Faced with a blank space, the owner of this Sixties house used colour, clever storage and statement pieces to fill her home with life and personality
‘I’ve always loved this house – I used to walk past it regularly as our previous home was just around the corner,’ says the owner, who lives here with her husband and three sons. ‘The building is detached and set back from the road so the place enjoys a real sense of privacy. And among the neighbouring Edwardian properties, its Sixties style was very distinctive.’
‘When the house suddenly came on the market, I immediately arranged a viewing,’ she says. But the reality was very different from what she had imagined. Close up it was ugly, with dated lino floors, and it felt dark because of the small rooms and tiny windows. However, what the place did have in its favour was space and potential.
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The house is in a conservation area, so it could have been tricky to secure planning permission for an extension, but it already had a double garage at the back and a conservatory that was built on to the front. ‘My husband and I knew we’d be able to replace those structures with front and rear extensions without increasing the building’s size, so getting consent for the work wasn’t a problem,’ the owner says.
Having written a wish list of changes they wanted to make to the house, the owner drew up the plans and then started looking for a builder. ‘The main priority was to bring more light into the interior, with larger windows and sliding doors that led out to the garden,’ she says. ‘We also wanted to open up the ground floor and create a central kitchen-diner at the heart of the house.’
The double garage was given away on Freecycle. ‘Two men took it down in a day while I made constant cups of tea for them!’ the owner says. ‘It saved us the cost of having it removed. In its place, we constructed a large den with a built-in bar and TV.’
The owner is a big fan of Sixties architecture but, up close, this four-bed house in Tunbridge Wells, Kent looked really ugly, with red wood exterior panelling and a mix of lino and parquet on the floors. Plus, the small windows meant the rooms were really dark.
‘We modernised and enlarged the house by extending into the site of the existing double garage and conservatory,’ says the owner. The old conservatory had been so badly designed that it didn’t even give the family any access to the garden.
It was torn down and a new double-height extension was built in its place, with a living room on the ground floor, and a light, airy master bedroom on the floor above.
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‘I’ve decorated using colourful and eclectic vintage finds and upcycled furniture, set off against clean and simple white walls,’ says the owner. ‘I have my own boutique and online store, loveincltd.co.uk, selling new and vintage pieces. I have a magpie’s eye for bright and colourful fabric and accessories, plus a knack for spotting cool boot-sale pieces to mix into the look.’
‘My style is a combination of kitsch, tribal and modern, and I love to upcycle furniture to create something different.’
Use a corner sofa to define the seating area in a large sitting room. ‘The Ligne Roset sofa is my favourite piece in the house,’ the owner says. Her husband loves the leather chairs. She found them for her shop, but he wanted to keep them!
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Buy now: Similar Scott four-seater corner sofa, £1,799, Made.com
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The owner’s main concern was that the house didn’t have any original features. She knew she had to add some standout elements to give it personality and character.
The solution was to choose larger-than-life statement pieces for key areas – a granite fireplace in the open-plan kitchen (below), a wall-to-wall display shelf in the living room and a Sixties Italian glass chandelier for the stairway.
The owner knocked down walls and installed sliding doors to create light and space. ’We fitted concealed doors to give us the flexibility to close off adjacent rooms if we ever need to,’ says the owner.
The family were on a budget, so they went for Ikea kitchen units, and splashed out on a Mercury stove and granite worktop. Using the same flooring throughout the ground floor space has opened it up and makes the space flow as a whole.
Get the look
Buy now: Similar Tobias blue and chrome-plated chair, £55, Ikea
Buy now: Similar Battersby station clock, £115, Newgate Clocks
Buy now: Similar Midsummer Night’s Dream chandelier, £375, The French Bedroom Company
The owner made bespoke shelves for the bedroom, as an alternative to standard bedside tables. Display artwork on picture ledges rather than hanging them so you can easily change them around when the mood takes you.
‘This house is full of pieces that catch the eye and make you want to know more about where they came from,’ the owner says. ‘I think that’s a sign of good design.’
‘The chest in my son’s room was already painted,’ the owner says. ‘So I bought the same shade of paint for the box shelves.’ She’s backed the boxes with comics for a fun and playful feel.
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The bathroom floor tiles inspired the look of the whole room after the owner fell in love with them. Built-in cabinets mean plenty of storage and minimal clutter.
The result of the owner’s hard work is an individual home that’s full of colour and personality and perfectly suits this family. ‘My secret is only to bring in pieces that I really love,’ the owner says. ‘After all, nothing else would be good enough for the people I care most about in the world!’