Laura Lakin faced two major challenges when she bought her 540 square foot Victorian cottage near Peckham Rye in 2019.
The first: the dreadful state of dilapidation of the interiors, which she could bear in her stride as an interior designer by trade.
The second: the famous lush community grounds that regularly open to the public, which was much more of a challenge for her.
Many residents of the 40 Choumert Square cottages are happy to show off their beautifully planted front patios and shared rear community gardens – hailed as a “flowery canyon” in the media – for public events throughout the year. , including the National Garden Scheme and Pride celebrations. Many owners have set up stalls, selling Pimm’s, artwork or playing music, village fete style.
“It’s only since I moved here that I’ve really learned how to sustain a plant,” laughs Lakin, who says she luckily didn’t feel any pressure from her neighbors to become a green goddess. “My mother helped me a lot” On his private patio, Lakin grows olive trees, jasmine and wisteria. “It faces south, which helps a lot,” she says.
Transform a House of Horrors
The narrow community on the secluded pedestrian street came into its own when the Franco-British designer began the large-scale renovation of the property, variously described as a ‘house of horrors’ and ‘pretty on the outside but truly terrifying on the inside. the interior”. .
“A lady lived here until she was over 90, and you could feel the pain of abandonment the moment you walked in,” she says. “There were streaks of damp on the walls, a bathroom leaking through the kitchen ceiling and wallpaper peeling off in slivers.”
Despite her condition, Lakin says she had an idea for the two-story, one-bedroom terraced house behind a dilapidated gate and stable-style door, with a small south-facing patio out front. She got it for just under her asking price of £525,000.
“I was the person who was crazy enough to buy it,” laughs Lakin. “I knew I would absolutely have to do everything from scratch – it was just the experience I was looking for,” she says.
Neighbors recommended a builder familiar with the structure of 19th century cottages and, armed with a budget of £110,000, Lakin set to work.
The four-month work schedule would involve altering the layout to take advantage of every inch of space, transforming the ground floor, with its dank living room, depressing kitchen and “a strange plastic roof addition to aft, seemingly without use at all” into a free-flowing open-plan living area with a luxurious aft shower room.
On the first floor (the staircase was due to be rebuilt), Lakin made the words of Irish modernist architect and furniture designer, Eileen Gray, her mantra: “To create, you must first question everything”.
She made the bold decision to reconfigure the floor plan to keep the current master bedroom, but also to create a guest bedroom and a small toilet upstairs.
“By putting the main bathroom on the ground floor I was able to achieve this. Some people have insisted that there is simply no room, but it is essential for me that the friends and family always have a place to stay.
Add a personal touch to a compact space
Today, the home – which Lakin shares with his surprisingly large pet, Oscar, a Bernese mountain rescue dog – is perfectly balanced by serene, pale spaces, bespoke millwork and bursts of color, pattern and jewel-like fabrics with marble, brassware and a very personal collection of antiques, artwork and photography tying the whole project together.
Immediately beyond the crimson door and entryway, the living space has been painted in Bauwerk Color’s neutral lime wash in stone, with distinctively marked engineered wood flooring that gives the texture.
With a simple white Ikea sofa, a surreal photograph by Estonian artist Kylli Sparre, and a huge square antique-finished eglomized glass mirror, handmade by Lakin’s artist mother, the room can also accommodate a round dining table. of Houses of the World.
Keeping the kitchen open to the living room and dining room was key to making the downstairs feel spacious, but Lakin gave it its own distinct identity.
Handmade oak cabinets by Oxfordshire-based Little Earth Design (littleearthdesign.co.uk) are topped with pink striped black and white marble countertops – fun and funky, to match the informality of the Peckham location – with a butler sink from Villeroy & Boch and a pair of chandeliers inherited from Lakin’s great French aunt, making the space unique.
Beyond that, the home’s luxurious master bathroom features a shower that is pleasingly decorated with opaque white zellige tiles, kiln-fired in Tangier and vintage-style Lefroy Brooks brass faucets. A Zara Home round mirror is given an art-deco touch thanks to a pair of cylindrical wall sconces placed on either side.
Up the stairs, which now have copious storage space below, Lakin’s bedroom is a multi-level affair with a creamy cloud of a bed, a Mallorcan wicker ceiling fan, artwork that includes architectural prints from Rome, where Lakin and her Italian partner spent much of their time, and sentimental family heirlooms like a portrait of her painted by her grandmother.
His lucky guests, however, can enjoy what is Lakin’s piece de resistance in the house: the womb-shaped second bedroom. “While a neutral palette can make rooms appear larger, you shouldn’t be afraid to use color in areas that get less use,” Lakin says.
To that end, it has gone maximalist with a built-in bed protected by a plush green velvet curtain and Morris & Co’s Willow Boughs nature wallpaper on the walls. The tiny guest toilet is equally bold, with a space-saving corner sink and vibrant red walls in Bauwerk Color lime paint Love Apples.
Lakin, remarkably, says there were no real crises during the work, which was completed just before Christmas 2019.
“There’s no need to compromise on style and luxury because of a small space,” she says. “There are always so many ways to make a place your own.”
How to make the most of a tiny house
Have an initial design concept from the start and come back to it regularly, regardless of the size of the home. This way, you won’t be overwhelmed during the decision-making process.
Don’t be afraid to use color in areas that may be used less often, such as mudrooms, guest bedrooms and even inside closets, although a neutral palette can make it seem rooms are more spacious.
Built-in mirrored cabinets can make a bedroom look more spacious, as can painting cabinet fronts the same color as the walls.
Opt for a built-in bed under the window if you have a very small guest room. Adopt the small size of the room and make it comfortable.
It’s always worth spending money on good joinery, as it can make good use of spaces you might not think of, such as under the stairs. If you have a high ceiling, bring the storage upstairs.
Banquette-style seating for the dining tables will also give you a cleaner, more streamlined kitchen/dining area.
Don’t let coats and shoes be an afterthought. Create a dedicated space to store these daily use items.
Avoid bulky radiators for underfloor heating, which allows you to regain valuable wall space.