Traditional 1920s house redesign

Mikey Johnson has opened up the rooms in his seafront home to create a bright, modern space. By extending and adding rooflights he has created a new cooking and dining area, and further space has been added by knocking through in several places

When Mikey Johnson sold a semi-detached house on the seafront in Hove and moved into a rented property in nearby Brighton while he looked for somewhere else to buy, little did he know that his search would bring him full circle.

He was passing his former home one day when he saw a ‘For Sale’ sign at a property two doors up. Although he had left the area, he still loved it and had simply moved away to find a new renovation project.

‘It’s wonderful here – at the front you have views of the lagoon and sea, while the back looks out to the South Downs,’ he says.

The house ticked all the right boxes. It was detached, with four bedrooms, a large rear garden, a garage and, most importantly, there was plenty of scope for improvement.

Fact file

The owner: Mikey Johnson, who runs his own property management company

‘The previous owners had been renovating it, but they had split up and left the work half finished,’ Mikey remembers. ‘The small ground floor rooms were divided by a dark hallway. Every wall was Artexed and the kitchen units were dated melamine. One of the bedrooms was in the process of being turned into a bathroom – it had been tiled from floor to ceiling with faux marble. Nothing was to my taste.’

Mikey, who used to be a hairdresser but now renovates and rents out properties, used his creative talents to redesign the interior layout. A structural engineer then drew up the plans to submit them for planning permission, which was passed without any problems.

Mikey aimed to flood the rooms with the light that’s unique to coastal towns.

‘I decided to knock through most of the downstairs walls to let light into the rear of the house,’ he says, ‘and that meant opening up the dingy hallway that did a “dog leg” from the front door to the kitchen.’

His plans also involved replacing the interior porch door with a dramatic floor-to- ceiling glass design that would create an immediate feeling of space as you enter. The original door featured elegant stained glass, which Mikey salvaged to use in the new entrance between the kitchen/diner and the rear sitting room.

The location of the kitchen has remained as before but Mikey extended the space into the side return, which he describes as being ‘a dark little alleyway and wind tunnel’. It is now roofed in glass, with a glazed door to the front, which maximises the space in the kitchen/diner and means guests can sit under the sun, or the stars. To the rear, a pair of French windows offer easy access to the garden for summer entertaining.

Mikey altered the character of the kitchen completely. Out went the 1980s wall-hung units and in came flat-front cupboards with integrated appliances. The walls are unit-free to draw the eye upwards and create a feeling of space.

‘I wanted a modern, functional room where I could cook and eat, yet still keep the two areas separate,’ he explains. ‘I enjoy entertaining a couple of times a month and invite a group of friends round.’

He then started work on the upper floor, returning the half-finished bathroom to its original purpose as a fourth bedroom.

‘I also knocked through the walls between a small shower room, WC and a wasted little space on the landing to create a contemporary bathroom-cum-shower room, which I’ve decorated with a bold black and white scheme,’ he says.

The floors throughout the house were covered in swirly carpets, which he ripped up to reveal floorboards in perfectly good condition. He stripped and oiled them, using three coats to cover up the imperfections.

Mikey lived on site, acting as project manager during the building work. While local builders, plumbers and electricians did the major renovations, he and a friend tackled some jobs themselves.

‘We installed the shower in the bathroom and laid the tiling,’ he says. ‘We also did some of the woodwork, such as the skirting boards plus the painting and decorating.’ He says the worst job was removing the Artex from the ceilings. ‘We had to sand it all down, skimming off all the sharp bits, then we plastered over it.’

He has mainly used a muted colour palette throughout the house. ‘Soft grey, green and blue work particularly well in a seaside home, reflecting the natural colours of the sea,’ he explains.

The kitchen-diner walls have a hint of green and are teamed with cream floor tiles. In the front sitting room, white walls, a soft grey chimney breast, two cream sofas and polished floorboards work beautifully together to create a subtle and classic design scheme and reflect the coastal light from the wide bay window.

The master bedroom has been decorated in a relaxed shade of blue that’s emphasised by a bold blue throw on the French-style bed. Mikey chose an Art Deco look for the monochrome bathroom, with an antique mirror designed to catch your eye.

His budget didn’t over-run too much. ‘It’s annoying that most of the money was spent on things you can’t see,’ he says. ‘The steelwork in the ceiling was a big expense, as was plastering the entire house, but I saved on the decorating by doing it myself and bought a lot of furniture at auction, or by shopping around on the internet.’

Stylish Brighton, with its restaurants, galleries and antiques shops by the score, is right on Mikey’s doorstep, so it’s little wonder that he has no plans to move. His immediate aim is to get planning permission to build a loft extension.

‘Then those sea views will be a really spectacular sight,’ he smiles.


Building work, including side extension£15,000
New aluminium and glass roof£10,000
Plastering and damp proofing£10,000
Painting, decorating and miscellaneous items£5,000