There are few Wear & Where features I love more than ones focusing on interior designer Laura Stephens‘ projects. Not only has Laura a great eye for decor and colour, she is also brilliant at explaining the thinking behind her process. Which means that as well as drooling over stunning pictures of exquisite homes, you can also pick up some great interior tips too….
This recent project is a case in point. A family home in London belonging to a working couple with two girls aged 11 and 9, Laura was asked to create a family friendly, practical, but stylish ground floor space including a full kitchen side return extension, installation off downstairs loo and utility, and a total revamp of the double living room and hallway. Laura tells us how she did it..
What is your starting point when you have a project like this? Do you use pinterest/draw up moodboards?
Pinterest is my best friend. I always set up a secret ‘collaborative’ Pinterest board with my clients. This is a great way to build up a picture of what they like through images we can both see and comment on. The kitchen was the priority to start with and we started off pinning lots and lots of kitchen images before moving onto doing the same with the other spaces.
Where do you go to source your items?
Everywhere and anywhere! We really wanted to mix up the old and the new here. We also wanted some antique pieces to prevent everything feeling too ‘off the shelf’. So I sourced many of the freestanding pieces from antique fairs. Other items were sourced from ‘high street’ retailers. Whilst I have my ‘go to’ places now, part of the joy of the job is using different products and discovering new brands, so I keep open minded as to where I source things from.
Let’s start with the kitchen as I think most people regard it as the heart of the home…
My client had a good idea of the ‘look’ of the kitchen she wanted so we started by nailing down the style. We settled on a traditional kitchen from the ‘Shaker Kitchen Company’ in keeping with the Victorian property. I came along to kitchen planning meetings and helped with the layout, lighting plan and colour scheme, in collaboration with my client and the kitchen company. I put together mood boards for this project as I felt it was really important to get an overall sense of the colours and materials. Kitchens are a complex mix of hard surfaces and it was a priority in the brief that the look was to be cosy, colourful and with warm textures. So often brand new kitchen extensions with lots of hard surfaces and cavernous spaces can feel pretty cold and soulless – I’m pretty confident we managed to avoid that.
The table was from Loaf and the wishbone style chairs from Private Floor. The lighting was key and it was really important to have lighting at different levels to create warmth and cosiness. The beautiful globe glass lights above the island were from Nigal Tyas, floor lamp from Pooky with shade from Fermoie. The painting above the sofa is by Lola Donoghue. The tiles are from Porcelain Superstore.
This gorgeous chest of drawers is also in the kitchen extension and is a good example of how we tried to mix up the furniture here. We didn’t want to have everything ‘fitted’ in the kitchen as we wanted to create some individuality and a sense of space. I found the piece in at an antique fair and we painted it ‘Dead Salmon’ by Farrow & Ball. The lamp is from TMO lighting and shade from Neptune. The bowl is from Dassie Artisan.
This yellow chair (below) is a lovely example of how to bring soft textures into a kitchen. I sourced it at an antiques fair and had it reupholstered in a mustard stripe fabric from Fermoie with contrast piping from Designers Guild. I wanted it to tie the blue piping in with the blue of the splash back tiles.
Please can you talk to me about upholstery. I recently stole an idea of yours and had a chair reupholstered in two different fabrics. I love it – do you have any ‘rules’ when it comes to reupholstering something?
No, I definitely don’t have rules when it comes to using fabrics and pattern on upholstery. I would say that, in terms of construction, I always follow the original design of the chair. For example, if it has piping already I generally copy that using different fabrics.
The living room became the family’s temporary kitchen whilst the extension was being done. I had worked on the room a few years ago, but in the process of the work it needed a bit of attention. The teal sofa (top picture) is from sofa.com which replaced the rather uncomfortable former sofa. As we had made the back living area into a ‘snug’ we wanted to make this a more adult space and wanted to use velvet to do that. The lamps are from TMO lighting, side tables from Graham and Green, the cushions are from Oka, and the floral ones are in the same fabric as the armchair are made from Designers Guild fabric.
The floral chair has a different feel from the brightly coloured sofa – do you like to mix up patterns and print?
Yes, we wanted too maintain a put together but not too ‘designed’ feel. The colours in this lovely fabric from Designers Guild tie in with the cushions on the back living room chaise. The fabric is a lovely relaxed but robust linen and we added definition to the chair shape with the dark plum piping. The plum piping is also on the mustard footstool buttons. It’s often little touches like this which makes all the difference in making a space feel special and coherent.
The desk and corner sofa sit in the ‘back’ living room area. We wanted to create a ‘snug’/study space here, but it’s all open plan so we needed to tie it in with the front living room. The sofa is opposite the desk space and the mix of patterns and colour on the cushions add to it’s ‘informal’ feel, whilst keeping it cosy. The brass over hanging lamp is from Loaf. The family wanted an informal space to relax together and watch TV. There is a TV in the other alcove of the desk space.
Behind the desk is a fabric board for pinning everyday bits and pieces. The green ties in with the green we’ve used in the front part of the living room. The whole double space is painted ‘French Grey’ (Little Greene) which again ties it together.
It’s often hard to find space to include a work area in a house, especially in a smallish London home. How do you go about ‘zoning’ a room successfully?
I often squeeze desk spaces into alcoves when short on space. I like using ‘floating;’ desks in alcoves, rather than big, built in cabinets which can ‘close down’ the space. I use rugs and colour to ‘zone’ a space and try to create a layout which clearly defines area out, this chaise sofa does this very well.
Finally, this wallpaper is all kinds of wonderful. Where is it from?
It’s so lovely. It’s a Farrow and Ball paper. We used antique gold taps, mirror and hardware to compliment the gold bees on the paper. It’s a bit of a cliche but using a downstairs toilet to be brave with colour and pattern is ideal. It’s always so effective and you are less likely to tire of it than in say a living room where you spend more time.