Are you passionate about preserving old homes and saving their stories for the next generation to enjoy? Let Rococo Davis's sympathetic restoration of her London home, complete with stylish, original interiors, inspire you to embark on your own project. And then browse more real home transformations...
There is an elegant roll-top bath in a bathroom in Battersea that has clocked up more miles than many a family saloon. Rococo, an interior designer, spotted the well-travelled cast-iron tub in a reclamation yard in Norfolk. ‘You could hardly miss it – the sides had been painted a vibrant pink – but I knew it would be perfect for our new house,’ she says. The trouble was, the couple’s house purchase was still a few weeks off completion, so in the meantime husband Gavin resigned himself to driving the bath to and from his work, the tailgate sagging under the load.
Owners Rococo, an interior designer (rococolondoninteriors.com), and Gavin Davis, director of corporate communications at Sky, live here with their six-month-old daughter Mimi and working cocker spaniel Edie
Property A late-Victorian terraced house with four bedrooms, in Battersea, south-west London
What they did The couple removed a wall between the living room and dining room to create one large open-plan space. They levelled the floors to remove a step and added a small kitchen extension. They fitted a new bathroom and a shower room on the top floor
Happily the sale went through without a hitch and after a brief spell in Rococo’s brother’s garden, the bath on wheels made it onto terra firma, as the bathroom was the first room in the house to be given a new look. Rococo’s instincts were right and the roll-top looks the part in this smart, late-Victorian terraced home. ‘It’s the perfect illustration of my philosophy that if you find something you love, you should go with it, and worry about the detail later – there’s always a way to make it work, even if at times it might seem a bit unconventional,’ she says.
Gavin and Rococo were sold on the house from their first viewing. ‘It was in an area we loved; in fact, we were living just up the road and we could see that it had lots of potential, even though the layout wasn’t terribly practical,’ says Rococo.
With that in mind, after the bathroom, Rococo turned her attention to the main living space. With a deep bay window, original fireplace and high ceilings typical of Victorian townhouses, the reception room at the front of the house had the key ingredients for a stylish period look. Behind it and a step down was a small, dark dining room.
‘The main living areas seemed to be full of unexpected changes of level, and dark pockets of unused space,’ explains Rococo, ‘so we tackled them one at a time, to create a brighter, more spacious feel. It didn’t take much, but our small alterations have made a huge difference.
By removing the dividing wall and levelling out the step from the front reception room to the dining room at the back of the house, Rococo created a spacious new living room. Although the antique sofa didn’t do the rounds in Gavin’s car,
it too made an unorthodox entrance to the house – through the bay window, with the help of Rococo’s brother Henry. ‘He was an absolute hero. He took out the windows to get the sofa in for us, and it is here to stay now,’ says Rococo.
With the sofa in place and the new-look living room completed, the couple gave themselves a breather and a bit of thinking time before tackling the next big job. That’s not to say nothing else changed in the meantime. ‘This house is constantly changing. I love decorating, so it’s not unusual for me to paint a room more than once a year,’ says Rococo. ‘And I’m always picking up treasures to add into the mix; nothing is too “matchy matchy”.’
She’s equally happy sourcing antiques and decorative items for her interior design clients as she is for her own home – although for clients she works to a mood board, picking furnishings to order. ‘There was no mood board here, it was much more fluid; the house just evolved naturally and continues to do so,’ she adds.
So what of the last big project? ‘Well, actually it wasn’t so big,’ says Rococo. ‘We just added around two metres to the kitchen and reconfigured the space to make it work better for us.’ The previous owners had completed a side-return extension to the kitchen, but the only way into the room was through the old dining room and down a couple of steps. Rococo had a cupboard removed to allow for a new door to the kitchen from the hall, and the result is a much more useable space.
Furnished with a stylish blend of elegant antiques and clever contemporary buys, the kitchen is like the rest of the house in essence – a bright, practical, comfortable place to spend time.
‘I love our house. All the things I’ve collected over the years have found a space here and have come together to create a familiar, happy home for us,’ says Rococo. ‘I know I’ll keep adding to it and making changes, but it’s fulfilled the potential we saw from the moment we first walked in.’