Whenever you renovate a house of a certain age – whether that’s mid-century or more than 100 years ago – you’ll inevitably end up dealing with the legacy of the previous owners’ design decisions.
Some are built to last, like the enduring and colourful tiled hall floors that the Victorians loved. Others look outdated after only a couple of decades. For Bethany Childs and her family, the conservatory that was added to the back of their 1920s house somewhere round the 1980s, and a tacked-on downstairs toilet, had definitely had their day.
They were sacrificed in pursuit of light and openness, and a fresh green colour scheme that’s a nod to Bethany’s American heritage.
We chatted to her to discover how a clumsily extended space became a showpiece kitchen built for entertaining that’s the apple of her eye…
'My husband and I are both American, and have lived in London since 2005. We bought this house six and half years ago and it was our first proper project. I didn’t anticipate living in a 1920/30s house: they weren’t what I was drawn to. But when we looked at the housing options around here, we really liked the width of them – the rooms feel open and spacious.
The owners Bethany Childs, a pilates instructor, and her husband, Clancy, chief product officer for an AI tech company, live here with their children, Beckett and Archer
The property A 1930s end-of-terrace house in north-west London
Project cost £200,000
‘The kitchen was a hodge-podge of the original old-fashioned galley with a dining room off to the side and a big fireplace. They attached a conservatory in the 1980s/90s, and there was the old loo towards the back that was probably an outhouse. It was a few different spaces squashed together.’
'We lived in the house for three years before starting work in 2019. We wanted to see what worked and how we’d use it. We didn’t increase the footprint as we didn’t want to lose any garden. But we really needed to open it up and make more storage and a better space for entertaining. We hired a local architect who’d done a house a street away that I really liked. In addition to the new kitchen, they carved some space out between it and the front living room to create a utility and loo.
‘I found interior designer Claudia Urvois, who was also local, and approached her to help us lift the design. She and I took on the choices of all the materials and the colours.’
‘I’d always loved green kitchens. It took a while to find the right shade because a lot were coming up grey and not very vibrant. Claudia had the idea of looking at American paint companies, and that’s when we found it. This colour green is really traditional in New England, so I was drawing on my roots.
‘We worked with local kitchen company Such Designs, but the units were made in Germany. We wanted it to feel modern and fresh, and the flush cabinets struck the right note.
‘Claudia and I played on the combination of green and natural tones by getting the builder to put oak insets into the window frames and door frames as well.’
‘Work started in February 2019 and it was done by July. We moved out to a rental in the neighbourhood. We have two children and just knew it would be really stressful to live in it, because the building site always extends further than you think it’s going to, and we were essentially doing the entire ground floor.
‘The build went pretty smoothly. At one point we hit some Victorian drains in the ground, which slowed us down a bit, but I don’t think that’s uncommon in London.
‘The units weren’t in when we moved back so we had to set up a temporary kitchen. But we’re so glad that we did it in 2019 instead of 2020.’
‘My favourite part about the kitchen is the colour. People always comment on it, and three years later I’m still really happy with it – it was a good call.
‘I also love the pendant lights over the island. That was a learning curve! We discovered retrofitting vintage lights is challenging to get right – it’s definitely not as simple as buying off the shelf – but it’s worth it because they’re quite unique and beautiful. At night they reflect up into the skylights.
Architects Newman Zieglmeier (opens in new tab)
Interior designer Claudia Urvois Design (opens in new tab)
Kitchen supplier Such Designs (opens in new tab)
‘Calling in the professionals to help was the best way to go. Using their expert knowledge and taste elevated the design and the finished product, and we had a team who could problem solve. It was a game changer.’
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