Dr Geraldine Tan's (@littlebigbell) victorian home renovation with pastel colour furniture and wall paint
Interior design

Home renovation: “How I refurbished my London Victorian property with pastel colours and retro patterns”

This week’s home renovation sees a five-floor Victorian property in north London transformed into a blossom-hued wonderland of colour and design.

Saturated pastel décor has been a big trend on Instagram for a while now, but Dr Geraldine Tan’s account, @littlebigbell, has its own unique USP. Her interior design style may have that familiar Wes Anderson touch, but over-eccentric or hyper-maximalist it is not.

Instead, Tan’s feed focuses on sleek lines, carefully planned design features and neat storage solutions which give her penchant for dreamy colour palettes a polished look. This makes her home even more desirable, as she’s struck the balance between décor escapism and satisfyingly organised.

But it’s taken some time for Tan and her family to find the right home. As a medical doctor, Tan spent years moving around the country to be near the hospitals she was placed at, meaning they could never get too comfortable. “Thankfully, I’m now an established medical consultant,” Tan explains, “so we have been able to stay put at our current north London home for over 10 years.”

While this is her first major renovation, Tan says she’s always looked for properties that meant she could put her “own décor stamp” on the place. Previously she’s experimented with replacing kitchens and bathrooms, painting walls and trying minor cosmetic refurbishments, but everything came together when she found the property that the family live in today. “We made an offer on the spot,” she says of their Victorian home. “It instantly felt right – I knew from the moment I stepped inside.” 

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Tan says that the house ticked many of her ‘ideal home’ boxes, such as being a period property with potential, high ceilings and large windows, as well as access to public transport and local shops. It has plenty of space, too, with five floors, three reception rooms and five bedrooms – which in other words means lots of opportunities to experiment with décor. 

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What was your décor inspiration when starting your renovation?

“The decor of our house has evolved over time. It’s always been colourful, but perhaps more controlled and measured in the beginning. The backdrop would usually be white, against which I would add small pops of colour. Over time, I’ve become bolder with my use of colours and patterns, especially on the walls. Our most major renovations happened around seven years ago, which is when the kitchen underwent a lateral extension and we dug down the existing basement to create a large family room.”

Any DIY hacks that you’re proud of?

“I love up-cycling furniture with paint or getting my sofas reupholstered in different fabrics and trims. A few fun DIY hacks I’ve done have involved painting or adding colour to the risers of my stairs. I’ve used vinyl for a fun quick update, to painting it in an ombré tone, and stencilling with Farrow and Ball paints.”

Which part of your renovation was the hardest?

“Digging down into the basement to create the family room was the biggest challenge as we had to consider party wall agreements and underpinning and that took time. Many weeks down the line, after digging holes to check where the party wall ended, and liaising with the council, it transpired we didn’t need to do that at all. So, a lot of unnecessary time and money was wasted.”

Which is your favourite room and why?

“My new kitchen is my favourite space because it’s light, bright and happy - it’s a Howdens Chilcomb paintable kitchen. It’s the central hub of the house where everyone gathers at different times of the day. I can’t wait for lockdown to officially end, so I can entertain friends and family in that space.

The natural light in the kitchen is wonderful for photography, too. So, I spend a lot of time in there, listening to music, styling and taking photos for my Instagram.”

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Dr Geraldine’s favourite home Instagram accounts to follow

  • Jade and Anthony, House of Chais

    “I adore looking at Jade and Anthony’s interior projects. The kitchens and bathrooms they design are gorgeous. They have a wonderful Scandinavian meet Cali style. I would definitely get them to do up my place if I had a property in Singapore.”

  • Gray Malin

    “Gray’s work is just super cool. His photography always gives any room an instant lift. I’ve met him twice before, and he’s really lovely in real life too. He takes a lot of time and effort to create his photos. His aerial shots are done from helicopters with him suspended from a harness and not from drones like everyone else. I love his Palm Springs and animal series of photos. Imagine having to manage all those zoo animals at the Parker Palm Springs hotel and create such beautiful and effortless looking images.”

  • Jonathan Adler

    “He is the king of mixing colour and patterns. His maximalist style is so fun and unique.”

Dr Geraldine’s go-to homeware brands:

  • Pappelina

    “Pappelina rugs are my favourite because they are so colourful and beautifully designed. They are easy to look after, too. Just wipe down them down when dirty, and they are really soft to walk on and maintain their colour over many years. I still have the ones I bought from 10 years ago they still look as new as when I first bought them.”

  • Vitra

    “Vitra is one of my favourite iconic brands. I have amassed quite a collection of their Alexander Girard wooden figurines.”

  • Acqua di Parma

    “The candles and scent diffusers from Acqua di Parma. The bottles and jars are beautifully made, often with an amazing back story or historical context. I love all the scents too.”

Images: courtesy of Dr Geraldine Tan

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