Interior design

Home renovation: “How I transformed my Victorian flat to give it an airy, minimalist feel”

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Megan Murray
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Monochrome living room renovation

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. 

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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!”

Monochrome kitchen renovation journey
Home renovation: Milly Summer's kitchen before and after.

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.”

Monochrome living room renovation
Home renovation journey: Milly Summer's living room before and after.

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.”

Neutral bedroom renovation
Home renovation journey: Milly Summer's bedroom before and after.

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:

  • Soho Home

    “As a Soho House fan, every piece of the homeware they publish I’m obsessed with. It’s my guilty pleasure, especially when it comes to the kitchen! 

    “It’s chic, stylish and homely. If I can try to recreate that through their products, yes please.”

  • No.74 Home

    “This account is really calming and beautifully styled. 

    “Rachel is brilliant at finding the most beautiful thrift shop pieces and giving them a new home environment.”

  • Lucy Williams Home

    “I’m a big fan of Lucy Williams’ style so when I saw she was buying a new home I knew it would be full of stylish pieces and gorgeous gingham tablecloths. So far, it hasn’t disappointed.”

Milly’s go-to homeware brands:

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Images: Milly Summer

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.

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