If spending all this time at home has got you thinking about work you’d like to do to your house, get planning with our indispensable guide from interior designer Laura Stephens
LAURA STEPHENS’ KITCHEN, WHICH SHE DESIGNED HERSELF AND HAD MADE BY A LOCAL JOINER. IMAGE: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
We’ve long admired interior designer Laura Stephens’ elegant, feminine style, and so when we saw a picture of her kitchen recently, we knew we wanted to feature her home on The Home Page. Laura, who moved to the three-storey Victorian terraced house in Dulwich, South East London, four years ago with her husband and their three daughters, said she knew the house was right for them from the start: “We loved it the minute we walked in – it had the most amazing comfortable feel, we loved the wide staircase and hallways but most of all I fell for the original stained glass above the kitchen doors. The colours in the glass were ‘my’ colours and it felt like it was meant to be.”
As an interior designer, Laura was eager to start making the house their own but good things come to those who wait. “I decided with this house, which we plan to be in for a long time, I was going to take my time and do each room really well and then save up to do the next. I am so glad we did it like that as, while it’s taken years to finish, it is exactly how we want it.”
Laura shares what she learnt from renovating her home to help you plan yours…
LAURA STEPHENS’ KITCHEN WAS EXTENDED INTO THE SIDE RETURN, AND THE COLOUR SCHEME WAS INSPIRED BY THE ORIGINAL STAINED GLASS WINDOWS. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
Live in your home first and see how you use it…
We had to save before we could start work on the ground floor and I am so glad we didn’t dive in and start knocking down walls. I thought I wanted a massive utility room but after living in the house for several years I realised it was more important to have a teenage hangout and a separate adult space. It’s not always possible if you’re doing a full renovation, but my advice would be to live in your home first and see how you use it and then work out what is missing. We loved our kitchen but the lack of natural light made it gloomy and we realised this only after living with it for a couple of years which led us to partially extending the space.
I eventually designed the kitchen myself and worked with a local joiner who made it for us. I knew I wanted an island on legs which looked more like a piece of furniture rather than a chunky block and allowed the floor to be seen, creating a sense of space. I used Little Greene Aquamarine Mid on the cabinets and the tiles on the backsplash are Zellige tiles from Mosaic del Sur. The herringbone oak floor is from The Natural Wood Floor Company.
I didn’t want any spotlights at all; I find them glaring and that they interrupt the ceiling. The wall lights above the shelf and glass pendants above the table were sourced from Felix Lighting Specialists, the frilly island pendants are French vintage and the wall lights with shades are from Jim Lawrence. The shell brass handles on the drawers are from Armac Martin.
LAURA CHOSE A SUBTLE STRIPED WALLPAPER FOR THE MASTER BEDROOM AND MADE A STATEMENT WITH THE FITTED WARDROBES BY ADDING FABRIC AND GLASS PANELS. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
Start with the bedrooms and work your way down…
With a full renovation, I would advise starting work with contained rooms, such as bedrooms, and then work your way downwards. Decide which colours you are naturally drawn to and repeat them throughout your home. I have always had a strong aesthetic centred around colour and I wanted to bring that to this house but in a subtle, more grown up way than in my previous home. For each room I had a sense of where the colour would come from, usually the fabrics in the curtains or a wallpaper, and then I built from there.
I would wallpaper every room if I could. However, my husband drew the line at heavily patterned wallpaper in our bedroom so I went for a really subtle pale pink candy stripe to contrast with the patterned GP&J Baker curtains. It’s restful and lovely.
THE BATHROOMS ARE GIVEN CHARACTER WITH WALL LIGHTS, SOFT FABRICS OR PANELLING. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
To create a glamorous bathroom, focus on the lighting…
I think having wall lights in a bathroom or WC is essential. They’re much kinder to the eye, and when you want a restful bath or shower you don’t have to have spotlights glaring down on you. I like to counter hard, cold bathroom surfaces with wall lights, soft fabrics and panelling wherever possible.
In our ensuite bathroom, we splashed out on a lovely curved washstand with brass fittings from The Water Monopoly. The tiles are from Claybrook and to prevent them from looking too utilitarian we used a pencil trim in blue at the top and dado and skirting tiles below. This created a really lovely finished look which isn’t too industrial.
In the family bathroom, we used tongue and groove panelling on the walls, creating a niche on the wall for keeping bottles. I chose wall lamps from Jim Lawrence with little pleated shades by Fermoie, and painted the cast iron roll-top bath in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Dead Salmon.’
LAURA CHOSE BOLD WALLPAPER AND FABRIC IN THE DOWNSTAIRS LOO, BUT USED A PAINT FROM THE SAME FAMILY AS THE REST OF THE HOUSE. FOR CONSISTENCY. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
… and wallpaper a downstairs WC
I like each room to have its own personality without it feeling like it doesn’t belong to the rest of the house, so repeating the use of certain colours or finishes helps the house to flow. I have used variations of ‘Stone’ by Paint & Paper Library ranging from Shades I – V throughout the house and this has worked so well in tying the spaces together. For example, the kitchen is Stone I, the master bedroom woodwork and wardrobes are Stone IV and the hallway Stone III and so on.
In the downstairs WC, a much smaller space where we spend much less time, I wanted stronger colours and pattern but have used a shade of the ‘Stone’ paint on the panelling to maintain consistency. The wallpaper is ‘Strawberry Tree’ by Cole & Son and the contrasting stripe blind is from Kravet. I love my downstairs loo!
LAURA WORKED CLOSELY WITH HER UPHOLSTER, JOINER AND SEAMSTRESS TO CREATE A UNIQUE LOOK. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
Find a great (and patient) upholsterer, joiner and seamstress
The scalloped banquette in our kitchen was a labour of love and I have a very patient upholsterer! I wanted something super feminine and unique and had seen an image of a scallop-backed bench years ago in a magazine and ripped it out. My joiner made the backboard with the curves and my upholsterer padded and buttoned the board. The fabric is by Fermoie.
When looking for a joiner, upholsterer or seamstress, look at the quality of their work in other people’s houses – good people won’t be afraid to give you references. With joiners and carpenters, be as specific as you can, down to the type of panelling on a door or the beading on the panelling and show them photos and samples. Good carpenters will advise you from their experience but it’s important that they will also listen to what you want.
The same is true for seamstresses. I tend to use a lot of trimmings on my curtains and blinds and need to check they’re happy to do that as it adds to their work and cost. Check the interlining they propose to use as it can really add bulk to the curtains – which may be a good thing, but at other times not.
LAURA GAVE HER THREE DAUGHTERS A CHOICE OF A FEW RESTFUL COLOUR SCHEMES FOR THEIR BEDROOMS. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
Don’t give your children free reign over decorating their bedrooms…
For a child’s bedroom which they won’t grow out of in a couple of years, don’t give them free reign to choose. If I’d done that, my 11-year-old would still have a Peppa Pig-themed room! Choose three or four colour schemes or wallpapers you’re happy to live with and which you feel they won’t outgrow in five minutes and let them choose between them. That way they will feel there’s an element of choice and you’ll be happy to spend your money on it.
My daughters all have wallpaper in busier patterns than we have in our bedroom, but they’re still in restful colour palettes. I have used antique furniture and had shelving built in in my daughter’s attic bedroom to provide storage.
PRINT, PATTERN AND ARTWORK ADD PERSONALITY TO A HOME. IMAGES: CHRIS SNOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
To really make your home your own, just add character…
Pattern and print on lampshades and cushions can really add personality to a room, but I would also recommend choosing a patterned wallpaper for a long hallway. It adds instant character and can be practical too, hiding little finger prints. I used one of my favourite papers from William Morris & Co on our landing.
To honour the house’s age and style, I have slowly replaced every radiator with cast iron ones and added antique brass sockets and switches to every room, which are much more appropriate.
For me, using artwork in the house has really made it feel our own. There is no way round it though, hanging art properly is time consuming – particularly with gallery walls. I mock up templates of the art I want to hang using newspaper and then lightly tack them to the walls to get the placement right. I’ll usually keep them up for a few days to make sure I’m happy with the placement and I then get my handyman to hang them in that exact spot. The artwork in our home gives me so much pleasure.
For more design and decoration ideas, take a look at our inspiration galleries…