A Victorian Arts & Crafts house fit for modern life

After three years abroad, Lucy Rees was determined to make her mark on this Victorian Arts and Crafts house, where she can surround herself with family and friends

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Lucy opted for wooden Shaker-style kitchen cabinets by Devol in the dramatic shade of Pantry Blue as the space is big enough to handle bold colour. Two trios of industrial lighting, one over the kitchen island, from De Hasse, and another over the table, sourced on Ebay, help to define the double-height space. The farmhouse table was an Ebay find, as were the bench, dining chairs and vintage leather club chairs next to the windows

Project notes

Owners: Lucy Rees lives here with husband David, who heads the European division of a global services company, and their 10-year-old twins, daughter Morgan and son Joshua
Property: A detached five-bedroom Victorian house in the Arts and Crafts style, built in 1887 in Chislehurst, Kent
What they did: Lucy had the kitchen moved from what is now the study to the larger billiard room to make it the new heart of the home. She has added new flooring and redecorated throughout  

Before embarking on major renovations, most people take their time and live with the place, to get a feel for what will work. That had been Lucy Rees’s plan as she carefully masterminded her family’s return to the UK from Germany. 

Somehow, though, she found herself camping on a mattress in her new house with just one weekend to make decisions on everything from the purpose of each room to its flooring, paint and curtains, ‘I’m a natural procrastinator so it was hard making snap decisions,’ she recalls. ‘But luckily it all worked out.’

As the family approached the end of David’s three-year stint in Frankfurt for work, their thoughts turned to finding a more permanent home. They opted for leafy Chislehurst because it’s a short train journey to the City for David but also perfect for family walks and bike rides in the woods. 

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(Image: © James Balston )

Built in 1887, Lucy and David’s home was bomb-damaged during the war and subsequently divided into two houses

While Lucy was viewing a smaller property on this beautiful wooded lane, the estate agent mentioned another house, which the owner planned to sell eventually. 

Lucy managed to arrange a viewing and was smitten: ‘It was a great size, without being ostentatious, and I fell for the panelling, fireplaces and high ceilings.’ She was willing to wait, but the owners, whose children had left for university, decided that the house needed another family and everything fell into place. 

Victorian renovated kitchen


(Image: © James Balston )

Lucy at the oak-topped kitchen island where she does most of her food prep. The bar stools are also from Devol

Victorian renovated kitchen

(Image: © James Balston )

Glass-fronted wall cabinets from Devol are the perfect place for Lucy’s mix-and-match tableware. The floor in this room  is the original oak parquet, restored by Nutwood Flooring

‘My style is a mixture of old and new, something with soul and history but also a modern twist.’

Lucy Rees

Victorian renovated kitchen

(Image: © James Balston )

The white worktops are Carrara quartz from Marbles Ltd, chosen as the material is more stain resilient than real marble. The basin and taps are from Devol. Lucy’s collection of vintage kitchenalia is artfully displayed on simple open shelving

The previous owners had sensitively restored the whole house, which had been bomb-damaged during the war and then divided into two houses. So Lucy was pleased to think she was facing a mostly cosmetic job, although she realises now that she was a little naive about the scale of the undertaking. 

‘I thought it was just a case of doing the kitchen and making everything look pretty, but it’s never that simple,’ she laughs.

Victorian hallway

(Image: © James Balston )

After buying the house, Lucy stayed in Germany because of her children’s schooling. So when the kids headed off to a school camp she grabbed the chance to race to England for four short days.  

Renovated Victorian home

(Image: © James Balston )

The contemporary modular Mortimer sofa in dark grey, from Made, the industrial-style coffee table (try Loaf for similar), and statement pendant shades from Olive & the Fox, create a contrast with the living room’s many period features, such as the sumptuous wooden panelling and parquet floor

She used her time wisely and booked in a raft of expert helpers. Nutwood Flooring offered invaluable advice when the existing floorboards proved too patched and scrappy to save and advised her to get all the kitchen utilities in place before laying the hallway’s engineered oak floors.

carved wood fireplace


(Image: © James Balston )

Lucy has brought the space to life with rustic finishing touches 

A visiting Farrow & Ball consultant helped her to achieve a palette of mostly muted shades to complement each room. ‘I’ve always stuck to white before, and I felt a bit daunted about choosing the right colours for this place.’

Victorian home snug

(Image: © James Balston )

This alcove at the end of the hall, with its charming mullioned windows, is where Lucy relaxes while on the telephone. The classic grey Flynn armchair is from Made, while the vintage sewing machine table is an antiques fair buy

(Image: © James Balston )

Converted into a garage during the 1950s, the music room was reinstated by the home’s previous owners and returned to its original purpose complete with grand piano. The floor lamp is a vintage Bullfinch roadworks light, while the trio of glass pendant lights are from Olive & the Fox

Returning to Germany for the summer, she monitored the renovations via phone and Skype, with her mother and a friend representing her ‘on the ground’, although the delegation process didn’t always work out. 

‘My Mum wasn’t convinced by the dramatic dark blue paint in the dining room and nearly persuaded us to halt the decorating, but we stuck to our guns!’ she smiles.  

dramatic blue dining room

(Image: © James Balston )

The dining room is reserved for larger gatherings so the couple felt that they could afford to go for a bold colour in here, opting for Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue, which provides a nice contrast with the deep tones of the 12-seater table and chairs – an Ebay bargain. The fireplace is original to the house

Lucy and the children arrived for the autumn term at a new school, with David joining them in Kent in November. ‘It was dusty and cold while all the work was happening, so we had to rely on the real fires for warmth.’ 

She pulled out all the stops to have everything ready for David’s arrival. ‘The only downside to that was that he couldn’t see what all the fuss had been about,’ she adds.  

Calm period bedroom

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A tranquil mood in the luxurious guest bedroom, with lots of serene white and tactile textures on the bed. The Oken bedside tray table is from Habitat while the decorative stars on the windowsill came from an antiques fair

Lucy knew that the small kitchen wasn’t right for modern family life and decided that the vast double-height former billiards room with its minstrel’s gallery would be the perfect place to cook, eat and relax. She timed the project to take place between hosting big family celebrations at Christmas and the following Easter.  

pretty floral girl s bedroom

(Image: © James Balston )

Lucy has created a pretty vintage look for daughter Morgan’s room with rose prints and bunting. The duvet covers are from Ikea and the pendant light shade was found on Ebay. The painted metal twin beds – perfect for sleepovers – are from Feather & Black

Having chosen the Shaker-style cabinets, she opted for a dark blue finish that would have impact in such a large space. Lucy’s favoured mix of rustic, natural and modern is also seen in her furniture, sourced through antiques fairs and online auctions.

monochrome bathroom rolltop

(Image: © James Balston )

The previous owners had recently installed the bathroom and so Lucy has simply updated it with a new colour scheme: Farrow & Ball Pavillion Gray walls, bold pink accessories, and black paint for the radiator and roll-top bath

The simple, industrial-style lighting gives each room an edgier element. Husband David’s more minimalist tendencies help to keep her in check. Now the work is done, Lucy is enjoying being back in the UK and having regular visits from extended family.   

‘It’s a great house for entertaining – there’s plenty of room for relaxed gatherings,’ she says. ‘Because Germany was temporary I couldn’t really indulge my passion for interiors, so it has been lovely to put my stamp on this place.’