The Househunter: A four Bedroom Victorian Townhouse (like you’ve never seen one before)

Usually, when you are househunting, you might tick four beds, period, townhouse and prepare to scroll through dozens of similar (and familiar looking) houses all of which you like (they are literally ticking your boxes) but with no surprises. Then this comes up. And yes it’s a four bedroom Victorian townhouse – you’re familiar with the genre – I live in one now. I lived in one before. And before that in the flat of one which had been divided up. But this one, well this one’s different.

It’s on with The Modern House, interestingly not her sister Inigo, which is usually where the period properties go, for £2,750,000 (yes quite, but we’re here for the inspo as they say). And I will say that it’s in a conservation area on a tree-lined no-through road and spread over five floors so that’s probably 1.5 of your millions right there.

Anyway shall we…? The first thing to note is that this is owned by a family who aren’t massively into walls. Now I have traditionally been a big fan of a wall ( I have teenage boys) but this has been so cleverly zoned and beautifully decorated and given that said teenage boys (well one is 20) might leave home soon I too might re-embrace the open plan.

It’s also an ode to the gentle warm neutrals and while those houses that were “textures of white” were all the rage for a while (Living Etc used to devote a whole annual issue to them) now look cold and stark, a house full of cream with a dash of raspberry fool and a basil garnish ( in my head I have named an entire paint range and it’s all food) looks warm and inviting when the dial is turned round to the right a notch or two.

So it’s one of those houses with steps up to the front door which means you get a raised ground floor as well as a lower ground floor that isn’t as underground as a basement. They can be hellish to plan as, if you keep the living space on the lower ground with direct access to the garden, they can be dark and it also means you often have to have a bedroom and/or bathroom on the same floor as the front door which might not be ideal for small children.

Here the vendors have turned the whole of the lower ground into a one bed flat which means the raised ground floor can be a huge open plan space of kitchen and family room with that fabulous picture window at the far end (see above) while on the floor below the traditionally tricky middle room is a kitchen diner with its sitting room to the left of the image (front of the house) and the tv room to the right/rear.

The colour theme (or lack of) continues throughout the sitting rooms where shades of cream are set off with plants and natural wood. It’s completely fine to stick to a very restricted colour palette – just the one even – but you need to make sure you incorporate lots of different textures – so your fabric must be cotton, linen, velvet and boucle as well as sheers (at the windows). Try to vary the shapes – below the sofa is straight lines while the chairs are curved. There are different types of wood, a sculptural light fitting and black accents to punch through it all – the rug, the aforementioned lamp etc.

The sitting room below is similar – although with the addition of that soft pink rug. I’ve always been a fan of the big sculptural plant and you can see in these two rooms how they are an integral part of the decor in the way a bouquet of flowers or table plant just wouldn’t be. And I say that as I weep gently over a picture of my six year old fiddle leaf fig which was so healthy and is now little more than a stick and which I am hoping will spring back into life with love and a bit of misting.

But never mind that, we need to talk about the books. I am, of course, going to say that I’m furious about books being used as decor this way because they are there to be read and not just used as props. However, I will also say that this room, with its curved sofas, is quite 70s and you know who first turned books around so as not to detract from the decor? Well it was Halston, which makes it an actual thing and not just an instagram thing. Although I still don’t entirely approve.

That said I DO approve of that huge framed black and white picture which, if you can find the right image, is a perfect way to use an alcove (assuming you don’t need it for storage although if you turn your books round like that maybe you don’t read them anyway so you don’t need said storage).

And talking of soft pinks (and indirectly of red threads) you can see how the pink has been taken from the rug on the floor to the walls in the room below, while the rug in here is a much deeper shade and the sofa has darkened. This is another great tip for decorating if you’re not one for lots of colour. Find, say, three shades that you like and use them in different shades and materials throughout your spaces. That said, here there are only really two – cream and pink and the rest comes from plants and wood and some patterns so just because it isn’t paint doesn’t mean it isn’t part of your colour palette.

Going to throw in a complete contrast with this bathroom in its deep fully tiled green although, again it’s just taking the green from the plants elsewhere in the house and using it in a different way. I quite yearn after a fully tiled bathroom – particularly in a Victorian house where the look can be a bit public lavatory but in a cool way. Here the green has been extended onto the small part of wall by the window and the white woodwork links to the white sanitary ware. It could totally have been another colour but you can always get away with white in bathrooms as the furniture tends to be white so everything has a reason for being that way.

We’re going to finish in this fabulous bedroom suite where, again, the walls have been taken out so this spans a whole floor, and the colours remain similar to the rest of the house with the addition of a little brass velvet which goes with the taps and possibly the door handles.

It’s a wonderfully comfortable looking room isn’t it, with the thick Berber rugs, lashings of velvet and all that space and no we can’t all recreate this I know, but you might be able to take elements. If you like the wall colour I’m going to suggest you look at Jitney from Farrow & Ball and just because you might not have the space doesn’t mean you can’t use the colours – add a bit of navy and some ochre (stiffkey and babouche) with deep pile rugs and you can have this look in any size room.

There are lots more rooms to look at so do go and have a browse  and see what inspiration you can find. I’m now looking at my dark walls and pondering…..
















Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


    1. I love this house but for the open plan bathroom in the master suite. Is it really all the rage to have an open plan toilet?

  1. There is clever use of space turned into storage throughout this house. The open plan flows freely, with lots of natural light in every room. A deserving achievement to be acknowledged in a house in which the entry of natural light was traditionally limiting. Disappointing to see books used in this way. Not a fan of this soon to be passing trend at all.

  2. Beautiful and it has a lovely relaxed vibe but too neutral for me.
    I totally agree with your comment about books. As Anthony Powell famously said, books do furnish a room. Real books, not colour co-ordinated ones!

  3. I like the indulgent floorplan (not really suitable for a family though as you point out) and that crittal window but the decor is way too beige for me.
    Looking at the books, it strikes me there is another even more pretentious way to achieve the look : buy a load of used books from the French publisher Gallimard. The old ones all have distinctive cream covers and then you can impress your guests with your highbrow taste in literature :).

  4. I love this. Also, I have exactly the same stickish fiddle leaf problem. Any resuscitation tips gratefully received!

  5. Now that was a fun tour, especially because you play with words in such a fun way, but a bit of sarcasm thrown in. A good start to my morning.

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