Real home: this Mid-century renovation has '50s flair

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home
(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

When Emma and Karim first viewed this house, it was in its original 1958 state, complete with vintage Hygena kitchen and primrose yellow bathroom suite. They both loved the clean lines and simplicity of the mid-century design and were attracted to it as a ‘project’ that would also be a forever home for them and their sons.

Inspired by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, they decided to add a wrap-around double extension to the side and back, creating two extra bedrooms as well as a large open-plan area and office downstairs. Emma and Karim had gathered a mix of second-hand, auction and salvaged 20th-century pieces over the years, many of them Scandinavian classics. The result is a beautiful and unique family house that feels both stylish and homely.

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Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

Natural materials such as the cedar wood panelling, oak engineered floor and a large granite hearth combine to create warmth and texture. Sofa, Habitat. Cushions, H&M Home. Walls painted in Alabaster White, Dulux Heritage. Engineered wood floor, Brooks Bros Flooring. Coffee table, Egg chair, vintage phone and table, auction or Ebay. Original 1935 GPO Royal Mail print by John Armstrong, Aldeburgh Contemporary Art Gallery

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)
Profile

The owners Emma Westbury and Karim Karanouh, buyers/specialists in mid-century era furniture
(@revolverliving), live here with their teenage sons, Kai and Jude, and dogs, Remi, a whippet, and Sneaky, a rescue greyhound
The property A three-bedroom mid-century townhouse in the suburbs of Colchester
Project cost £275,000

'Karim and I have worked together for years so we really know how each other’s minds work. I’d say the design, DIY ideas and doing was probably a 50/50 split,' says Emma. ‘The first big change was when we opened up the rear of the house, putting in a wall of sliding glass doors at the back looking onto the garden. We used lots of natural materials including cedar wood panelling, oak engineered floor and a large granite hearth to create warmth and texture. We then fitted a large Scandinavian woodburning stove as a focal point. Lights fitted behind teak strips on the ceiling in the living area define this space.'

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

Adding a double-height extension with a wall of sliding glass doors at the back looking onto the garden completely opens up the rear of the house. The large Scandinavian woodburning stove is a strong focal point. Woodburning stove, Modern Stoves. Original 1930s safari chairs, bought at auction

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

‘We replaced all the windows with triple-glazed versions. We mainly used a warm neutral colour palette, with a strong colour in the kitchen. The dark khaki green sat well with the wooden floor and we wanted the teak splashback to mirror the cladded wall behind the stove at the far end to keep it cohesive and give the room warmth.'

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

The teak splashback in the kitchen mirrors the cladded wall at the far end of the room. Elements such as the reclaimed barn door add a rustic feel to the modern extension. The white Corian worktops in the kitchen and on the island keep it looking crisp and modern. Olive green kitchen cabinets, worktops and panelling, all Distinctive Interiors. Pendant lights, Ocean Lighting. Oven, John Lewis & Partners. For similar art prints, try Vintique London

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

'The white Corian worktops make it look crisp and modern. We found the sliding barn-style doors that divide the office and the kitchen at a local reclamation yard. Although we love Scandinavian design, we have an eclectic mix of furniture throughout the house – mainly second-hand and repurposed. That’s what we feel gives the house its character and soul.'

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

The walls in the open-plan living area are painted in soothing colours, with engineered floors and rugs adding warmth and texture. Underfloor heating keeps the new part of the house at a warm, constant temperature and avoids losing wall space to radiators. Dining table, West Elm. 1960s chairs, car boot sale. G-Plan bookcase, orange lamp and orange chandelier light, all bought at auction

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

Karim admits the project was daunting at first: ‘But once we started to research and get into the nuts and bolts of it, it started to become really exciting and began to have a life of its own. We had a vision as soon as we saw the house, and the fact that we had been given the opportunity to create something special here has been fulfilling. Achieving a cosy, happy space and watching the family living here has been all so worthwhile.'

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

Karim’s office sits at the back of the house, leading off the kitchen, and was initially designed to be twice the size, but was scaled back at the last minute. ‘The builders were marking out the foundations when we had a change of heart, and I’m so glad we did,’ he says. ‘It would have encroached too much on the patio and garden.’ Sofa bed, Ikea. Desk, machinist chair and original Scandinavian ceiling light, auction buys. Walls painted in Slate, Dulux Heritage. 60s print by Deborah Jones (over sofa), bought at a local gallery

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

'Emma and I have been working together for 30 years – we run a vintage clothes and furniture business together – so while at some points during the renovating process it did get tough, we know each other so well that we could work through any problems. We’ve always been open and honest with each other, which really helps. 

‘Design-wise, we split everything we do and we mostly have the same taste. We agreed on probably 80 per cent of the decisions we had to make. For the other 20 per cent, we discussed it – and then, obviously, we went with whatever Emma said.'

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

‘We all love this room, which we call our “music room” as it has no TV – just a keyboard, record player and cosy fire,’ says Emma. Shelving units, Ikea. Sofa, coffee table, chair and original fairground lights, all from auctions. Plants, Perrywoods Garden Centre. Walls painted in Oxford Blue, Dulux Heritage

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

I personally love challenges. I like problem solving. There were always unexpected problems thrown up and it felt good when we overcame them. One of the only really hairy moments that I can remember is when we were having our families around for Christmas and we had a delay with our sliding doors. They were here just in time but we thought we’d be eating turkey open to the elements. Our funniest moment was the look on the builders’ faces when the olive green kitchen cabinets arrived. They thought we’d ordered the wrong colour!’

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

The master bedroom is simple and uncluttered, with muted colours echoing the mid-century palette used throughout the house. Bed, Made. Mirror, Ikea. Bedside tables, Ebay. Bedlinen, H&M Home. The George Melly Jazz print was Emma’s dad’s. Chest, storage removal chest from a salvage yard

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

‘Now that we’re here, the snagging is all done and we’re living in the space, it feels like home,' he adds. 'I find the connection to the garden really relaxing and the open-plan living area is special – it’s the heart of the house.’

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

The timeless appeal of black and white is key to this bright and cheerful monochrome bathroom, which is uplifted with pops of yellow accessories and plants. Gap vanity unit and bath, Roca. Matki shower enclosure, CP Hart. Mirror, Habitat. Hexagonal tiles, Tile Mountain

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)
Contacts

Architects Stanley Bragg
Builder C&K Developments, 01621 819287
Kitchen Distinctive Interiors
Bathroom Graham’s Bathrooms
Glazing M&M Glazing
Flooring Brooks Bros Flooring

‘During the project, I learned that my husband has the patience of a saint, says Emma.  'He kept such a clear head all the way through the renovation. A house build will test even the steeliest of nerves and he really wasn’t ever shaken.

‘Living here is wonderful. Though it’s a large open-plan space, it’s warm and homely. When we moved back in after renting, Jude said it felt like being on holiday, except we never had to go home. I knew exactly what he meant.’

Vintage interiors aficionados Emma and Karim yearned for a mid-century house, which they found in this Essex renovation project – now their unique new home

The glass wall at the front of the house is integral to the original architecture of the property and was what drew the couple to it in the first place

(Image credit: Fiona Murray)

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