Before we’d even moved in, I’d spent a lot of time thinking about the design of the house. To the point, I think, where Mads was beginning to regret buying the place (and perhaps even marrying me). Not just thinking about the all-important layout, but colour schemes, materials and lighting too.
I wanted the palate and pieces in the house to reflect the house’s location. Being surrounded by beautiful private grounds and situated between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park was hugely exciting to me, and I was keen to bring in a relaxed, calming scheme of greens and greys, focusing on shade and tone, rather than big, bold colours. I wanted texture too, with wood, stone and fabrics being used to emphasise the connection with nature.
Actually, if I’m being totally honest, my original inspiration came from this:
It’s a piece of bark I found on the common. I know, I know, I know…admitting this makes me sound like a bit of a pretentious knob. I accept that, but the colours and textures on this little piece of wood were perfect. Please don’t judge me too harshly.
Given that we wanted the flooring to run throughout the entire ground floor, this was a sensible place to start. I found a beautiful, unfinished, engineered ash parquet. It was a longer board length than standard to give a more contemporary look with a nod to the original parquet, which we’d had to rip up and bin as it was so damp. Once laid, the floor will be stained with a light grey tinted oil.
Under this parquet, we planned to install under-floor heating, eliminating the need for radiators taking up wall space.
Wanting to create a practical family space, we had already decided to open up the wall between the kitchen and the living room. Not completely – just a sort of “window” between the areas to allow light into the kitchen and to create a sense of space, giving an unbroken view all the way through.
As Maddie and I both love cooking and entertaining, the kitchen is somewhere we spend a lot of time and hence the most important room in the house. We chose to go for integrated appliances, except the 110cm range cooker: a dream which we were finally able to realise, now we had the space! A kitchen table would be great for family meals and informal dinners with friends, and banquette seating would give us a bit of extra storage for food processors etc.
Given my rather specific vision for the space, I decided to design the kitchen bespoke myself. I managed to source some huge 2.8m x 0.9m ash panels from a company up in Manchester, which would be perfect. These will need be cut down and edged to a VERY specific cutting pattern drawn up by me for the carpenter, making sure the grain flowed in the right direction, so as to look seamless across the entire frontage. Perhaps a touch OCD, but completely worth it! Because of the thickness of the door and drawer fronts, heavy duty hinges, runners and push button mechanisms would be needed.
The worktop is an integral part of the design and something I spent a huge amount of time researching. We had previously had marble and loved the look, though the cost to do a space of this size would be prohibitive with our budget! I started to look at other materials, exploring the ranges of composites, woods, metals, stones and even laminates. In the end, I chose granite and went through several options before finally settling on something stunning called Namibian Green.
The pattern in the stone looks just like lichen and moss growing on a tree trunk, which fit so perfectly with my pretentious scheme, it was uncanny!
In the living space I wanted the main focal point to be a display unit covering one entire wall. I designed the unit myself using the same ash panels as the kitchen doors with a second, darker wood to act as contrast. This would also house the TV and the media setup would sit behind the TV panel, out of sight.
With open plan living, it is important to define areas with zone specific lighting. I decided on a pendant over the dining table to make eating there more intimate and a set of three spotlights directly onto the unit to highlight the objects displayed there. Finally, I chose an 8amp circuit to control the mid-level lighting on either side of the unit and between the armchairs.
The living space would be framed by a set of 3.6m folding doors opening up directly onto a decked and planted sun terrace.
I wanted to have a bit of fun with the scheme in the downstairs shower-room/WC and break from the natural palate elsewhere. I was keen to bring in a more graphic, pop art inspired 60’s feel in here, so decided to use pure white square tiles on the floors and walls contrasted with black grout to emphasise the geometric feel.
Upstairs, the flooring and layout will remain unchanged. Exposed original wooden floorboards in the hall, master and guest bedrooms, and carpet in Ralph’s room so he can roll about and play comfortably. The bathroom would be entirely clad in honed grey marble tiles with a copper panel on one wall to add a bit of textural and material interest.
My office would keep it’s black Amtico floor tiles and white walls – texture and colour would be brought in with all my books and the “things” I can’t help but collect…!
The colour scheme in the upstairs hall, guest bedroom and Ralph’s room will be the same as the living space, to help with flow, but for our room I decided on a rich, dark Indian green. Relaxing, but bold with a slightly retro feel.
So, with the plans drawn up, colours chosen, rendering done and materials sourced, all I need to do is choose the furniture.
Oh, and start the works…!