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‘We embraced colour in our mid-century kitchen’ – Jen Taylor (Ideal Home)

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Photography: Bruce Hemming

Jen Taylor and Hari Phillips reconfigured their ground-floor to create a colourful and yet sophisticated family kitchen, perfect for their 1960s Dulwich home.

What it cost
Appliances: £3,500
Lighting: £2,025
Kitchen and storage units: £24,000
Tiles: £1,150
Windows and doors: £7,500
Labour: (incl. decoration & services) £42,000
Underfloor heating: £4,000
Flooring: £3,350
Total: £87,525

Who lives here
Jen Taylor, a designer, her husband Hari Phillips, an architect [married September 2005] and their sons, Dylan, 11 [DOB: 29.07.08] and Teddy, three. [DOB: 05.10.16].

What they did
Reconfigured their ground floor, turning an internal garage, bedroom, WC and corridor into a utility room,shower room and open-plan kitchen diner with access to the garden.

The look
A warm, playful take on mid-century modern with grown-up luxe details.

Lessons learned
“Be brave. I bottled it in our previous flat and it all ended up very monochromatic. I was determined to embrace colour and pattern this time.”
“Buy well and buy once. Having compromised before, we invested in good quality units, custom joinery and bespoke finishes, which has made all the difference.”

The layout
Jen and Hari removed all the internal walls and opened up the staircase to create one large, open-plan kitchen-diner with access to the garden. The garage door had to remain due to restrictions from the Dulwich Estate Scheme of Management, so they boxed this in with storage and added a shower room and a utility room, lining the kitchen-facing wall with floor-to-ceiling cupboards.

When designer Jen Taylor and husband Hari Phillips bought this three-storey property in South London, they were seduced by its mid-century charm, but knew that the ground floor wouldn’t work. “When you came in, you couldn’t see any light at all,” explains Jen. “A long, dark corridor ran from the front door, alongside a garage, to a bedroom, through which was the only access to the garden.”

Dulwich Estate heritage rules protect the garage door, but say nothing about the garage itself, so Jen had that removed, along with the other internal walls and a false ceiling, creating one open space. By knocking out the back wall and replacing it with two single glass doors and a huge pivoting window, and painting the newly exposed ceiling and beams white, she transformed the space, filling it with natural light.

Stealing back part of the space the garage had previously occupied for a utility room and a shower room – and cladding the outside of the new walls with floor-to-ceiling storage – enabled Jen to keep the rest of the space clean and open. She chose a colourful mid-century colour palette, complete with playful touches such as Barber Osgerby’s Puzzle tiles and the Alphabeta pendants by Luca Nichetto for Hem, and grown-up luxe details such as the brass door handles and sink. A bright yellow shower room brightens the only remaining dark corner of the space. Jen surrounded her existing dining table with chairs, a bench and a window seat to create a more sociable version of the typical kitchen island. “This space is perfect for us now,” she says. “It is always filled with food, friends and family – all my favourite things. And it has even made a gardener out of me.”

HOW WE DID IT

“As soon as we saw the house, we knew we would move the kitchen. Hari is an architect and I used to be, so we did the drawings and hired a contractor. We ripped out the walls and ceiling – carefully because they had asbestos. We knocked out the back wall and moved the drainage. Then the shower room and utility room walls went in, and we had the kitchen, shower room and underfloor heating fitted. We had hoped to be in by Christmas, but the windows were delayed, so by mid-December, we had a beautiful kitchen, but a gaping hole out into the garden! And then it snowed, so it was February by the time we finished. But it was worth it, and honestly, I enjoyed every minute.”

Having stuck to muted greys and blues in their previous home, Jen was determined to inject more colour into this space. “We knew we wanted a mid-century colour palette,” she says. “We loved the wood tone of our existing sideboard, and I wanted some gold, so that was the starting point.” Jen initially thought the yellow floor would be a hard sell, and this proved to be the case with friends, but Hari surprised her by agreeing to go all in. Finding the perfect shade wasn’t easy, but ‘Noraplan Uni’ rubber flooring, £36 per m2, Forbo Flooring, ticked all the boxes – its warm and sunny hue is backed up with impressive eco-credentials as it is made from natural and recycled materials.

Continuing the playful theme, Barber Osgerby’s Puzzle tiles in the Murano colourway, £142.50 per m2, Tile Expert, provided a punchy design with a soft take on a mid-century colour scheme. The Alphabeta Pendant Trio by Luca Nichetto, £1,136, hem.com comes in 1024 combinations comprising different shapes and colours, and Jen’s selection looks as if it was made for this kitchen. She wanted a dining table rather than an island to provide somewhere for the whole family to congregate for everything from her famed Chinese meals to homework and a simple supper. The Habitat dining table and bench came from their last home (for similar, try the Hopkins Table, £450, Habitat, and the Hopkins Dining Bench, £195, Habitat), and they found the Danish-style dining chairs, £150 each, on eBay.

The 1950s Mackintosh sideboard, £250, eBay, was one of the inspirations for the scheme and Jen has placed a few carefully selected pieces on top. “We found out the artist Reuben Powell had been hired to document the demolition of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle,” she explains. “This was actually an offprint and should have been black and white. It came from our last flat, but we realized the tones were perfect for in here”. Atop the sideboard is the New Old Table Lamp by Kimu, £359, Darklightdesign.com and gold plant pot to add some ‘bling’ and complement the gold accents in the kitchen. For similar, try the Beaumont Plant Pot, £14, Made.com.

To create a high-end finish on a budget, Jen and Hari chose Howdens for a good quality kitchen carcasses (from £125 for a 60cm unit, Howdens) and then commissioned HUX London to make bespoke cabinet and drawer fronts in a warm yet contemporary cherry-veneered MDF (£250 per unit front, HUX London), finished off with brass Skyscraper T-Bar handles, £13.99, Dowsing and Reynolds. Top cabinets, which conceal an extractor hood above the oven, were factory spray-painted and colour-matched to Farrow & Balls’ Pink Ground, £69 per 2.5l, diy.com to complement the tiles.

The brass Alveus Monarch Quadrix sink, £875.22, and Insinkerator 3-in-1 mixer tap, £999, both olif.co.uk, tie in with the brass handles, while the clever Zova Dish Drainer, £46.99, Amazon.co.uk, protects the work surfaces.

The subtle colour of the Fenix work surfaces, £350 per linear metre, HUX London, complements the mid-century palette and works beautifully with the SkyScraper T Bar cupboard door handles, £13.99, Dowsing and Reynolds.

Jen clad her floor-to-ceiling storage in the same cherry veneer as the kitchen doors to create a sense of continuity and used clever fixtures to optimise the storage space inside. The first, which Jen calls her ‘drinks and spice’ cabinet, houses all of this keen cook’s herbs, spices and cocktail ingredients… handy to have within arms’ reach when she is cooking up a storm at the multi burner Rangemaster cooker.

Bucking the trend for ubiquitous bi-fold doors, Jen and Hari instead opted for a huge pivoting window above a long storage-filled window seat and a glazed door either side. “I hate bi-folds with a vengeance – they are just so ugly,” laughs Jen. “This solution was challenging to get right, but absolutely worth it in the end. Having separate doors as well as a window to open the kitchen right up to the garden is much more flexible, the window seat makes this space so sociable, and it’s just so lovely to sit here with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and bathe in the sunlight all year round.” Try Maxlight Pivot Doors, £12,000 for a window and two doors, Maxlight, for similar.

The Rangemaster was Jen’s must-have item – she loves cooking traditional Chinese meals for her family and friends, for which multiple gas hobs are vital. “I can’t imagine cooking without it now,” she says. “In Chinese, there is a saying that wok air is created by using gas for cooking, so I just had to have one.” For similar, try the Rangemaster Classic 100cm Duel Fuel in Cream, £1,814.95, Stovesareus.co.uk.

A clever ‘backflip’ socket, £118.64, Evoline provides power to Jens’ Kitchen Aid in Majestic Yellow, £499, Kitchenaid.co.uk ­­– a fortieth birthday present from her closest friends. A sugar bowl from Jen’s own English Breakfast collection, £45 for the tea set, hokolo.com, a ceramic storage jar in sunny yellow (try Kahala, £12, Habitat for similar) and colourful plastic measuring spoons (try KitchenCraft Colourworks 5-Piece Measuring Spoon Set, £3.55, amazon.co.uk for similar) add a touch of kitsch.

Opening up the original staircase and positioning a mirror (for similar try Stockholm, £75, IKEA) at right angles to a window next to the front door bounces natural light into the new open plan space. To make the most of the space underneath the stairs, Jen installed a clever fold-down wall-mounted desk, TWOFOLD wall desk by Michael Hilgers, £350, Müller Möbelwerkstätten and paired it with a white Eames DSW Chair, £375, Heal’s. Also tucked in here is a mid-century Ercol telephone seat, £99, eBay, which Jen had sprayed white to tone in with the desk, chair and stairs.

Storage is crucial in an open-plan space, and Jen opted for cleverly concealed storage in the hallway opposite the staircase to remove all the usual clutter such as coats, bags and shoes. Continuing the cherry veneer from the kitchen cupboards ensures a seamless look and feel.

Heritage planning restrictions on the Dulwich Estate meant the external garage door had to be kept, despite removing the garage. Jen and Hari bricked it up from the inside and lined it with floor-to-ceiling storage within a handy utility room and adjoining shower room. Again, they turned to Howdens for the storage solutions, Greenwich Super Matt, £215 per 60cm unit. Yellow grouting and a playful ‘Hello’ coat hook (try Hello Coat Rack, £38, Block Design for similar) echo the floor colour, which continues into the shower room.

Hari’s boldness with colour surprised Jen again when it came to the shower room. “I was originally only planning one yellow wall and the rest was going to be white, but Hari wanted all yellow,” she says. “I was quite shocked, but colour blocking is a strong trend at the moment and Hari felt there was no point doing little bits in an already small space. I think it really works.” For similar tiles, try Marvel Lemon Zest and White wall tiles, £22.95 per m2, wallsandfloors.co.uk. Choosing a contemporary sink and vanity by Kartell for Laufen, £561.17, Banyo, Jen again turned to Olif to find the perfect tap – the Mimo sink mixer by Palazzani was £187.

This three-storey family home is perfect for Jen and Hari’s growing family – all it needed was a clever reconfiguration, a little colour and some mid-century character.

To visit Jen’s online shop Hokolo, please click here.