6 Design Lessons From London’s Best Pandemic Home Renovations

The Don’t Move, Improve! Awards run by New London Architecture showcase the capital’s best home renovations across a range of categories, from Compact Design of the Year to Best Under £100k. Now in its 11th year, the awards took on new meaning during the pandemic as many of us were re-evaluating our own living spaces, looking to improve our quality of life in lockdown.

‘So many of us have been clamouring to revise and rethink our homes this year,’ says Kunle Barker, who judged this year’s submissions, ‘whether to celebrate and frame a view out into the garden or add in a feeling of openness and space. It was a pleasure to see so many good examples of homes well-suited to modern living.’

A House Recast by Studio Ben Allen

French+Tye

This year’s winner was The House Recast by Studio Ben Allen, a Victorian end of terrace in Haringey, transformed with green and pink pigmented concrete used for internal walls, stairs, counters and even sinks.

The 22 shortlisted projects threw up ample inspiration and ideas for our own homes, from bold colour combinations to cool Scandinavian schemes and an array of stylish kitchens. We take a look at six design lessons from the shortlist.

1. Be bold with colour

          a house recast by studio ben allen, the motel house in dalston by office sm

          Left: A House Recast by Studio Ben Allen, Right: The Mo-tel House in Dalston by Office S&M

          French+Tye

          Adventurous colour combinations were a common theme throughout the shortlisted homes, no doubt reflecting a need to lift our spirits in an otherwise bleak year. This year’s winner, The House Recast, used a soft palette – salmon pink, light green and chalky blue – perfect for those who want to introduce colour in a warm and inviting way. Others, like The Mo-tel House in Dalston, designed by Office S&M, used joyful primary colours with abandon. A bold decision, but as the homeowner says, ‘Personally, the colours bring me joy on a daily basis.’ Learn more about the psychology of colour in the home.

          2. Consider a plaster finish for your walls

          a council house in bermondsey by vatraa

          A Council House in Bermondsey by VATRAA

          Jim Stephenson

              A plaster finish is a great alternative to paint, wallpaper, or exposed brick. The dusky, pink-toned plaster finish in this ex-council house in Bermondsey, renovated by architecture studio VATRAA, adds warmth and character with its variations in texture and tone. The addition of white painted ceiling joists and whitewashed oak provides a muted backdrop for the homeowner’s furniture to stand out. Plaster is an incredibly durable material, and once installed, it can last you a lifetime – but if you are prone to changing your mind, you can fake it with a plaster effect wallpaper.

              3. We still love velvet sofas

              a cloistered house by turner architects and a council house by vatraa

              Left: A Cloistered House by Turner Architects. Photo: Adam Scott, Right A Council House by VATRAA. Photo: Jim Stephenson

              L-R: Adam Scott, Jim Stephenson

                  The judges have spoken, velvet sofas are here to stay. An enduring classic owing to their sumptuous fabric, rich tones, and affordability, velvet sofas in shades of dusty pink, forest green and indigo blue popped up in a number of home renovations, from an urban oasis in Clapham to an eclectic Victorian terrace in Hackney.

                  4. Opt for low maintenance, high impact flooring

                  a cloistered house by turner architects er residence by studio hallett ike, house in hackney by yard architects

                  Left to right: A Cloistered House by Turner Architects, Photo: Adam Scott, ER Residence by Studio Hallett Ike, Photo: Stale Eriksen, House in Hackney by YARD Architects, Photo: Richard Chivers

                  L-R: Adam Scott, Stale Eriksen, Richard Chivers

                  Tiles, hardwood flooring, and poured concrete were overwhelmingly featured in the shortlist of renovations, and not just in traditional spaces like the kitchen or bathroom. Balanced with warming elements, like the reddish Iroko wood cabinets and door frames in the Cloistered House in Clapham, designed by Turner Architects Ltd., or softened with area rugs and staircase runners such as those used in the House in Hackney, designed by YARD Architects.

                  Get the look:

                  house beautiful wood vinyl and laminate flooring at carpetright

                  5. To create a calming sanctuary, look to Scandinavian style

                      london's best home renovations from the don't move, improve awards er residence in haringey, designed by studio hallett ike

                      ER Residence in Haringey, designed by Studio Hallett Ike

                      Stale Eriksen

                      ER Residence in Haringey, designed by Studio Hallett Ike, is a masterclass in Scandinavian style, using a mix of natural materials, a minimal palette, and interesting mid-century furniture. Softening elements, such as throws, a natural rug, indoor plants and piles of dried logs have created a stylish sanctuary. ‘The space has a hugely calming feel and truly an escape from London living,’ says the homeowner.

                      er residence in haringey, designed by studio hallett ike

                      ER Residence in Haringey, designed by Studio Hallett Ike

                      Stale Eriksen

                      6. Throw out the kitchen rulebook

                      segal house by fraher  findlay, st mary’s house by paul archer design

                      Left: Segal House by Fraher & Findlay, Photo: Taran Wilkhu, Right: St Mary’s House by Paul Archer Design, Photo: Andy Stagg

                      L-R: Taran Wilkhu, Andy Stagg

                      The kitchens in this year’s shortlisted properties came in all shapes and sizes, from warm and family-centred, to multifunctional cook-dine-work hybrid spaces. We saw poured concrete flooring and oak kitchen cabinets in Peckham Rye, a serene and minimal open plan kitchen in Forest Hill and a bold black kitchen in Lambeth. The design rule here is that there really are no rules – the kitchen is the heart of a home and responds to each homeowner’s unique way of living.

                      Get the look:

                      house beautiful kitchens at homebase

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