Start from Scratch: A Food Writer’s First Renovation in South London

Writer Mina Holland and musician Freddie Denham-Webb were looking to buy their first house in London earlier this year. When offer after offer fell through, “invariably because someone else gazumped us,” says Mina, they went south of the river and bought a 750-square-foot maisonette in Crofton Park. “Our mission was to keep costs down as much as possible, but because this was our first home, we had to buy everything from scratch. We bought the house knowing we wanted to do work, so we didn’t max out our budget, and we kept some back for renovations instead.” Working with local contractor Fatlum Smajlaj, Mina and Freddie renovated the kitchen and bathroom, exposing plaster walls, painting the floorboards, and adding touches of personality with colorful tile and furnishings. Here’s a look at the result; for more on how Mina and Freddie live in their new space, go to The Modern House.

Photography courtesy of The Modern House.

Above: Mina, who is a copy editor and food writer for The Guardian, designed the kitchen with Freddie and their contractor. Mina drew the configuration based on how she thought they’d use it (“and how I like to cook”). Freddie came up with the plywood shelves and the idea of inserting the range into the chimney opening to save space. “All in, the kitchen cost £20,000, but that included a new boiler, the concrete worktop, and custom cabinets,” Mina says. “There’s not a lot I would change about what we’ve done in the kitchen. For the space that we have, I find it great, and I love cooking in it.” The table is an old display model bought on sale from Habitat and the chairs are vintage school chairs, castoffs from a wine shop. The radiator is a Keswick Cast Iron Column Radiator.
Above: The plywood shelves and cabinets are treated with Osmo Polyx-Oil. The counter is made-to-measure polished concrete—the couple’s biggest remodeling splurge—from Designfinger in London. The range is a Smeg Dual Fuel Cooker and the tiles are harlequin encaustic tiles from Milagros in East London.
Above: The walls are painted Dulux Pure Brilliant White. The Victorian fireplace was installed by the previous owners, and the armchair is the Lars Accent Chair from Made.
Above: “We didn’t plan to leave the ‘feature wall’—as we’ve come to ironically describe it—in the living room like that,” says Mina. “It was just going to be skimmed, but when the old wallpaper was ripped off, it exposed this incredible surface of old plaster with a beautiful color scheme. We loved it as it was.” The floors are a water-based limewash that Freddie’s mom used in her hallway: “We just took what she had left in the cellar!”
Above: The oak doors are original to the building, with new porcelain knobs from Homebase. The bedroom beyond has a custom plywood cabinet fitted to the alcove and Mina’s grandmother’s nursing chair and antique mirror.
Above: The hallway is painted Farrow & Ball Great White above the chair rail molding, and Drop Cloth below. The spare room has a single wall painted Farrow & Ball French Gray. “We didn’t actively go for a pastel palette, but we knew we wanted exposed plaster and light, and murky greens happen to complement that color scheme,” Mina explains.
Above: A stack of school chairs serves as a bedside table for a Tolomeo Desk Lamp. Bed linens are a gray wool blanket bought at a National Trust shop in Norfolk, a bedspread made of recycled saris, White Mud Cloth Cushions from Ondine Ash, and Kilim pillows bought in Istanbul. Plywood shelves are kitted with Ikea Knuff Magazine Files. The artwork above the fireplace is a print of Imaginary Boys by Peter Doig.
Above: The couple renovated the bathroom with white square tiles from B&Q in London; for the floor, they used Pink Pradena Tile from Bert & May. Says Mina: “I adore tiles and always have and the opportunity to pick my own for my first home was almost too much pressure! I wanted something simultaneously Arabesque and modern. I think, I hope, we got there in the end.” The mirrored cabinet is the Wireworks Slimline Cabinet, the sink is a Bauhaus Turin Wall-Mounted Basin, the faucet is a Vola HV1 Mixer, and the tub is a Saniform Plus Bathtub. The bathroom door is painted Farrow & Ball Green Blue.
Above: “We’ve created a kitchen herb garden and planted beds of low-maintenance wildflowers such as lupines, daisies, jasmine, grasses, and a fig tree,” Mina told The Modern House.
Above: The outdoor space features a German Biergarten Table and hand-built BBQ with a Big Green Egg. The back facade is painted Dulux Pure Brilliant White and the door is Farrow & Ball Green Blue. The industrial fixture above the door came from a friend: “He and his partner moved to a very stylish Sixties development in Hatfield, and this didn’t quite go with their refit. We love it, though,” says Mina.

For more on Mina and Freddie’s house and other modern spaces, go to The Modern House.

For more creative renovations in London, see our posts:

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