This Victorian south-east London renovation is the ultimate lesson in maximising small spaces and how to do minimalist interiors with character and style.
Milly Summer, 30, had always dreamed of owning a flat in London and living life as “the British Carrie Bradshaw”, while her long-term partner was keen to move outside of the city and get somewhere bigger together.
“Relationships are all about compromise,” Milly tells Stylist.co.uk. “So, we agreed to start our house hunt in south-east London, in a quieter part of town and out of the hustle and bustle.
“I had always lived in south London and after reading an article about how it was the last affordable quarter in London for first time buyers, I won him over.
The couple knew their flat was ‘the one’ the moment they saw it and went on to make an offer that very day. The property in question is a Victorian period maisonette, 10 minutes’ walk from the station in Forest Hill, which Milly describes, quite joyfully, as “full of cockapoos and overpriced coffee shops”.
“We felt lucky that our flat had been recently renovated in a modern style, so it was a blank canvas,” she continues. “It never occurred to us to do somewhere up, but once I started imagining how the place could look it became clear that we’d be ripping up the floor, uncovering fireplaces and adding a breakfast bar!”
What was your OG inspiration… airy minimalism with original features
”I knew I wanted to uncover every single period feature that had been neatly tucked away. I love original features from fireplaces, to detailed coving, high ceilings and those extra details. For me, me they tell a story so that was the first thing that happened.
“Like many, we had an entire mood saved that was full of ideas, themes and styles, the biggest being the kitchen which was almost 20 foot and had so much potential. We wanted a light, minimalistic but traditional style, and knew it had to be herringbone flooring.
“I would say the overall aesthetic for the flat is minimalistic. I can’t stand clutter; I grew up in a home that was very similar to my taste now. I suppose I really owe it all to my mother’s fantastic taste which is organic, homely and stylish. She introduced me to Farrow & Ball, she knows. But, to be fair, I have to give my Dad a little shout out, who runs online magazine KBBFocus which showcases a curation of the most gorgeous kitchens and bathrooms, so maybe it’s in my blood!”
Best DIY moment… uncovering an original Victorian fireplace
”I really can’t take credit for the DIY as my boyfriend is incredible at it and it’s not even his full-time job! That said, I think it probably has to be the living room fireplace.
“We could feel the wall in that room was hollow and, probably in an over excited state, smashed the wall straight through and behind it we were presented with a stunning original Victorian fireplace, with all of the tiles still perfectly intact. It’s like it had been sat there, just patiently waiting to be rediscovered. I think I danced around the living room on that day.”
Biggest challenge… being patient
”I think the thing I found the biggest challenge was not rushing. It’s really hard when you move into a new place not to get carried away and order everything quickly because you want it finished.
“I definitely made a couple of errors in the first six months, and if I had my time again, I wouldn’t buy things on impulse. My best friend has just bought her first place close by, and that’s the biggest piece of advice I’ve given her.”
Favourite room… the kitchen
”The kitchen has always been my favourite room of the house. I love the natural light, the huge bay window, the belfast sink and the dark navy cupboards against the amtico oak parquet flooring.
“Whether it’s having coffee at the breakfast bar in the morning, or opening a bottle of wine at night, it’s our favourite by far. I designed it all myself and am quite pleased to say I’m still very much in love.”
Milly’s favourite home inspiration Instagram accounts:
Milly’s go-to homeware brands:
“H&M home is always one I come back to. The eye behind the detail and styling just always feels top notch - and it’s so reasonable too!”
“I love their products and have a few pieces myself. Everything they do is so statement and brilliant to use. I think I love my fridge more than my boyfriend, not even sorry.”
“Everything on the website is just utterly beautiful and if I could have every single thing in my home I would.”
Images: Milly Summer