A renovated Victorian terraced home

The period features remain, but Tam Griffiths and Simon Petherick have created a modern interior design scheme using colour and second-hand finds

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With its bay windows with sliding sashes, classic grey and white paintwork, and traditional Victorian mouldings, Tam Griffiths and Simon Petherick’s home looks, from the outside, exactly like any other property in their century-old London terrace.

Inside, however, the couple have created a fusion of period features and colourful touches with their eclectic mix of furniture. They’ve lifted the house out of the ordinary, injecting a contemporary and vibrant feel. It’s all a far cry from the drab rooms the couple discovered when they first viewed the property in 2002.

Fact file

  • The owners: Tam Griffiths, a production designer, and her partner Simon Petherick, a publisher, the MD of Beautiful Books (beautiful-books.co.uk) , have lived here since 2002
  • The property: A four-bedroom, three-storey Victorian terraced house
  • The location: Near Clapham Common in Wandsworth, south London
  • What they spent: The house was bought seven years ago for £450,000. The couple have spent £65,000 on renovations and decoration, and it is currently valued at £700,000

The property

‘We lived in a small flat nearby at the time and were craving more space,’ recalls Simon. ‘When we found this house, we felt it offered real potential for redevelopment – despite the dated interiors with acres of dingy green carpet. We liked the fact that it hadn’t been modernised, because we wanted to make our own mark on it.’

Exterior of Victorian property

The renovation

Structurally, the three-storey house was in reasonably good condition. It needed little more than a lick of paint externally. Only the electrics were felt to be borderline dangerous. ‘So we hired an electrician to rewire the whole property.’ Tam and Simon then began the process of renovating the interior, room by room. ‘We spent the first two years tackling the most urgent work and then took our time finishing the rest, which also helped to spread the cost,’ says Tam.

The kitchen

They started with the uninspiring kitchen. It was relatively dark at all times of day, with just one small window and badly worn patio doors opening onto the rear garden. There were cabinets jutting out to form an L-shape, which effectively sliced the space in half. The couple decided to bring in a builder to gut the room completely and to create two new side-aspect casement windows.

‘We considered extending out into the side-return passageway,’ recalls Tam, ‘but in the end we realised that simply reorganising the layout would give us all the space we needed.

Gone are the dated Welsh dresser and intrusive cabinets; these have been replaced by a modern stainless-steel range cooker and simple, stylish units. ‘We worked together to plan each room and wanted to combine warm oranges and reds with cooler colours throughout the house,’ says Simon. ‘Our philosophy is that you should never be afraid to introduce vibrant colours and also contemporary furniture into a period house – the two time periods can really can work harmoniously together. We chose pale mint-green wall tiles and silver-grey cabinets for the kitchen, for example. We’ve got the modern look we wanted, but the character of the original building is retained.’

A narrow counter now forms a useful breakfast bar in the dining area at one end of the space. A circular 1970s table – which Tam bought for just a few pounds from Stax Reclamation – has been teamed with contemporary plastic orange chairs bought from Heal’s.

‘We also turned our tiny basement into a utility room,’ says Tam. ‘Moving large appliances down there was tricky, but worth the effort in the end. It means we don’t need to have a noisy washing machine in our kitchen.

Modern bathroom in Victorian renovation

Bifold doors

The couple also replaced the ageing patio doors on the rear of the kitchen-diner with a wall of four folding-sliding French doors. They had these made to measure by a local joiner and were immediately delighted with the result. They ensure that the previously dark space has lots more natural light, as well as providing easy access to the outside space at the rear of the house.

The garden

The garden has been landscaped to Tam’s design. This involved taking up some treacherous cobbles to make way for far more practical decking, which is illuminated by simple rope lights neatly positioned between the planks, so it can be used long after dark in warmer months. Simon’s teenage children, Sam and Rose, also got involved with the gardening, helping out by planting a screen of bamboo designed to create a quiet and private enclosed area. Here, vines and climbing plants are left free to scramble up the surrounding walls.

The bathroom

The next major task was to update the spacious first-floor family bathroom. An incongruous curved archway over the door was replaced with a more fitting square doorway, and Tam and Simon also had a second door added in the other wall. This means that the room can now be accessed from both the landing and the master bedroom, effectively becoming an en suite as required.

‘The bath was jutting out from the chimney breast and pretty much taking up the whole room,’ says Simon. ‘We decided the best plan was to strip out everything and reorganise the layout. As a result, we’ve now been able to include a separate shower cubicle as well.’

As part of the redesign, Tam fitted a clear perspex panel to the side of the bath. She has had a fluorescent yellow light put behind it by the electrician to create a warm glow late at night.

Bedroom in traditional design

Interior design

The couple chose soft grey shades for the floor and walls, offset by orange mosaic tiles with a black border in the shower and above the oversized sink, where they hung a giant frameless mirror. This is one of several similar mirrors found all around the house; they were bought second hand having originally come from Buckingham Palace when it was going through a programme of refurbishment. Another point of interest is a newspaper poster that hangs above the bath; Simon found it outside a bar while travelling in Zimbabwe in 1987.

With the two major refurbishments under their belt, the couple went on to give every room a completely new look. ‘Although we employed a plumber and builder to tackle the larger jobs, we also did a great deal ourselves,’ says Tam. ‘Living here during the work meant that things got a bit dusty, but it was no great hardship really.’

They extended a former WC on the second floor to create a second full-sized contemporary bathroom. They added fitted wardrobes to transform the second bedroom into a practical dressing room, and also introduced a new period fireplace into their master bedroom. They wallpapered the room themselves, having chosen a stylish contemporary floral design from Designers Guild, and this was the last room to be completed.

Aside from favourite pieces like the deliberately incongruous 1960s corner bar and the squashy, brightly coloured sofa in the living room, both of which were bought second hand and moved from Tam and Simon’s previous home, virtually everything has been specifically bought or else made to suit the house. Downstairs, for example, the couple commissioned bespoke grates from an ironmonger in Fulham for the two newly reopened fireplaces in the double reception room. Above these hangs a pair of striking floral canvasses, art projects finished by Tam in shades of brown and orange.

The bookcases in the lounge and bedrooms were made by the same local firm, BM Bull Joinery, as the kitchen doors, to the couple’s own design. And the sideboard, which was found on eBay for just £10, provides ideal storage for music, magazines and DVDs.

‘We both love bright colours – they’re uplifting and cheerful,’ says Tam. ‘The idea of using an interior designer never crossed our minds. It’s all part of the fun to hunt out your own unusual pieces that make a home your own. We couldn’t be happier with the results of our efforts.’


Building work£30,000
Folding-sliding glass doors£3,000
Fire grates£1,000