Sophia and Mat and their two young children moved into this end of terrace Victorian property in Brighton four years ago. The couple were keen to move to a family friendly area and find a long-term home where their children could grow up.
Sophia explains. “My husband and I first moved to Brighton back in 2004, just after we finished university. Our home then was very close to this one, but over the years we had moved about a bit and lived in various parts of the town. We thought the house we moved from to come here would be our long-term family home and we did have renovation plans for it, but over time we realised the area was not particularly family friendly. We had lots of lovely neighbours but they were a lot older and there were no other children for our kids’ to play with.
“I remember growing up in a fantastic road in North London, full of young families, and I wanted our children to enjoy a similar lifestyle where they would make new friends and enjoy playing outside. So when this house came on the market, knowing the location well from when we used to live nearby, we decided to go for it and make this our project house instead.”
The house was generally in good condition. Previous owners had already added a loft conversion so with four-bedrooms there was all the bedroom space the family needed plus a handy guest bedroom. Most of the work required on the house was just decorative and getting everything to their own taste, however Sophia could see the potential to improve the kitchen.
“The kitchen was fine and very useable, but I knew it could be better. Typical of Victorian era builds it was very long and narrow, maintaining a side return to the garden. This part of the garden was raised though as the house is situated at the bottom of a hill, and was just a bit of a no man’s land. I could see the potential to extend across this garden area and really open up the kitchen into a larger open plan space that would be so much better for family life. It was always a bit of a struggle trying to manoeuvre everyone around the previous narrow kitchen.”
The house sits in a conservation area so plans were designed to ensure the proposed extension would meet planning regulations. “We were quite lucky actually, as we are at the bottom of the hill we were able to add an extension with a really good ceiling height as the natural slope of the ground meant it was out of our neighbour’s property line.”
With planning approved a local builder made a start on the extension in August 2019. “We created a make shift kitchen in our lounge and put our patient hats on as we lived around the build work.”
When it came to the kitchen’s interior design Sophia already had two clear design aspirations. “I’d had two prime things on my dream kitchen wish list for about 15 years, I was just waiting for us to be in a long-term home to make them happen. I wanted to combine a classic shaker style kitchen with real wood herringbone floors. It was just a look that I had always loved and something I thought would be classic and modern to really stand the test of time.”
Looking for her perfect shaker kitchen design Sophia eventually chose one from Devol kitchens. “I’d seen their shaker ranges online and they looked beautiful so we decided to pay a visit to their showroom in London. I was wowed immediately when I walked into the showroom and saw their Real Shaker Kitchen range in Clerkenwell Blue. It was the kitchen I had been dreaming of for years.”
Devol’s Real Shaker Kitchen range offers handmade painted kitchens which deliver an authentic shaker design that combines English cabinetry craft and understated style.
Sophia paired the kitchen with a Carrara Marble worktop with soft and subtle grey and blue veins running though the bright white surface. “I was a bit worried about how careful we would all have to be with marble but decided it’s such a beautiful and natural material any wear and tear would just appear as part of the aging process of a natural surface.”
Sophia arranged for a local carpenter to be ready to install the kitchen once the extension build work was complete and started her search for the perfect floors to complement the kitchen.
“Style wise I was absolutely certain I wanted herringbone, it was just a case of finding the right one. I went quite research and sample crazy, but I knew getting it right was so important as the new kitchen would be such a big space. We were adding an extra two metres to the side of the kitchen creating a 5m wide by 7.5m long room. I ordered so many samples, I think at one stage I had about 70, and while it sounds crazy, none of them seemed to be the perfect fit. There was just such a huge variant in quality and price range, it was so hard to know what to do.
“I took to using herringbone themed hashtags on instagram to look at other homes with herringbone floors and get ideas. That’s where I first discovered V4 as the Zigzag herringbone floors kept popping up. I looked on their website and one of the things I really liked about the collection was that it was quite simple. Some of the brands I had looked at had so many different finishes, all so similar, it was hard to tell the difference and just left me confused. Zigzag had ten finishes, all quite different in tone and while I did already really like the look of Frozen Umber I ordered a few other samples too.”
When the samples arrived Sophia was impressed. “They were such good quality and at a sensible price point. These were definitely my preferred herringbone floors, I just had to decide on colour. I loved Frozen Umber but wondered if I should play it a bit safe and go for the more traditional natural oak options, but with a nudge from my husband we decided to go for them. It had such a lovely warm mid-tone colour and we both agreed it would blend beautifully with the blue kitchen colour we had chosen.”
Asking local friends for recommendations for a floor fitter Ocean Flooring kept being mentioned as a great flooring retailer in Brighton. “I saw on the V4 website that they were an approved V4 retailer so I visited the guys and they provided a quote to supply and fit. They were so knowledgeable and knew the product really well so we knew they would do a great job.
“The floors were screeded first and we had a bit of a wait for them to fully dry out, but finally in January the Ocean Flooring team completed the installation, followed swiftly by our carpenter installing the kitchen units.
“After nearly six months since the project had started it was all coming together and I was super thrilled with how it was looking. I’m by no means a particularly creative type or someone with past interior design experience, but all my research and careful planning had paid off, I absolutely loved how the room was taking shape.
“The floors are so beautiful, they look like they have been here for years with a lovely natural surface finish and I love the rustic mixture of different shades and tones in each block. I really didn’t want anything too shiny or artificial looking and these floors meet that brief perfectly. They are wonderfully textured and warm and proving to be extremely forgiving with two young children.”
Finishing touches in the space include an aged brass theme creating a lovely contrast with the blue of the kitchen. Wall lights from Jim Lawrence, handles from Armac Martin, Perrin and Rowe taps, John Lewis pendants and electric sockets all look sophisticated and stylish with their modern but time-worm aged brass appearance and warm mellow tones. A casual seating area has been created with a sofa and chair from StyleOurHome.
The space combines a palette of Farrow & Ball whites. “I’ve used a mix of Farrow & Ball warm whites, School House, Shaded and Shadow white. I wanted a warm white palette rather than grey white. And one of the reasons I feel in love with the Clerkenwell Blue kitchen colour is because it is a very close match to Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue which I had painted our front door in not long after we moved here. I love the connection to the front of the house and the kitchen and I’m going to introduce some Inchyra Blue into the rest of the downstairs to further enhance this colour theme.
“Our new kitchen space is so much better for family life. The room is constantly in use and it’s perfect that we now have zones for cooking, eating and relaxing. The tongue and groove cupboard hides the washing machine and tumble dryer. I still need to paint the doors but it’s great to have an almost mini utility room neatly tucked into the kitchen layout.
“I’m going to buy a bigger dining table, this one is from our old house, as we have family and friends staying here almost every weekend so we want a larger table so the room can be more than just a family space, but also a great place for socialising.
“With the extension complete we realised how important the garden was to the room. The large sliding patio doors really do make the garden a natural extension to the space, so we’ve taken the budget we had for our bathroom and have decided to make finishing the garden our next priority.
“Then the rest of the home is really just about choosing paint colours and decoration and I’m already starting to think about colour schemes for upstairs. The extension was our big project and we love it. I’ve finally got the shaker kitchen and floors I’d dreamed of for years, and with the wonderful space now complete after six months of work we can just relax and enjoy the home and lovely family friendly area we moved to.”