I love seeing how period properties can be adapted through clever design, evolving to suit modern lifestyles without losing any of their character or charm. This wonderful example comes from jewellery designer Sally Vanderpump, who has transformed the ground floor of her Edwardian house with a contemporary extension that’s flooded with natural light. The result is stunning: a sociable, open-plan living space that seamlessly blends old and new, with plenty of room for cooking, entertaining and relaxing, plus a glass-encased window seat that provides the perfect spot for curling up with a cuppa and a good book.
I caught up with Sally to find out more about the project and the inspiration behind it…
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I’ve had what you might call a portfolio career. I’ve always been arty, but I studied English at university and for a long time I was a subeditor at The Sunday Times whilst also studying drama and doing a bit of acting. Both of those were difficult careers to combine with the early years of motherhood once I’d had my two children, and I was desperate to do something more creative. I took a variety of courses in painting and printing and eventually came to jewellery making, which had me totally hooked. I then did a diploma in contemporary jewellery design at the Vannetta Seecharran School of Jewellery and exhibited at the New Designers show in June 2016, and I’ve just launched my first collection, Radiance, celebrating the beauty of the sky.
“I’ve built my own garden studio and run my business from home. I’m doing things I’ve always loved: carving wax, designing and painting, and trying to express myself and my ideas of love, beauty and the natural world. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to change career. And it turns out that jewellery is in the blood, too: a distant relative, Cornelius Joshua Vanderpump, registered his silversmith’s hallmark in 1886, so it’s great to be part of a family tradition!”
Where’s home, and how long have you lived there?
“I live near Alexandra Palace in North London. My husband and I moved there 10 years ago and it felt very quiet compared to the flat we’d left, which was next to a bus garage in Archway. I was pregnant with our son Joe at the time and our daughter, Frankie, was born in the house two and a half years later. She insisted on keeping a floor tile from the spot where she was born when we did the renovation!”
Why did you embark on the extension project?
“The house is an Edwardian terrace and we put up with a tiny kitchen for 10 years. Whenever we had people round for dinner or we were just feeding the kids, I felt like the skivvy in the scullery because it was a complete sound trap, and I had no idea what was going on in the dining room. The aim was to create a better kitchen and a larger, more sociable living space. We also squeezed in a tiny downstairs loo and a mini (but still very useful) utility room under the stairs.”
Which architect did you use?
“We used Trevor Brown, recommended by our next-door neighbours. They have also done an extension with him so we were able to share the party wall, saving us both a bit of space and money. Another neighbour has also used him for a similar project, so he’s been busy on our street!”
Where did you source inspiration for the project?
“One of the great things about working with Trevor was knowing from the beginning that we shared a similar aesthetic, and he loves interior design too. We used Pinterest boards to collate ideas, and I spent much more time than I’d care to admit poring over Living Etc, Elle Decoration and interiors blogs, including These Four Walls.”
How would you describe the interior style?
“The space has got a slightly industrial feel, with concrete worktops. Trevor pushed us to be a bit braver than we would otherwise have been; I don’t think we would have dared to go for such dark cupboards without his encouragement, but I’m delighted with them. I love a Scandinavian look – I lived in Stockholm for nine months so maybe that rubbed off a bit – but to be honest I’m probably a bit too untidy to sustain it. I’ll definitely be adding more artworks and furniture soon – I’m eyeing up some kilims and kilim cushions for the window seat, so maybe the end look will be Scandi meets The Jungalow!”
Where did you source the furniture, fittings and fixtures?
“The kitchen carcasses are from IKEA, with fronts from Homestyle. The concrete worktops are from Mortise Concrete and the antiqued mirror is from Mirror by Design. I found the pendant shades online from Otto’s Antiques, and the bulb in the window seat is from William & Watson. My husband grew up with the original G-Plan dining table and his parents kindly gave it to us. Ditto the matching chairs, which I spotted languishing in their garage and offered to rehome! The floor tiles are Design Industry from Swedecor and the window seat was from Culmax. The large roof light was from Glazing Vision.”
What’s your favourite aspect of the finished extension and why?
“It’s hard to say because it’s such a transformation of the space, but the window seat is a lovely place to read – it’s magical to sit there in the rain and chase the raindrops down the panes. I love the exposed brick wall, too, because it represents the history of the house and the chimney place that we reluctantly took out; I also like the way it contrasts with the clean lines of the rest of the room and provides natural shelves. I love the results so much; I already find it hard to remember what it was like before, and it’s definitely given the house a whole new lease of life.”
Do you have any advice for others looking to undertake a similar project?
“I would say it’s important to research your architect and builders thoroughly; our builders came with glowing references and I trusted them implicitly. We moved out for the major part of the work and that helped them to get on with it quicker (and helped us to stay sane!). Everyone says it, but it’s true that your budget will expand – it’s hard not to add in extras or be tempted to upgrade fittings here and there, so have a contingency plan for any overspend.”
Finally, do you have future plans for the house?
“We stripped out most of our overgrown garden during the work and have plans to replant it when our new puppy is old enough not to dig everything up. We replaced the bathroom as part of the renovation and decorated the hallway and stairs up to the attic, but all the bedrooms are next on the list. I’d also like to change the cluttered box room into a cosy study, but I think we need a renovation break for the moment. We’re here for the long haul, so there’s no rush. I’m so delighted with the transformation to date – it’s changed our lives.”
Some of Sally’s designs are available exclusively on veryfirstto.com until 29th October, and the Radiance collection is available via her website. She’s also happy to discuss bespoke commissions on 07958 441666.
Photography by Adelina Iliev