Project Name: Arlington Gardens

Location: UK

Date Completed: August 2015

Company Name: Zulufish Ltd

Designer: Caroline Milns

Architect: Zulufish Ltd

A respectful transformation of a detached Victorian Villa into a five-bedroom home with a light-filled, open-plan, ground-floor living space. Zulufish’s main priority was to respect the original architecture of the Victorian dwelling, while at the same time reshaping the layout to transform the run-down property into a 21st century user-friendly family home. The key challenge being to transform the labyrinthine layout of the ground floor.

The project involved major structural works to open up the ground floor, a first-floor rear extension, relocating and replacing the staircases and removing the existing roof structure and replacing with a ring beam of steel and concrete to support a new roof. All the floors, partition walls and ceilings were removed and replaced. An old coal cellar was converted into a full basement extension, comprising office space, wine cellar, nanny flat and utility room. However, the main show is on the ground level, where the design company worked hard to create a sense of continuity from the outside in, both at the front of the house with matching patchwork tiles on the pathway and the home’s entrance hall, but also at the back of the house using large picture-frame glazing to capture the beautifully landscaped garden.

Previously there were six different rooms on this level, the designers updated an out-of-keeping extension with a new ground-floor rear extension, knocked down all the interior walls and moved the staircase from the traditional Victorian position at the front of the house into the middle. This freed up the hallway to create a more welcoming entrance, and linked the front living room, often under-utilised and visually and spatially cut off from the main living space in this type of refurbished Victorian home, with the large open-plan living area to the rear of the house. This in turn is clearly delineated with designated spaces for a kitchen, dining area, snug and family zone, this is said to be the designer’s favourite aspect.

Innovative design techniques have been used to both separate and integrate the rooms and zones to create a better sense of interior flow. By moving the main ground floor staircase, the designers have created a wider more welcoming hallway, and by moving the door to the front living space into the middle of the house they have created a line of sight all the way through the house into the garden beyond. A glass panel has been inserted into the hallway wall to visually link the entrance with the living room and further open up the space, creating the illusion of an even wider hallway, and allowing more natural light into the previously dark, unwelcoming entrance. In the kitchen, a contemporary three-sided glass fireplace has been built out to not only provide secondary heat and a focal point, but also to define the snug area from the kitchen and dining area. In the cooking area, the bespoke-made kitchen features tall wall units right up to the ceiling to create the illusion of more height, as well as to provide maximum storage.

The brief was to create a homely feel, plenty of tactile pieces have been placed in the living space. Embossed, large format porcelain floor tiles, shimmery mosaics, pom poms and a disco ball dance around the kitchen. An unexpected polished plaster wall floating veneer joinery and a coffer ceiling graces the living room, along with silky textures and wow lighting. A vintage sofa in the family area has been re-upholstered in touch-me Chanel bouclé fabric, which is hard-wearing and adds a sense of fun to the space. The garden has been landscaped to feel like another living space. A key feature being the outdoor sofa and fire bowl, which mirrors the orientation of the family room seating area and is designed to catch the last rays of the day, while the flower beds are lit at night to provide ambient lighting.

The whole house has a seamless fluidity, thanks to innovative design ideas, such as a suspended ceiling in the master bedroom, which hides the top of the curtains, and a feature wall that opens to reveal a run of wardrobes. All the doors, skirting, panelling and joinery are bespoke designed and made so that the living spaces have a continual flow. A colour palette of warm greys throughout the home makes for a timeless backdrop, while bright accessories and nifty ideas mean it’s never dull. Clever touches like traditional panelling through the hallway are given a contemporary feel by virtue of being painted in the same shade as the walls, and the bespoke panelled doors line up seamlessly with the panelling. The refined architectural language of the property creates a sense of calm throughout the living space.

Considering the wider environment in terms of the surrounding architecture was an important consideration when designing the renovation. The property is located within a conservation area and the immediate houses are beautifully maintained Victorian buildings. Zulufish Residential designers wanted to honour the local vernacular by restoring the external front facade to its original splendour. The addition of beautiful railings and raised beds provide the house with grandeur.

Bespoke joinery and intelligent storage solutions were at the heart of the project. Zulufish runs its own workshop to manage production and quality with all items designed and manufactured to its exact specifications and the client’s requirements. Its team of highly experienced and creative joiners custom-made the kitchen, wardrobes, reading room, media units, bookshelves and bespoke furniture in this project. The interior designer’s ethos is to give traditional shells an individual and unexpected twist.

“We’re not into the ‘outrageous’, but we do like to push ideas to the max, so each project has a personality all of its own.”

– Caroline Milns, Interior Designer