Residential Project, UK

December 20, 2017

Avocado Sweets took on the re-design of a run-down ex rental property and transformed it from a drab and dingy maisonette to a vibrant, playful, family home.

Left languishing on estate agent websites, this former dark and dingy ex-rental property was not for the faint-hearted. The four bed flat spread over the garden level and first floor of a period Victorian property was in extremely poor condition with a layout that was completely unfit for family life. With a young family ready to move in, the design team set about transforming the space into a warm and welcoming home that meets the needs of adults and children in every room.

With a host of clever design tricks and hidden solutions including skirting board heating and a vertical Lego play wall – Avocado Sweets increased the sense of space without extending an inch of the property. Drawing on their knowledge of cutting-edge and vintage products the design is a feast for the eyes and a highly functional family living space for adults and children alike.

With two primary-age children, the family agreed their design priorities, which included: an enjoyable kitchen with space for the children to join in the cooking; enough space to host large meals for family and friends; a comfortable living space to incorporate a piano and play area, two bathrooms, children’s bedroom with room for homework; a comfortable hall space for storing coats and shoes and a garden that could be enjoyed by adults and children alike year-round.

The first challenge for the team was re-working the compact space. Going back to the drawing board, Avocado Sweets re-worked the internal layout to suit family life and bring in as much natural light as possible, removing walls to create an open-plan kitchen-diner and building in a new family bathroom and en-suite to the master bedroom. Plaster was stripped from the hallway wall to expose the brick below and widen the narrow space.

“The property was a run-down ex rental with dark rooms and corridors,” Avocado Sweets Co-founder Susie Agathou explains.  “We set about taking down the internal walls and moving rooms around to create a better family space.”

Agathou  and her team looked at ways to not only create more space but to create the illusion of space, this was achieved by raising the kitchen and living room ceiling height by exposing the wooden beams.

“We found hidden tricks,” Agathou says. “Running the heating through the skirting boards to leave a flexible space for furniture.”

With no extra room for a playroom, play was built into the design with a vertical Lego wall in the living room and a piano neatly tucked under the stairs.

A custom made, poured concrete kitchen island that doubles as an area for food preparation, a breakfast bar and even an ironing board, was commissioned. The island’s textured surface adds an earthy, welcoming feel to the kitchen design whilst banquette seating, clad in reclaimed wood, allows adequate space for a dinner party with hidden storage below.

“Sourcing the right pieces for each space was fun but a real challenge to get the right look to combine with the right measurements,” says Agathou. “Our designs are all tailor-made for the space and we like to mix and match vintage with modern – championing new designers alongside little known salvaged pieces.”

The wall lights throughout the house are salvaged from a post-war Hungarian factory, as well as the industrial kitchen pendants.The combination of the chalky white ceramic base with the elongated glass test tube-like lamp are at the same time a wonderful design statement and an unobtrusive layer of mood lighting.

“The dining area’s glass lean-to roof posed a particular lighting challenge, so we opted to create a hidden false wall in the painted exposed beam to allow the wall lights to continue as the main lighting in this area,” Agathou says.

Functional spotlights continue the ‘hidden theme’ as they peep out from amongst the exposed kitchen ceiling beams. Meanwhile the industrial pendants over the island (also salvaged from Hungary) add a gravitas to the space – with the warm orange cord adding a little Avocado Sweet’s twist and a sense of warmth and fun to the industrial metal chain fixing, which add a sense gravitas to the space, contrasting with the more playful aspects of the design.

“Light was always at the heart of the project,” Agathou explains. “As well as enabling natural light through careful space planning, the light fittings help shape the personality of each space.”

Hanging Muuto coloured lamps are a fun, colourful addition to the hallway and set the tone for the rest of the house whilst the softer hanging Luna Lana knitted pendants in the living room create a homely vibe set in combination with the bold colour-block shelving, rug and exposed wooden beams.

Peak up the stairs and the Ingo Maurer Lucellino Wall Lamp with its iconic exposed lamp sporting delicate angel wings creates a wonderful sense of anticipation and intrigue to the upper level.

For the children’s room, the designers played around with colour and texture bringing a sense of fun and whimsy to the space. The playful Seletti Egg of Columbus is an ideal pendant in the low-ceilinged bedroom, the combination of the moulded recycled cardboard ‘skirt’ with the bold red cord create a strikingly industrial feminine effect without being too ‘girly’. “We’ve long been admirers of Seletti’s ground breaking designs so we were delighted to include one,” she says. For the boys  bedroom, the Bau by Normann Copenhagen has all those great elements of colour, shape and fun – literally fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The overall look is heavily influenced by the team’s experience of hospitality design, love of innovation and experimentation.

For hospitality design  its important to think about affecting customer behaviour through your design and you need specialist knowledge of the health and safety aspects of the job are needed, but the design mind-set is very similar. “Our work is all about making spaces enjoyable and hunting out the ingredients that will unlock that feeling of enjoyment in each concept or home.

For us the starting point for every project is always the same – and that’s to understand the needs of the people using the space and how the space should make them feel. We never sacrifice function for form. The trick to a great design is to weave the aesthetic into the flow of the space.”