feel drab or clinical and not comfortable at all, so decided to make it luxurious and an eye-catching feature in the apartment.”
‘To avoid the bathroom looking stark and clinical, I made a feature in the room using three different types of tiles on the walls and floor. I chose wood, marble and 3D matte cream tiles to add texture and visual interest and I’m so happy with the result. However, it was a risk as it is almost impossible to get an accurate idea of what the end result will look like until they are all in place.’
‘I bought the Crittall shower screen used from Facebook Marketplace for £80. The previous owner had bought the wrong size, so unable to use it, sold it to me for a good price. I had to drive for hours to get it, but it was worth it – it suits the room perfectly!’
‘I wanted something different from the plain white ceramic sink in our bathroom, so instead I chose an Orion gray terrazzo sink and a gorgeous cabinet, both from Tikamoon (opens in new tab).’
‘The very best thing about living here is how much it has improved our quality of life and our states of mind. It really is our safe space and we feel happy and proud to live here.’
‘I love to think that I have inspired others to make confident choices with home decor – but always remember that your home is only for you and your family. There’s no need to try to please everyone.’
How to zone an open space
First, you need to figure out how you want to use the space. Do you need an area to work and one to rest, for example? Or maybe one place to cook and another to eat. Either way, finalize your requirements and allocate an area of the room to each one.
One way to visually separate different areas in a room is by manipulating the floor covering. For example, you can install tiles in one section and wood in another, or you can simply use a large rug to frame an area.
Consider room dividers. Shelving and folding screens – or anything large enough to replicate a kind of temporary wall – can be used to zone spaces in the home. They are also ideal for adding storage space.
Don’t forget the lighting. Lighting sets the tone of a room, so getting it right in each zone is key. Think: task lighting for kitchen worktops and workspaces, pendant lighting for dining areas and lamps in the living area.
Additional words by Abbi Henderson