Searching for a home with more space than their small flat, these owners viewed a seemingly endless selection of rather dreary properties in their quest for a place to renovate.
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‘We looked at lots of flats, then the estate agent showed us this – a house! Albeit a small one with a very strange staircase, but still, it had more space than anything we’d looked at previously,’ says this owner, who is co-founder and creative director of award-winning studio Angel O’Donnell.
The dark interior, cramped by a staircase which cut right across the main living area to the bay window, may have put off other potential buyers. But these owners were not to be deterred.
Together they began to plan a new layout for the two-bedroom house, resolving the staircase conundrum by ripping out the old one and replacing it with a contemporary folded steel design, tucked to one corner of the sitting room so that it was much less obtrusive.
‘I was inspired by a loft. Our aim was to make a narrow, dark house feel brighter, taller and bigger,’ the owner explains. ‘In the end, we gutted the entire house so that nothing remained apart from the walls, then refurbished it completely.’
In addition to removing a door between the sitting room and kitchen to create an open ground floor layout, they also replaced two small windows and a back door with a set of fully-glazed bi-folding doors to introduce more natural light into the kitchen, and create an indoor-outdoor feel on warm days.
The galley-style kitchen allows room for a showpiece dining table, made from dye-injected concrete finished with a glossy resin. The sweep of cabinets was inspired by the look of a deli, with marble counter tops and open shelving made from planks of waney (live) edge English oak supported by warehouse-style black metal brackets.
‘The contrast of natural marble and oak against the black industrial-style elements and the blue of the cabinets is striking and creates character.’
Bold use of colour continues into the sitting room, its walls painted in a smoky blue. ‘Don’t be afraid of dark colour even in a small room. It makes a room feel sumptuous and luxurious, and larger because the walls seem pushed back, especially if you paint the woodwork a similar or even darker colour.’
Subtle lighting and richly coloured upholstery add to the glamorous mood, while personality comes from the couple’s art collection.
Upstairs, the bathroom was moved from one side of the house to the other, in order to gain a window and introduce natural light into the room. Standard internal doors were replaced with ones that slide into pockets, so saving space.
A small first-floor extension created a dressing area as part of the master bedroom. But probably the most significant improvement was to open up the roof space to create a lofty feel, and to make space for a study and new sleeping platform at the front of the house.
‘That extra height has made a dramatic difference,’ says the owner, ‘and removed any remaining sense that the house was once so cramped and awkward.’
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Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and Editor-In-Chief since 2023. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.
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