COVENT GARDEN PIED A TERRE RENOVATION – THE BEFORES

I’ve been wanting to scribble down this post for so long, but things are a little mad busy over here at EMD right now.  My Covent Garden Pied à Terre renovation broke ground last week and I wanted to share my plans and some ‘before’ pics.  

I’m working for a lovely couple on a one bedroom, well, pied à terre apartment…in Covent Garden {it’s all in the name really}.  They’ve owned it for a while but only use it occasionally when up in town, so it’s not been a priority to update/renovate.  It’s an interesting renovation project, in terms of balancing ensuring that we get it functionally and aesthetically exactly how they would like it, but also keeping an eagle eye on the resale value and making sure they get maximum bang for their buck.  Not too dissimilar from all renovation objectives, just with a more immediate resale goal.

So as you can see above we’re not making any structural changes, but are updating pretty much every single thing in the apartment.  It’s a lovely space, and the location is incredible, but it does suffer a little from low light levels as there’s an overhanging roof outside the two windows in the living room and bedroom, which also look onto an internal courtyard.  So the aim of the game is to lighten and brighten – think new light oak engineered wood floorboards, a bright white paint finish on the walls, a light grey and white quartz kitchen, light airy furnishings, and a soft palette for rugs, accessories and artwork.  

Other less noticeable changes will be raising the ceilings as far as possible, installing new ‘camouflage’ radiators {errr as in simple streamlined white radiators, not some bizarre camo colour that looks like it’s got lost on safari}, incorporating cool white (4000K) downlighters which can be used during the day when necessary, and updating the internal doors and architraves and adding some yum brass hardware.

Hallway

So the hallway is currently in a pretty good state – floorboards in good nick, some lovely artwork on the walls, a slightly dated but functional radiator.  But this area has zero windows, and is the most in need of brightening and lightening.  

The light oak floorboards will really transform the space, along with a cooler white paint on the walls {which are currently more of a cream shade} and cool white downlighters.  We’re putting in a new FD60 fire door/door frame with intumescent strips {oh how much I have learnt about intumescent strips in the last couple of weeks} for the front door, painted in a light sage or grey.  We’re adding an internal door leading to the living room, to meet building regs, and relocating the thermostat and entryphone next to the front door, so there’s more space for artwork!

One challenge with this renovation is that the building is constructed with a series of reinforced concrete pillars and beams, situated throughout the apartment.  They are structural load-bearing features so need to be worked around, which in the most part is fine except when it comes to the ceiling.  We had to choose between having a lower but nicely uniform flat ceiling, and a slightly-higher-but-with-protruding-beams ceiling – we’ve gone with the party {latter} option as the added feeling of space and airiness will offset the slightly staggered look.  It’s been an interesting exercise though, first time I’ve come across this issue.

And lastly I absolutely adore the trio of monochrome prints above left – am hoping they will be approved for the new gallery wall in the living room!

Living space

So onto the open plan living room/kitchen, where we are updating pretty much everything once again.  The dark wood furniture, charcoal grey sofa, and deep crimson curtains/rug are all stunning pieces in their own right, but in this space have the effect of sucking all the light out of the room like a big black hole.  We’re updating with light, bright neutrals, a hint of brass, wicker, glass and other textural goodies.  Mirrors will help bounce light around the room.  The ceiling will be raised as high as humanly possible.  Reclaimed wood shelving will be added to the niche behind the TV for extra storage, and the TV will be moved to the opposite wall, and sit inside a mechanised bench, which I am very very very overexcited about {more below}.

There’s currently a large built-in wardrobe on the opposite wall which is fantastic for storage but takes up a lot of space in the petite room.  So we’re ripping him out, and replacing with a low level bench, which will hold said TV and raise it up at the touch of a button.  Every interior designer’s dream is coming true in this project, ladies and gents!  You’ve got to have a TV somewhere, I mean The Crown is not going to watch itself, but those big boxes are just so ugly.  The solution?  Whack it inside a bench, add a cute gallery wall and pair of brass sconces above, and the job’s a good’un.  And to replace the lost storage from the wardrobe {meh but important, especially in a smaller apartment} we’re adding more effective storage in the kitchen, improving the layout of the current two storage cupboards in the hallway/bedroom, and adding more in terms of furniture with a lifting bed frame and two chests of drawers.

The current layout of the living space is a little disjointed with the dining table and sofa/seating area slap bang next to each other.  It’s always a challenge in small space living to avoid this set up – you gotta eat somewhere, right?  The best solution for these clients is to add a small dining peninsula and pair of stools right next to the kitchen area, so that the prep/eating space and the living space are more self-contained respectively.  We’re doing it in the same stunning ‘marble’ quartz finish as the kitchen worktops so that it fits in seamlessly.  Delish.

On to the kitchen…

Well those black tiles and dated cabinets are outta here.  Seeya suckers.  Again, we’re lightening up the space with lots of whites and light grey, antiqued brass and STUNNING ‘marble’ quartz.  Top tip: never ever use real marble for your kitchen work surfaces unless you are either a) abnormally clean and tidy; or b) don’t mind it immediately taking on a patina from spills, dribbles, leaks and…erm…smashed receptacles.  Marble is very porous stone so, even if you regularly seal it, anything like tomato sauce, red wine, balsamic vinegar etc is likely to stain that puppy like nobody’s business.  Unfortunately those are my three favourite food types, ha.  No marble worktops for me.  Anyhoo I digress, so we are going with a quartz worktop which is a manmade stone, so much tougher and less porous, but designed to look like a stunning carrara marble.  I cannot WAIT to see it installed.

In other news, the ceiling is going…you guessed it…up, and we’re scrapping those black directional track lights in favour of under-cabinet LED task lighting.  The black tile is being replaced with…nothing – I had a little trouble convincing my clients that this is a good idea, but because the living space is so cosy we’re going with a specialist kitchen wipeable paint for the backsplash, to make the little kitchen nook a smidge less ‘HI I’M A KITCHEN LOOK AT ME WITH MY TILED BACKSPLASH’.  I’ve not done this before but a {very talented} designer friend of mine swears by it and I’m keen to try it out.  Worst case scenario: if it proves to not be as wipeable as advertised, it’s relatively simple to retrofit a tiled backsplash. 

The appliances are all to be updated, and we’re sticking the ugly ones (washer, fridge) inside cabinetry, again to make the kitchen less kitchen-y.  Storage will be improved with a full depth countertop and cabinets on all three sides (right now the far end is just a shallow shelf with no storage below, leading to recycling etc getting stored in plain sight).

And an antiqued brass tap and cabinetry hardware, and reclaimed wood shelving over the sink will soften the hard lines of the quartz and white/grey cabinetry.   

Bedroom

In the bedroom it’s the same deal with wall colour, floorboards, radiators…and this room is free of irritating structural beams so we can get the ceiling waaaay up.  {Warning: dull bit} the boiler for the apartment sits in a little alcove off the main bedroom, currently with no door separating the two spaces – my clients are fed up of the unnecessary noise and disruption in the winter months when it switches on for central heating etc.  We can’t move it unfortunately, but we can put in a new architrave and bi-fold door which will block some of the noise and hide it from view.  We’re also updating the wooden flue cover to include little inspection hatches underneath the joins in the pipe, again to meet building regs.

{all credits: Elly MacDonald Design}

{Okie dull bit over}

New roman blinds in a lovely light linen, new furniture with better storage, a little dressing table area with mirror, and new artwork, lamps etc will really transform the room.  

Stay tuned for the next chapter, I’ll be discussing the kitchen design next week.  We’re currently in the demo phase and I can’t wait to see it start to take shape soon!

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