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The Househunter: A colourful three bedroom modern house – Mad About The House

This week a fairly typical looking suburban house – from the outside at least – which might feel relatable to many of us. I was asked to look at houses that aren’t on millionaire’s row, or aren’t tiny crofts. In short, places that might resemble the sorts of houses that many of us live in. In the UK at least. And I found this. But inside it’s a little different.

However, I wanted to show it to you as many of the differences are simply created with paint which is, of course, the easiest thing in the world to change. So you might love the colours. You might hate them. You might feel inspired to use these combinations or to stick to all white, but what you also have is a newish, three bedroom house with one bathroom and an extension that provides a large sitting room looking onto the garden. It is perhaps, an ordinary house that has been elevated to be the best it can be for the people who live in it and that is really something we should all aspire to whatever our taste and individual budgets.

It’s in Leyton, east London and it’s on with The Modern House for £775,000 and again, you’ll need to be aware that this will be a London price. That the same thing on the edge of Bolton might cost much less. It might cost you more by the beach in St Ives. This is why, unless you are specifically looking to move within the specified area, the price is irrelevant for our purposes here. This is about the space and its decoration and what we can learn from it.

So yes I’m fully expecting that many of you will not like the colours. I rather love the boldness of them and while I might not choose pink and yellow for my walls I can a)admire the person who has and b) definitely consider this combination in cushion or chair fabric. As one reader pointed out on Monday, when I posted a bedroom from the Wow House, among the riot of colour and pattern it was the sisal floor covering that I have taken away and brought into my own house.

I’m also going to say, learning from a previous post, that I’m aware you will all hate the hatch into the kitchen. We’ll come back to it later but you can see that it has a dark frame and has been integrated into the space with the use of two paintings either side adding to the sort of gallery effect.

Now let’s talk about the hallway below. And that’s a trick you can all take away should you so wish. The side of the stairs has been painted in gloss. This is a great way to catch any light and bounce it back into what can often be a dark space. You can use the same trick on ceilings painting them in eggshell (traditionally reserved for wood) or even gloss for a lacquer effect. Be aware that gloss will show every lump and bump so it’s best for a ceiling in good condition or one that has been recently plastered. You can now also get water-based gloss paints rather than the traditional oil which are more eco-friendly and quicker to dry.

Staying in the yellow room and we’ll gloss (ha!) over the short curtains and white radiators (if you want short choose blinds not curtains and paint your radiators to match the walls – both those things will look better you just have to believe me on that). But instead let’s focus on the dark door frame. This leads your eye to the room beyond and literally frames the view. If you were a magazine stylist you might keep a yellow coat or a pink coat hanging on that peg. I’m being slightly facetious but the point remains; your house is full of doors – each one is framing a view so treat it like a picture and try to make it something that either gives you pleasure to look at or draws you into that room. If, on the other hand, this was a coat rack overflowing with muddy macs and a jumble of coats you can either close the door or find somewhere else to hang them. The point being that sometimes practicality has to take precedence but if you can find a way to make it work you should. Staring a neat row of coats where you can always access the one you want not only looks nicer but will make your life run more smoothly too.

So that hatch between the sitting room and kitchen I mentioned. This may be original. The house has the look of one built in the 60s but it may also have been added as, if you look at the floorplan, you can see that without it the kitchen is an entirely internal room with no natural light. It’s also quite a small kitchen and if that hatch were a door you would lose a lot of cupboard space. It’s the same on the other side – a window over the sink looks into that back room, which has a glass wall and is, therefore, flooded with light.

And this is another key point. One which Sophie made on her instagram the other day and which we have then reiterated in the podcast which will be out on Thursday. Sometimes when you knock a wall down all you get is more floor. In this case the owners could have created a large open plan space but they would have had to have the kitchen either partly in the front living room or partly in the back dining/living space. Perhaps they felt they wanted to keep it contained with windows between the two for connection. And I’m also aware that while I love an internal window, it’s a short step from internal window to 60s serving hatch. It’s a question of perception. And also how you live. In this case the hatch/window allows for maximum natural light to penetrate to the middle of the house, as much cupboard and prep space as possible and screens the messy business of cooking and washing up from the rest of the house. The paintings on the wall in the yellow room are simply a way of dressing that opening so it looks less hatch and more gallery. And that’s also a way of noting that decoration is a question of perception. Sometimes there’s a feature we can do nothing about and we have to find a way to dress it so it looks as good as it can.

This is the room at the back – the pink is just visible on the left of the picture above and it’s the dining room end of the reception. Now you might call this a feature wall. Or you might say it’s a clever use of paint to zone a large room and make a clear distinction between the different activities. See? It’s how you spin it. As long as it works for you and how you live then it works. Unless it’s short curtains and white radiators – I’m struggling to spin that one.

Moving upstairs and the door framing trick has been used again to great effect. You might feel that sky bluexand green don’t work together (yes nature but we’re inside here) but the dark door frame between the two breaks it up and gives each shade its own presence. This is another trick you can use – you might have white walls and use a contrasting colour to divide two rooms. Or you might want to go tonal – dark green in one, pale green in the other and a pink or different green between the two.

Put your colours together like you would an outfit (you might add a contrasting belt between a top and a pair of trousers) and it can be easier to experiment. As I’ve said before you don’t have to have white woodwork just because it’s traditional – you don’t always (ever?) where a white belt with every pair of trousers.

Now the bathroom might stop you in your tracks but it’s a return to the pink and yellow of where we came in. And I fully appreciate you might not want a sugary pink bathroom but I’m going to point you at the towel rail. In the last house we had a classic chrome one and yes it went with the taps but it sat on a dark green wall and it wasn’t pretty. When we redid the shower room I had the towel rail sprayed a deep red to match the window frame and it looked great. The builder is starting on the bathroom here next week and I’ve already lined up for the towel rail to be sprayed cream to go with the brown and cream wallpaper. No it’s not a very exciting colour but, for me, in this house, in this bathroom, it will be better than chrome.

As I say, you need to think about what works for you and decorate accordingly.

So, has anyone got any thoughts on colour combinations they might want to try? Or what about the internal window/hatch debate?

Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.

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