The Househunter: Room by Room

25th January 2019

Last week, I answered a request from many of you for cottages with low ceilings and beams, rather than lofty tall buildings, and this week I thought we’d look at a classic Victorian house which I know many of you live in and which may also deal with other issues so it’s not irrelevant to anyone.

This is on the market with The Modern House for £925,000 and is in south west London between Clapham and Brixton. It has three bedrooms and a shower room upstairs and a family bathroom downstairs behind the kitchen. This is quite a common arrangement in old houses – I lived in one like that as a teenager – and basically means that if you want to move it upstairs you have to lose a bedroom although you might be able to put it back by doing a loft conversion. I don’t think the neighbouring houses have done that so, if you’re buying for real this week, you need to check that.

Estate agents’ advice is that you should never go go from four to three or three to two bedrooms, but if you can find a way of adding one back on then it’s worth considering. And don’t forget that ultimately if this is a house you are going to live in for a long time and two bedrooms is all you need then you should do what is right for you.

I know that the current trend is all about colour and that my podcasting co-host Sophie Robinson will throw up her hands in horror at this muted scheme, but I think it’s really restful and calm. I love the dark wooden floors and wooden shutters (note: not plantation) but I would add a rug and probably a small coffee table – more to rest my feet on that for, you know, actual, coffee or anything.

And actually this is a perfect example of when you need to work a little harder with a pendant light. This one is too high, too small and isn’t lighting anything other than the empty floor below. I totally understand why you might want a pendant light – it’s very useful to be able to just flick a switch when you come in – but you should, as with everything in your home, make it work hard for its money, so hard for the money (name that tune)…

So, if you don’t want to go lower with it – to make more of an impact, then you need to go larger. And if you don’t want it there at all, consider looping it across the ceiling and hanging it down in the corner where the floor lamp is. That will make a feature in that corner and save a bit of floor space. Or you could hang it down at the other end of the sofa  – the foreground in the picture – so that there is ambient light at both ends of the sofa.

Staying downstairs for now, and this kitchen perfectly illustrates a point I made earlier in the week (Monday) about keeping the dark colours at the bottom and the lighter colours at the top. Rebecca Wakefield, an interiors designer whose bathroom was featured, says this is a standard trick she uses.

There is an emerging trend for kitchens to be less fitted and, well, kitcheny, and more like rooms with appliances in. This is mostly seen in the number of magazine kitchens you are starting to see with open shelves rather than wall cabinets. Now not everyone likes everything on display, and it’s not always practical, but here the owners have done the next best thing which is to render the cabinets as invisible as possible by matching them to the wall, keeping them pale and – second trend alert – having no handles, which can be distracting to the eye.

This creates a much cleaner and more pared back look and is one that anyone can emulate whatever their kitchen size or layout.

Heading upstairs and the same trick has been used in the bedroom to disguise that wall of wardrobes. This way, the fireplace, which is a very pretty original one, still stands out as a feature and isn’t fighting with the rest of the furniture. Using the same pale tones throughout makes this a very restful space too.

Finally the bathroom, where the walls are dark but it’s a big room so you’re not having to worry about making things look bigger. As I also mentioned on Monday, a classic black and white scheme will never go out of fashion but there are ways to introduce fashionable elements, if you like. Square tiles is currently an on-trend shape (although also a classic so they’re just coming back round) and the wooden storage rack stops it feeling too stark. You could add more colour, should you choose, with a shower curtain, window blind and towels.

So there we have it for this week. Anyone buying?


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  • Marie Bunworth 27th January 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Kate…I think that trick Rebecca Wakefield is using is an old Architectural term called “anchoring”. Used a lot on shop fronts, public buildings and the like … darker base makes it look more “anchored” and steady 👍👍

  • Anna 25th January 2019 at 5:36 pm

    Here is an interesting piece all about painting with white paint.

    To explain how tricky white paint can be, in Italy I painted the walls of a south facing kitchen with white paint. The units were cherry wood and the tops off white laminate. The room simply looked “dead” despite the southern light. A change to pale yellow walls lifted the room to a new dimension…the kitchen was a happy place to be!
    Here in England I love white walls.

  • Elaine Fraser 25th January 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Estate agents obviously have a stake in suggesting you never go from a four to three bedroom etc. As you quite rightly say it all depends on your needs and how long you intend to live there. Now that our 3 kids have moved out and have places of their own we have downsized without moving. For 30yrs we had 4 small bedrooms and a tiny bathroom with shower over bath. We now have three bedrooms and bedroom 4 became a very spacious bathroom with a large walk-in-shower where fitted wardrobes used to be. My husband loves a long soak whereas I prefer a shower. We are both very happy. The old small bathroom has been turned into a utility space with room for lots of stuff from the kitchen and other rooms in house. In the current house market I would suggest to those who love where they live that this is an option especially if you intend to stay a good while longer and a project may be more affordable than forking out for an expensive and much smaller retirement flat.

  • Nicole 25th January 2019 at 10:52 am

    What do you think about the dark floors? I am thinking of staining our new floors a darker colour like this. Is it walnut? I think you have painted floors, but have you ever tried staining them?

  • Jac 25th January 2019 at 10:52 am

    I completely agree about using rooms to suit yourself. We bought a 4 bed 1930s house 20 years ago but the bathroom was tiny, with the loo at the other end of the landing and a long but narrow single bedroom between. We joined up the loo and bedroom to make one larger room for the bathroom, put stairs where the tiny bathroom was and converted the loft into a bedroom and shower room. Very much against advice to have 3 first floor bedrooms but a much better layout and have never regretted it.

  • Debs 25th January 2019 at 10:00 am

    Love the bathroom and the wooden floors, Donna Summer?

  • Nicola 25th January 2019 at 8:46 am

    Well – after throwing us all into mayhem by suggesting white paint is banned you are featuring a house mainly painted in white or off white! I think it is beautiful and would move in in a heartbeat, although I might go via the local Persian rug shop. . As long as I have a loo upstairs I’m not too bothered by the full bathroom being downstairs. I might even put the washing machine in there and have a combined laundry/ bathroom.

  • Mandy Winters 25th January 2019 at 7:51 am

    Looks lovely although obvs needs personalising. Can I make a plea for consideration about sound/acoustics in these rooms.
    The result of all these wooden floors and no curtains is the noise level created which is a real issue if you live in a terraced house ( don’t assume the walls are thick !).
    Soft furnishings, carpets and heaps of fabric soak up the noise of daily living. I’d love it if interior stylists could acknowledge the ‘lively’ acoustic created by current trends – it’s interesting !
    I’ve faced the dilemma myself when redecorating recently.

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