Uniting the rooms of a bad conversion doesn’t have to mean knocking down walls…
Shortly after Kitty Jackson moved into this ground-floor flat in Harringay, northeast London, she met someone who described what their Victorian house had been like before it was split in two. “This older neighbour had lived over the road most of her life, while her sister lived in our house. In the 1970s, their children were always in and out of each other’s homes, but this was always known as the ‘big house’, where the kids loved running up and down the stairs,” says Kitty.
The story made Kitty realise that when the walls went up to turn the two-storey house into two flats, their home probably lost a lot of its old character. “The layout felt disjointed, but we didn’t have a clue what to do about it.” The front room, which Kitty and her partner Alex use as a home office/spare bedroom, is separated from the other rooms by a long corridor. This leads into the living room, with the kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom at the back. “While the living room was a good size, no matter how much I shifted our furniture around it looked cluttered and our big dining table dominated the space.”
This is the first home that Kitty and Alex have bought together. “We were so happy to have our own place, but there wasn’t any sense of flow and everything felt mismatched,” she says.
This was compounded by the fact that the couple had combined two sets of furniture from two rental places. And the flat’s existing fittings – plain tiles, draughty uPVC windows and ugly radiators – didn’t help.
Kitty had met interior designer Emilie Fournet through work, and brought her in to help. “If I hadn’t already known Emilie, I wouldn’t have dreamed of looking up an interior designer. But her work was practical and transformative.”
There was no dramatic knocking through of walls, but windows and radiators were upgraded, as were details like taps and handles – “All the things you use and notice every day”, says Kitty.
To make the living room layout work better, a perforated screen was added alongside what is now the seating area. A soft rug also acts as a further “zoning device”, making it feel distinct from the dining area. “If I work from home, I tend to end up here – it’s a really comfortable, relaxed space,” she says.
A level-headed furniture edit was carried out, whittling down their combined pieces to just the items they both really liked. “It was useful having someone impartial there to ask: ‘Do you really need two side tables?’ or ‘Is this the nicest armchair you can imagine here?’” says Kitty. The old rectangular dining table didn’t survive the cull and was replaced with a vintage drop-leaf one by Ercol, which is far less obtrusive.
A leafy patterned wallpaper now runs along the hallway and is reflected in a large mirror, making it feel like a space in its own right rather than just a long, inconvenient corridor. The wallpaper continues into the living room, subtly defining a reading corner that was previously dead, unused space.Advertisement
Radiators were replaced with tall versions that freed up the walls and work far more efficiently. Several knackered windows were refitted with black-framed versions in aluminium, which look clean and crisp. Likewise, the previous kitchen rooflight had to go: “The old one let in draughts and when it rained we couldn’t hear ourselves talking,” says Kitty.
White walls have been repainted to shades of pink and a soft purple in the home office. “Colour has made the rooms feel more welcoming,” says Kitty.
Glossy ceramic tiles in deep blue and green have added impact to the kitchen and bathroom. “Seeing those tiles first thing in the morning always puts me in a good mood,” she says.
With small but significant changes, Kitty and Alex gained a home that feels joined up, and reflects their personalities. “We realised we had to think about the spaces and work with them, rather than just unloading two vanloads of stuff and hoping for the best,” says Kitty.